Monday, July 29, 2013

The Wolverine- Review

"Eternity can be a curse."
"Sorry. Sorry means you feel the pulse of other people's pain as well as your own, and saying it means you take a share of it. And so it binds us together, makes us trodden and sodden as one another. Sorry is a lot of things. It's a hole refilled. A debt repaid. Sorry is the wake of misdeed. It's the crippling ripple of consequence. Sorry is sadness, just as knowing is sadness. Sorry is sometimes self-pity. But Sorry, really, is not about you. It's theirs to take or leave. 

Sorry means you leave yourself open, to embrace or to ridicule or to revenge. Sorry is a question that begs forgiveness, because the metronome of a good heart won't settle until things are set right and true. Sorry doesn't take things back, but it pushes things forward. It bridges the gap. Sorry is a sacrament. It's an offering. A gift." 

-Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones

Taking the themes of The Wolverine (as well as a lot of its surrounding circumstances) into consideration, this quote is perhaps the most appropriate for how I feel about this film. In all honesty, I still (and probably always will) have a bad taste in my mouth from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Regardless of my most sincerest efforts, I can't seem to be able to make myself forget about that heart-achingly bad movie, even with four whole years between my first viewing of it and now. While I may not be able to ever get my money (or my time for that matter) back, the folks over at Fox Studios can certainly find ways to make it up to me. One of those ways is giving everyone's favorite clawed canuck a flick properly worthy of his copious amounts of adamantium rage.

Yes! That's right children of the atom, we can now proudly proclaim that Logan finally has a good solo film. While The Wolverine isn't exactly the best at what it does, I would certainly call it a solid piece of work in its own right, and a good addition to the X-Men movie mythology to boot. I don't want to be the one to jump the gun, but if the franchise can maintain this kind of momentum, mutant lovers may finally have good reason to get back into theaters. It's work like this and X-Men: First Class that gives me hope for the future of the label.

While The Wolverine may not be the most accurate of comic-to-film adaptations, it certainly has a firm enough understanding of what it needs to do in order to get the job done well. Taken purely on its own merits, this is a pretty badass flick. Even with the obvious liberties taken on the material (and the PG-13 rating) at no point do I feel that director James Mangold's version of the iconic character truly fails to tell a Wolverine story in spirit. Unlike its predecessor (and regardless of its niggling flaws) there is a genuine sensation of earnestness to a lot of what The Wolverine does with itself. I cannot deny that the creator's passion here is also somewhat contagious, as it's that passion that really carries this flick from its literal blast of a beginning, well into its credit roll.

Hugh Jackman should just change his name to Huge Jackedman.
In the year 1945 (at the end of World War 2) Logan is a prisoner at a camp near the city of Nagasaki. As American forces drop the atomic bombs on Japan, Logan escapes his capture and saves the life of Japanese solider; Ichiro Yashida. As they wait for the fallout from the bombs to dissipate, a bond forms between the two soldiers. For saving his life, Ichiro offers his katana to Logan, who respectfully declines. Logan tells Ichiro to instead keep it safe for him unitl the day he comes to collect it.

Years later (after X-Men 3: The Last Stand) Logan lives as a hermit in the Canadian wilderness. Hallucinations of Jean Grey/The Phoenix torture him on a nightly basis, racking him with guilt from having killed her. Right as Logan seems to be truly without reason to live anymore, a mysterious woman appears. Claiming to be a disciple of Ichiro Yashida, the woman (Yukio) brings Logan to Japan so that he may bid farewell to his now old and dying friend. With top-of-the-line technology at his disposal, Ichiro makes one final offer to Logan. As a way to pay his debt, Ichiro promises to give Logan what he desires most; a means to finally die.

I must admit that in this post Avengers world, I find it to be quite refreshing to see a studio opt for telling a smaller story that focuses on building character, rather than the world. As nice as those other Marvel films are, The Wolverine reminds us that the super hero genre can still offer great standalone pieces. While there is a pretty cool post credits sequence that teases the next X-Men installment, at no point does it feel like The Wolverine is merely just a vehicle for starting up hype on another movie. This flick is pretty much its own self-contained beast, and I personally think the character, and the franchise are much better off because of it.

The action beats here are some of the best that the X-Men franchise has probably seen yet. Strong use of practical effects and solid fight choreography add to the overall gritty look and tone of the story. A good deal of CGI comes in for the climatic showdown, but thankfully it looks worlds better than the effects in the previous Wolverine picture. Special mention I feel must go to the bullet train sequence, as it features the most unique conditions for a fight. I can almost guarantee that it will keep most viewers on the edge of their seats.

