The Wolverine (PG-13)

9 Stars

First, a caveat.

I’m a huge fan of the X-Men franchise, Marvel Comics, and superhero movies in general. I rarely dislike them. Wolverine is one of my particular favorites.

On top of all that Hugh Jackman’s my favorite actor. You might naturally assume I’d enjoy The Wolverine. However, I’d like to think I have high expectations.

That being said, to temper this stipulation, I heard negative reviews prior to seeing the film, so perhaps my expectation level was considerably below the norm.

I find The Wolverine immensely enjoyable. The plot is well-written, and according to Rotten Tomatoes, stays true to the comics in a satisfactory way for the fan-boy audience. There is more than one villain; each with their own compelling motivation.

The action is spectacular, the cinematography’s a couple notches above average and the story involves some questions of moral ambiguity. Just barely breaching the two-hour mark, it toes the line between too long and too short. I don’t think I need much more, but by no means is it a clock-watcher.

There are the usual pitfalls that come along with superhero movies today: A couple hokey character interactions, several moments are distracting in predictability, but overall, I think it’s a very solid film.

Now, this section contains spoilers, so reader beware.

Let’s begin with what works, which coincidentally starts at the film’s open.

The opening scene is a dream within a dream: Something I’ve never experienced here in four-dimensional reality. It makes for good filmmaking, though.

Scientifically speaking, I’m skeptical of Wolverine’s ability to protect the Japanese kid from harm, but damn it’s cool to think how he suffers through the pain of the blast. It’s heroic, and I like how Yukio’s father reinterprets his experience into stories of the “magic man” who would protect her at night.

I also enjoy the interactions between Wolvey and the bear. The filmmakers are clearly trying to move things in a more artistic direction, attempting to draw more meaningful connections from the story of a tragic superhero.

The fights are nothing short of exceptional. Not only the ninja capture of Wolverine, but also the action between him and the yakuza thugs atop the bullet train. It makes the turn from “good enough” to “spectacular” when he out smarts the last thug rather than resorting to brute force.

Both villains are great, but I can use a bit more face time with Viper. Aside from her intriguing mutation, I’m unfamiliar with the actress (Svetlana Khodchenkova) and I think she’s convincingly sinister. The green suit, noxious breath and strawberry blonde hair are a helluva combo.

Apropos of Viper, here are some things that don’t work so well. Her mutation is complicated and only mentioned once, so I’m unclear on her part in the grander evil scheme until conversing post-credits.

Another downside includes an occasional wink of poor editing, and the dying bear is very clearly animatronic at one point. Early on, some hunters are firing guns outside a supermarket, and the cliché scene reeked of “troublemaking.”

In my notes, I write down that “upright chopsticks are reminiscent of incest at a funeral,” but think I hear her wrong. I believe the word is “incense,” which is quite dissimilar.

On an unrelated note, I appreciate the tormented visions of Jean Grey but can’t help thinking there are sources of greater guilt in his history.

Finally, I could have slapped my buddy in the face at the exact moment Mariko’s husband did the same to her.

All that being said, be you a biased or unbiased viewer, The Wolverine is a fantastic movie. Easily worth the five dollars to catch the flick on demand and I would have paid double to see it in the theater.

Thoughts, perchance?

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