Get out your adamantium claws and giant samurai swords, we're reviewing The Wolverine!
|I drew Wolverine as a detective for reasons|
Oh hey, a Wolverine movie that doesn't suck! Look, I am as surprised as you are, but it's actually really good! To say it's a better movie than X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not setting a high bar, but it far exceeds it. This is the Wolverine movie people have been waiting for.
You come to The Wolverine for action (and for shirtless Hugh Jackman's chest hair, of which there's plenty), and in this, Wolverine slashes tons of dudes, fights a samurai robot, and Yukio is a killer sword-smith. He fights ninjas and Viper and hey – it's all pretty great! But it's also a much slower movie. It takes its time setting up the plot, going into way too much exposition, and generally giving time for small character moments. It works for about half the time. I'm glad they take their time and limit the characters, instead of throwing 50 set-pieces and different characters at you that don't mean anything and don't do much. Instead, they focus on Wolverine and a few key players, including Yukio and Viper (played like a fun comic book villain by Svetlana Khodchenkova) and Japanese Hawkeye (Harada, played by Will Yun Lee). Japanese Hawkeye is actually pretty awesome and fits in this movie better than regular Hawkeye fits in the Avengers. Although he's rather confused about where his allegiance lies.
That's the main problem of The Wolverine: the story is a small mess. Things are confusing, people just start expositing to each other, and characters switch teams with little to no reason. The main twist is also pretty easy to see coming if you pay attention. You know it's bad when the bad guys have to sit Wolverine down and explain in detail what the hell is happening in the movie. But hey, it's still makes loads more sense and is infinitely more cohesive than Origins.
That's the weird thing: I think a lot of people will be coming from seeing the pretty awful X-Men Origins Wolverine and look at this and think this is The Dark Knight. Was that their evil plan all along?
This film is strange, as it’s laid out as a direct sequel to X-Men 3: The Last Stand, but even stranger that it picks and chooses what it remembers from that movie. The main point of this whole damn movie is that Wolverine wants to be rid of his healing factor and regain his mortality, and when the old dying guy literally offers him that, Wolverine says, "What I am can't be undone." Um, you just went through a movie where that was literally the entire plot. The cure from The Last Stand is never once mentioned. I could accept that they tried it out and discovered that the cure didn't take (Spoiler Alert: That’s more or less how X-Men 3’s ending showed it going down) but still, an explanation would have been nice. Then again, maybe the less said about X3, the better.
Wolverine regularly has dream sequences about Jean Grey throughout the movie, and while it's nice to see Famke Jannsen again (in lingerie, no less), it just reminds me of how weird their relationship is. I mean, Wolverine fell in love with her 5 minutes after they first met, and she unnecessarily helped to heal him. They have zero history – he just falls in love with her for no discernable reason, and then they keep running with it for 4 movies. It feels like it was a comic-book-canon shoe-in detail, and one that they didn’t bother even trying to embellish for the films. Which is super awkward, considering the other movies made it pretty clear that she and Cyclops were a couple. But, here he is, still fantasizing about her for some reason. Move on already, guy! I'd like to think that every time he imagines her in bed, Cyclops is just off screen going, "WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, JEAN?!"
Speaking of females, there were tons of them in this film! Like, four! And they were all pretty varied! Yeah, Jean was a sex dream, and Mariko is basically a damsel in distress, and Viper is a pretty basic sex-laden femme fatale, but um… Yukio is really cool! Yeah. All joking aside, I'm glad there are a nice variety of ladies in this story. I’m also pretty sure it clears the Bechdel test! So yeah, how about that? Honestly, Yukio is the coolest. At one point she calls herself Wolverine's bodyguard, which is just adorable. Of course there's still a huge damsel in distress plot, and him protecting the weak female, and a love story, and even the questionable overarching theme of “white guy coming into to fix these crazy Japanese people's problems.” So I don't know… progress?
Even though it's slower, it's still a beautiful film. The shots are really nice and the choreography is fun. It feels like a much smaller and cozier film, a lot like Iron Man 3. The score is pretty great. I may even have to take a listen again. I don't know if I could recommend the 3D. There's one sequence on the train where I went, “WHOA!” but through the rest I barely noticed it.
Minor annoyance: I can accept that "Wolverine is now mortal" is the story you want to tell. I think you could still feel for the guy and tell interesting stories even if he's nigh invincible, but still, ok. And you want to show that he's constantly hurting all the time from all the hits he takes, that's cool. But why can't you show his hands bleeding every time his claws come out? Wouldn't that be a logical step, and a nice detail – one more thing for Wolverine to consider, now that he's "normal"? How interesting would that be, if he constantly has to re-bandage his hands, but then a new fight breaks out and he has to seriously consider whether or not he wants to go through that pain again, possibly end up an infection, and have to bandage them all over again? Seriously, you show Wolverine getting cut while shaving and you can't show this? Missed opportunity!
So anyway, The Wolverine is loads better than Origins, a beautiful film, and a ton of fun to boot. I highly recommend checking it out!
THE GOOD: Fun, great action, lots of fighting, lots of cool female characters, not too many characters thrown at you, story isn't dumb, beautiful and great soundtrack.
THE BAD: story is messy and confusing, slow in places, plot is not surprising, doesn't talk about cure, no knife hand wounds.
THE VERDICT: $$$$ See it! It's very enjoyable and fun and beautiful. This is the Wolverine movie you've been waiting for. Oh! And make sure you stay through the credits!
MOVIES LIKE IT: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Iron Man 3, X-Men First Class, The Last Samurai
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Wolverine protects Mariko from danger at her father's funeral. It's a pretty great series of fights, although in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really make sense.