Movie Review: The Wolverine

Wolverine   STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hal Yamanouchi, Wil Yun Lee, Hiroyuki Sanada, Brian Tee, Famke Janssen (and some familiar faces if you stay for the credits!!!!!!!!)

   WRITTEN BY: Mark Bomback and Scott Frank

   DIRECTED BY: James Mangold

Thank God for James Mangold. Where were you a few years ago when Fox wanted to do X-Men Origins: Wolverine? This is just… so much better. I think I’m even grading this film on a curve, because the last film was pretty awful. Those weren’t Deadpool’s powers. Sorry, I’m still not over that. The X-Men films are getting to be a bit of a jumbled mess. For you uninformed viewers, the timeline isn’t by release. Technically, X-Men Origins: Wolverine starts the franchise, because it features Wolverine as a kid in the 1800’s. Then X-Men: First Class, followed by X-Men, X2, and X3. Now, The Wolverine is the most recent, as it takes place following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand.

 

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is still in a deep depression following his having to kill Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), in order to save everyone from her Phoenix destruction madness. He sees her, several times throughout the film, and he speaks to her, but she’s not really there. Wolverine is found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), an assassin/mutant whose ability is that she can see when someone will die. She has been tasked with bringing Wolverine back to Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), an old friend whose life Wolverine saved when we dropped nukes on Japan in WWII. Yashida is now the CEO of a ridiculously large corporation, and has decided to repay his debut to Wolverine. He offers Wolverine mortaltiy, which Wolverine doesn’t believe can be done, so he refuses. Yashida is dying, and worries that someone will try and kill his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto).

The night Yashida dies, Wolverine is attacked by Yashida’s doctor, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who injects people with poison, and does something to Wolverine that he can’t fully understand… yet. At Yashida’s funeral, an attempt is made on Mariko’s life, and Wolverine saves her, with the help of Yukio and Asian Hawkeye (Wil Yun Lee). Wolverine sustains damage in the fight to save Mariko, and he realizes that his healing factor isn’t working like it used to. Wolverine tries to figure out what is wrong with him, and why people would want to kill Mariko. In the process, he falls in love with her, which is the story of Wolverine’s second greatest love ever. This all leads up to a climatic battle with the Silver Samurai (for X-Men fans). But who is the Silver Samurai?

This version of the Wolverine/Mariko story blends also a little bit from the origin story of Lady Deathstrike, so don’t freak out too much. The Yukio in the comic books is not like the Yukio in the film. I’m going to get a little spoilery here… but I do have to address a few minor concerns. First, there’s a point where Wolverine sees Jean Grey in what we assume is the afterlife, where she tells him she’s all alone there. Ummm… where’s Cyclops? Wolverine and Jean Grey were never even actually together in the film series, so why would she turn her back on Cyclops in the afterlife? Also, at some point, could we please give the special effects team an actual budget for the Wolverine films? Some of this looks like a bad SyFy movie.

Plot wise, if we’re just focused on the script, this is a really solid film. It might actually be crafted by people who loved the comics as a kid, and felt that they owed it to fans to make a sequel that wasn’t awful. James Mangold also is a huge step up as a director. I would say that the acting is far superior in this film, than the previous outing, and the work as a whole is just a much better film. The special effects lack from time to time, but at least we got rid of those Who Framed Roger Rabbit claws. Those were distracting.

Another thing I couldn’t ignore, as a fan of the comics, is that ******** lives. Once you’ve seen the film, you’ll know what I’m talking about. And if you’ve read any Wolverine comics, you know that ******** has to die. It’s kind of a big deal in Wolverine’s timeline. I admit, I think i’m grading on a curve, but this film is infinitely better than X-Men Origins, and deserves a fighting chance to be treated as such.

Oh, and definitely stay for the scene during the credits. I don’t care how bad you need to get to the bathroom, hold it for another 60 seconds. It’s midway through the credits.

FINAL GRADE: A-

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