Sadly I do think that the cinematography could stand to have some improvement in parts. Early on in the first act, there is quite a bit of shaky cam use. While I can't say that it's done too egregiously, I can say that it does noticeably distract from the first few fight scenes. Thankfully by the middle of the second act the shaky cam goes away, and the camera work moves along with all the action just fine.

Hugh Jackman reprises his iconic role as Weapon X once more, and continues to show why he is probably the only man on the planet suitable to bear the claws time and again. With his growls, shouts, and howls in tow, Jackman delivers perhaps his best performance with the character yet. Even though he has been portraying ol' shorty for well over ten years now, Jackman still manages to make the character feel fresh and untapped in some way. Of course, Jackman is only getting older with each of these films (he's currently in his forties) but his muscles appear to only be getting bigger. Seeing the physical condition of Jackman's body really adds to the intimidating feel that someone like Logan needs to have. When the inevitable time comes for Jackman to hang up the claws and move on to other parts, a small part of me is probably going to cry a little. Seeing how that time hasn't come yet, we can thankfully look forward to seeing more of Jackman's work.

Viper is deliciously evil.
As for the supporting cast, high caliber Japanese actors Rila Fukushima (Yukio) Tao Okamoto (Mariko) and Hiroyuki Sanada (Shingen Yashida)  all bring their A game.. Svetlana Khodchenkova (say that one three times fast) breathes evilly gleeful life into Viper/Madame Hydra, as she happily chews on the scenery every time she shows up. Oddly enough she is perhaps the most fun villain the movie has to offer. The Wolverine's biggest tragedy may be that characters like Viper and Shingen do not get as much screen time as I would like for them to have. I would go so far as to say that some of my favorite moments in the movie come from these characters, especially when one considers the actors playing them. All the same, everyone is good in their roles and I can't find a single person that feels miscast.

Marco Beltrami's score definitely has a different vibe to it altogether as far as the movie franchise goes. Utilizing Japanese wind instruments, and making them play a slightly more spaghetti western sound really makes The Wolverine a ton of fun to listen to. Plenty of the tracks are memorable, with the bullet train sequence (yet again) being one of the coolest sounding pieces. While I don't see it as a negative, sadly most of the tunes are short, and seem to end right when they're getting really good. Barring that one niggling detail, The Wolverine certainly gets me to perk my ears up during its run time.

For the all the work that The Wolverine puts into preserving the spirit of the character, I will say that if you consider yourself a comic enthusiast, you may take some issue with this movie. The creators take many (and I do mean many) liberties with the source material. The circumstances that help facilitate the plot are only marginally similar to the original Chris Claremont/Frank Miller comic, with many character motivations being different, or some characters being completely different altogether. Silver Samurai and Madame Hydra suffer the most from this, with their characters being absolutely nothing like how they are in the comics. Changes the creators make do have a certain degree of internal logic to them, but others make me wonder what the point of the edits are. In my humble opinion, the original material is just fine, and could totally work for what this film is trying to achieve. If one is familiar with the original work, you'll more than likely be scratching your head asking/wondering about the changes as well.

Overall, I can't say that this is the best X-Men movie ever, but I can thankfully say that it is the best Wolverine movie so far. With a vast array of improvements on practically every aspect from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the biggest fault I can find here is the liberties the film takes with the source material. Almost every scene in The Wolverine feels like an apology from Fox for giving us such a lackluster film the first time around. With that in mind, I will say this to any Fox workers reading this review: Apology accepted. Now keep up the good work!

Positive Factors

  • Spirit of the character is preserved with a lot of love.
  • Great standalone film that reminds us all that smaller stories can be just as fun as huge crossovers.
  • Solid action scenes, with the bullet train fight stealing the show.
  • Hugh Jackman provides what could be his best portrayal of the character yet.
  • Supporting cast delivers on the goods. Viper and Shingen bring the villainous heat all the way.
  • Score offers a unique blend of Japanese instruments and spaghetti western flavor.

Negative Factors

  • Cinematography could use improvement at points. A lot of use of the dreaded shaky cam at the start.
  • Some of the most fun characters get the least screen time. More Viper and Shingen please.
  • Accuracy to the source material was obviously not a major concern to the creators.

Final Rating: Splenderiffic!

No comments:

Post a Comment