The fear of another awful film with Hugh Jackman playing the Canadian super hero loomed heavily in both the hearts of film goers and yours truly this past weekend as Jackman took a fifth turn at playing the clawed super hero. After his last two romps, the exceedingly forgettable Origins and X3, you could hardly blame the skeptics for anticipating yet another train wreck. When a sequel for Origins was announced I too was heavily skeptical. Why make a sequel to a film that may have made money but destroyed a character for fans. Not only did it destroy Wolverine but the other characters in the film and totally butchered the X-Men time line. Why did Wolverine look modern but have a teenaged Cyclops who hadn’t met Xavier yet?
If we were to go back into the late 1980’s and look at the big summer releases we’d be hard pressed to find the plethora of super hero flicks we get on an almost yearly basis. Tim Burton’s Batman and the Superman flicks were all that were out and following the debacle that was the Joel Schumaker Batman films the genre died off. Hell even Bats didn’t back into the cinemas until 2005. So with the recent influx of super hero films they are either really amazing (Nolan’s Batman flicks, the first two X-Men flicks, three quarters of Spider Man) or totally awful (X3, Origins, Ghost Rider series, Spider Man 3). The problem now is that comic films are in and they sell. Especially characters that are recognizable. And how many people in the street could you ask about Wolverine and they would say who?
My point here before I divulge too far into nonsense is that X-Men Origins is to Wolverine as Schumaker’s Batman films is to Batman. Origins destroyed the character and the credibility to the point that anything else featuring him would be trash. So if Origins is indeed Schumaker’s Batman and Robin then what is director James Mangold’s The Wolverine?
The Wolverine starts off a little sluggish. He’s up in the frozen wastelands of Canada out in the wild. He has dreams in which Jean Grey haunts him, but for him it’s not really haunting him. Oh yeah I totally forgot before all that we saw Wolverine in WWII Japan where he saves a guy from a nuclear bomb, then it goes to that dream with Jean. The main problem I had with this film right away was the acknowledgement that X-3 actually happened! I know I can’t be alone in saying that. But the plot was pretty basic as it has Wolvie going to Japan to say goodbye to an old friend but it turns out to be more than that. It was pretty neat how they added in the Japanese customs and just how it progressed but a simple plot for a character like Wolverine isn’t bad. It was way better than the slop that we were fed several years ago.
The writing in the film for a super hero movie was average, and I am talking about Nolan’s flicks and then the Marvel-verse. Two different subjects. Super hero movies are either dark and gritty or light hearted or a mixture of the two. The Wolverine was more of a mixture than anything. Mixing in light hearted scenes with some dark and gritty undertones. For the first time in the 14 years that Jackman has portrayed the character have we actually seen him off the chains. The character was pretty tame in all four movies which is not how Wolverine should be. In the scenes with intense action he was a rage machine and it showed, this is the Wolverine from the comics, this is the character that we should have seen.
The directing was well done, each shot was well placed and Mangold was able to capture the imagery of Japan fairly well, which it shouldn’t have been tough to do because it was filmed in Japan, but he managed to get nice shots. Jackman played the role well which isn’t saying too much since he looks the part but never had a chance to act but some of the soul of the film was lost on the at times shoddy special effects. While that was a slight distraction, it doesn’t help that you spend a chunk of the movie trying to figure out who the villain was only to come to the conclusion when the true villain is revealed and it feels, well a bit cliche.
As a whole Jackman provides a fun summer romp that is worth seeing at least if you are a die hard comic fan other wise you can wait til the blu ray release around the holiday season. While the holes in the film do suffer and bring the film down it doesn’t hinder the fun ride we get. The Wolverine is best at what it does and what it does isn’t very nice, and that’s deliver fast paced action sequences with immense amount of slicing and dicing. It truly is the Wolverine movie we have been waiting for. 7.9/10