Writer: Naseem Randhawa
Overall: 3.5 Out of 5
Cast: 4.0 Out of 5
Plot: 3.0 Out of 5
Effects: 3.5 Out of 5
Cinematography: 3.5 Out of 5
Watch this if you liked: "X-Men" franchise
To gage "The Wolverine" on a superhero scale, it falls between the median line of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "X-Men: First Class". It's difficult to even compare and classify it alongside other superhero films like "Avengers" and "The Dark Knight" trilogy as clearly "X-Men's" overall franchise grandeur has much more improving to undertake. But fans can still find solace as "The Wolverine" is at least a stride towards definite improvement compared to the first "Wolverine" movie, even though this is more of a standalone feature than a sequel or prequel.
"The Wolverine" is less of a superhero film and a showcase of abilities, but more on how Logan deals with his immortality, unable to get over the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) as seen in "X-Men: The Last Stand". It starts out with a literally explosive retelling of the Hiroshima bombing in Japan where we first see Logan held as a P.O.W., saving a young Japanese soldier's life who will one day seek him again on his deathbed. We then come back to present day, where after roughing it out in the woods as a recluse, Logan is approached by Yukio, who looks straight out of an Anime. She delivers a message that the young soldier, Yashida, who over the years has established himself as the head of a big tech corporation, is sick and wants to bid Logan farewell, in Japan. Logan then finds himself caught between a conspiracy involving Ninjas, the Yakuza and politics as well as a possible love interest through Yashida's granddaughter, Mariko.
Yes, although the story is based on the much loved Japanese-arc of the comic book, with everything set in motion and taking place mainly in Japan, the movie sometimes feels like an overt Japanese culture emphasising film that's done by an over-fervent 'Gaijin' filmmaker. Rest assured, this reviewer now knows how to behave accordingly at a Japanese funeral, how to place ones chopsticks properly over a bowl of soup and the dire importance of placing honour in family and at war.
The highlight is mainly the brooding Hugh Jackman and fans of the Adamantium slashing Logan/Wolverine will be delighted to see the perpetually pissed off anti-hero lashing out with his famous one-liners after a good beat-up scene. With rippling muscles and all, the ladies would love him for being shirtless almost 60 per cent of the film, while the male population will find admiration over Jackman and his no-nonsense manliness. It's no wonder the 'Wolverine Workout' is such a rage these days. The naturally slim Jackman had packed on ridiculous amount of muscle mass right after he had lost weight to play prisoner-on-the-run Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables". After gaining advice from possibly the best person in the business, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Jackman went on a special force-feed diet devouring 6,000 calories per day. Take note that an average man needs around 2,500 calories a day to maintain his weight, which means Jackman had to more than double his daily intake! If that isn't good enough dedication to his role and his versatility as an actor, we don't know what is.
The supporting male roles in this film pale in comparison and more emphasis is placed with the three main female roles instead. Well, make that four if you're counting in Famke Janssen. Tao Okamoto plays Mariko Yashida, Yashida's granddaughter who is sought-after by the Yakuza clan. Mariko thus develops a love interest with Logan who sets out to protect her. Their relationship doesn't seem to hold much chemistry or credibility, and at times feels forced for the sake of the storyline in justifying Logan's motives for still remaining in Japan when he could've so easily leave. Yukio played by Rila Fukushima plays the redhead samurai blade wielding assassin, who's got some killer moves to go with the her small structure. If only the screen time used to depict Mariko and Logan's relationship was used for exploring the bond and sometimes snarky camaraderie between Yukio and Logan instead, this film would've flowed better. It seems like the filmmakers wanted to create equal screen times for Mariko and Yukio, but that effort left the development of their characters falter at the very peak. If one had to choose, Yukio should've been given more prominence. Talking about giving more screen time, seems like the Silver Samurai's villainy was overplayed and props instead should been given to Svetlana Khodchenkova who played the Viper. Her snakelike character exuded undeniable reptilian evil and each time she came on screen, she did no wrong. But less than 15 minutes of Viper screen time is even more unforgivable.
As for the action scenes, viewers won't be left disappointed by director James Mangold's ("Knight And Day") perusal of Samurai and Adamantium blades, Ninjas and the Yakuza, but obviously the best one would be the bullet train fight sequence, which is a notch higher (or 300 mph for that matter) than that much-loved train fight scene seen in "Spider-Man 2".
If you are looking for a typical superhero movie, "The Wolverine" is not for you. It's more for fans of Wolverine and the "X-Men" franchise, who will have to watch this in order to link the connection from the past movies as well as the upcoming ones. But who knows, like "The Dark Knight" trilogy, this could very well be its own "Batman Begins", a decently proper starting off point for future "Wolverine" installments. Speaking of future installments, like all Marvel films, stay for the end credits for something extra!
Cinema Online, 24 July 2013