The Wolverine

The Wolverine
Made in: USA
Language: English, Japanese
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Will Yun Lee, Brian Tee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Ken Yamamura, Famke Janssen
Year: 2013

Synopsis: Logan, (Hugh Jackman), formerly of the X-Men, is wandering the wilderness by himself. Haunted by the events from the horrendous X-Men 3 (aren't we all?), his solitude is interrupted by a mysterious Japanese girl named Yukio (Rila Fukushima).

Yukio is the adopted granddaughter of Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), the patriarch of Japan's largest corporation. Aging, suffering from cancer, and on his deathbed, Yashida has sent Yukio in the hopes of summoning Logan to Tokyo.

Years ago, during the final days of World War 2, the ageless Logan was a POW in a prison camp in Nagasaki. Yashida was then a young officer responsible for overseeing prisoners. Just before the atomic bomb was dropped on the city, Logan saved Yashida's life as an act of gratitude (as Yashida treated his prisoners in a more humane manner).

Back in the present, Logan agrees to travel to Tokyo, having been convinced that Yashida only wants to say a final farewell and thank-you. But of course, there's a lot more to it than that. It turns out that Yashida claims to have discovered a way to "relieve" Logan of his mutant power of near invulnerability. And in exchange, he offers Logan the opportunity to live and die like a normal person.

Thinking that the offer is crazy, Logan then stumbles upon a pile of other troubles. Yashida's corrupt son, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), has been written out of his father's will. Next in line to take control of the family business is Shingen's beautiful daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who has had a close relationship with Yashida all her life.

Since he sneers a lot and looks like a bad guy, Shingen is obviously up to no good.

Soon, Logan finds himself in the middle of a murder conspiracy involving yakuza, ninjas, and just about every other stereotypical Asian bad guy that went out of style in the 1980s.

Spurred into action, perhaps he will rise again as the Wolverine! Ha ha ha ha ha

The Good: The Wolverine is definitely better than the X-Men prequel movie involving Logan. Hugh Jackman still puts forth the effort to make his iconic role fun for audiences, and he hasn't lost any onscreen charisma since the first X-Men movie back in 2000. The actors are mostly very good, and it's nice that much of the movie is actually in Japanese. 

Oh, and the trailer is very well done.

The Bad: Although the plot is focused, it's pretty predictable. Plausibility and logic are major issues throughout.

How is it that a whole mob of gangsters slip through security at a high profile funeral? How come ninjas find it necessary to ride noisy motorcycles on top of icy rooftops? How come a bunch of teenagers at an arcade don't react when a thug is murdered right before their eyes? Anyway…

Another issue is that the screenwriters seemed to have gathered all their knowledge of Japan by researching bad 80s action movies. According to this film, Japan is overrun by yakuza, ninjas can pop up at any time, Japanese businessmen are still poised to take over the world, Japanese women are just longing to be rescued by some white dude, and Japanese men are either extremely timid or psychotically grumpy all the time. 

Not that I care much for political correctness, but I'd certainly do more than raise an eyebrow if a Japanese director were to make a film about the US, in which all the characters were cowboys who ate at McDonald's every day.

But my biggest issue is with the Wolverine character himself. He's only fun if he's playing off of other characters. One major reason the first two X-Men movies were such a hit was because Wolverine was part of an ensemble.

Yes, he was basically the central character, but the others around him were also major stars in the Marvel universe. A combination of their differing histories and personalities gave those movies more depth.

The Wolverine spinoffs, however, offer little more than watching Hugh Jackman behave like a badass. Yes, that's enjoyable for a little while, but pretty soon the plot just devolves into a series of sequences in which Logan finds an excuse to beat up a bunch of people. And with a running time of over two hours, that sort of thing gets tedious in a hurry.

Who would like this movie: The Wolverine is intended for fans of Hugh Jackman and his most well-known role. It's great to see that Jackman's still having fun with it and he seems to be making a genuine effort for his fans.

But as a whole, the movie's pretty forgettable. It's excessively violent, a bit too predictable, needlessly offensive, and lacks the character of earlier X-Men movies.

(2 and 1/2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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