Monday, 22 July 2013
FILM REVIEW: THE WOLVERINE
20th Century Fox Films
Confession: I am not a Hugh Jackman fan. He has yet to convince me in any film role to date. Not even in Les Miserables, where he played Jean Valjean and sung his way to an Oscar nomination, could he win me over. And while I'm not about to concede defeat, I'll readily admit that I did not hate The Wolverine (like I did its predecessor, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and as a non-fan, I'll suggest this is probably as good as Jackman gets.
The Wolverine, the latest X-Men cinema outing, is the sixth time Jackman has donned the metal claws and mutton chops to play Logan, a.k.a Wolverine, a mutant with an admantium skeleton and burdened with both immortality and a hero complex. Haunted by the death of his love, Jean (Famke Janssen), (a spoiler if you haven't seen X-Men: The Last Stand) and mocked by his own immortality, Logan has chosen to hide himself away from the rest of the world where he can do no harm (unless you happen to be a local hunter who pisses him off).
But Logan is tracked down by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a sword-wielding nymph whose come to escort our hero to Japan at the bequest of a dying old man. That's billionaire Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), who befriended Logan in the dying days of WWII immediately following the nuking of Nagasaki; the two holed-up in an underground prison where Logan was being held as a Japanese POW.
Some 60-odd years later, Yashida, riddled with cancer, wants to repay Logan for saving his life by granting him his mortality, which is to say, extracting from him that which makes him immortal and implanting it in his own body. Oh, the hubris of the rich!
But as tempting as that offer may seem, Logan refuses his dying friend's request and before he can say 'sayonara', the old man is dead, the Yakuza crashes the funeral, and Logan, whose regenerative powers seem to be slipping, is forced to become the protector of Mariko (Tao Okamoto), Yashida's granddaughter and heir, who would seem to be the target of evil forces both outside of and from within the House of Yashida.
So ensues an action adventure criss-crossing Japan (shot both on location and here in Sydney, Australia) involving said Japanese Mafia, ninjas, bullet trains, love motels, and a toxic-tongued villainess named Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova).
And if there's one thing to be said in favour of The Wolverine, the near-to-last and arguably least of the 2013 U.S. summer blockbusters, it's that its female characters -- Mariko, Yukio and Viper -- are not weak. Mariko is no damsel in distress, Yukio can kick ass with the best of them, and Viper, despite her skin-tight apparel and wicked tongue, has no use for men unless they're paying her (to kill, that is).
And Jackman's not bad either. He has the requisite amount of beef cake, hard ass and scowl-y but he also manages to give Wolverine a sense of humour, even if it's less frequently deployed than his admantium claws. What Jackman, director James Mangold, and screenwriters Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, don't do is spend too much time dwelling on the theme of mortality which is a shame given it is the first time in the Wolverine character's film history that he's actually had to face the very real possibility of his own death.
Not that death will visit Wolverine any time soon. The next X-Men film, Days of Future Past, which sees the younger cast of 2011's First Class combine with the alum from the original X-Men trilogy, will hit cinemas in 2014. And no doubt there will be another solo outing by Jackman's lone wolf; a superior sequel will no doubt be paid in kind by the character's and series' fans at the box office.