Monday, 29 July 2013

Movie Review: The Wolverine

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ left a bad taste in the mouth of Wolverine fans, in it Logan lacked the ferocious violent rage and the no-nonsense attitude we’ve come to expect not to forget the surplus of shoehorned characters which didn’t help either. So now the big question is this: is ‘The Wolverine’ finally the wolverine movie everybody has been waiting for?

Logan has been left scarred by his past, his dreams remind him every night of the death of Jean Gray by his hand. Because of this he has exiled himself to a life in the mountains where he can live a life suitable for the animal that rests within him. After a mysterious stranger brings Logan to the far-off land of Japan, Logan becomes involved in the affairs of a powerful Japanese family and a man who owes his life to the one who saved him many years ago, the wolverine.

This movie is very formulaic. Don’t get me wrong, formula is important in movies, it provides a socially understood structure for most every plot whether it be a “good guy saves the world” story or a “boy meets girl” story, but when a movie incorporates such well known and obvious “twists” and devices into its plot it becomes really disappointing. When you think of a superhero sequel you may realise the definite tropes for crafting that story, having the hero lose or have his powers taken away was the big sequel idea when the superhero movie genre was in its infancy. That was over ten years ago however; the stories have evolved beyond such tropes today which is why ‘The Wolverine’ suddenly feels like such a sloppy sequel for mindlessly following that dated format, I expected more but maybe I was wrong to, after all ‘X-men Origins: Wolverine’ was one of the most clichéd and formulaic superhero movies out there.

Hugh Jackman returns in the role that gave him the fame he has today, Jackman started off great as wolverine but I’ve always admired the progression of his performance as Logan as time has gone on, he’s certainly perfected the role by this point and I can tell you he is most definitely not what disappoints in this film. Jackman’s portrayal in this film opens up a rarely seen tenderness to the wolverine allowing for his tough exterior to finally soften. Aside from Jackman the rest of the cast wallow in mediocrity, for what initially seems like a solemn toned film ‘The Wolverine’ soon incorporates a circus of cartoonish villains and dismal supporting characters that at times make the movie hard to watch, if you are wondering what the antagonists of the movie have to offer think Vinnie Jones’s Juggernaut rather than Ian McKellen’s Magneto. Yes, they’re that bad.

If you go in purposefully not expecting McKellen's Magneto then you'll still be disappointed in the villains.

For a movie rated 12A I couldn’t exactly fault the action, a few times it seemed quite unfocused and messy but the majority of these scenes honestly did feel true to wolverine, which was great to see. Key to getting action for this character right is savagery, the audience should feel the fury behind every blow from Logan, thankfully Jackman is more than proficient at supplying this and luckily his director James Mangold has shot the movie well enough to translate that action to the audience. My complaints in this aspect of the film rest with the scenes not featuring Logan, the action scenes involving his sidekick in the story, Yukiko, just do not bring with them the same exhilaration that wolverine’s do.

You may have guessed by now that this has turned out not to be the wolverine movie everyone has been waiting for, it certainly isn’t but I have a feeling that it is the best that we’re going to get for a while. In order for a follow-up to be sanctioned by the studio ‘The Wolverine’ will have to do very well at the box office, if this doesn’t happen then I expect that wolverine will integrate back into the X-Men and return as part of that ensemble instead of his own feature.

‘The Wolverine’ starts out quite strong, its first act is entertaining and filled with the promise of a great movie to come but things take a sharp turn for the worse once it enters into the exceptionally dull second act. At this point the movie outright offends the audience by committing the very sins its predecessor was heavily criticised for in that it fails to utilise the true character of wolverine and instead slots him into situations where the potential of his unique personality goes untapped. The third act serves to somewhat redeem the picture by bringing in some great action but it’s too little too late, the damage has already been done. Just as you can’t land a plane that isn’t in the air, you can’t finish a movie with a bang when the audience has been bored for the previous 40 minutes.

Logan deals with the vastly different culture of Japan.

I expected this film to offer more introspection into the humanity of Logan than it provided, the job it did was adequate but I couldn’t help but feel that it succeeded far more at conveying the true “wolverine” within Logan. His encounter with a grizzly bear at the beginning of the movie along with the placement of such a feral-natured man in the society of Tokyo prove this to be the case, this is certainly not a bad thing though as I count these among my favourite moments in the film. Despite this I still felt that the location of Japan could have been put to greater use within the movie. It is such a unique locale that it would have presented numerous possibilities to explore the clash of Logan's animalistic nature with the refined culture of a country like Japan to a further degree.

‘X-men Origins: Wolverine’ and now ‘The Wolverine’ have proven a harsh truth to me. It is that I don’t believe we are going to get that true wolverine movie until the character is allowed to break free from his “marketable franchise” chains and star in an unapologetically adult focused film where he will be free to be the Logan that comic fans have known for years; a violent, savage animal of a man. Only then will he truly be The Wolverine.

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