27 July 2013

'The Wolverine' Nearly Redeems 'Origins' Travesty


The Wolverine

I own the unpopular opinion that the X-Men trilogy were just so-so, and that the only truly great entry in the franchise was Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class. Tiny bit controversial, considering the heavy love for Bryan Singer's work, which is understandable on its own right. But something that is nearly unanimous is exactly how atrocious and despicable X-Men Origins: Wolverine was back in 2009. First, let me say that there probably hasn't been as close exactitude of casting as there is with Hugh Jackman as Logan, the Wolverine. Jackman personifies this character, and no other actor could possibly do this role justice like Hugh has. So imagine the excitement of all us fans when Wolverine got his own solo movie! Hugh on his own, plus we get to see the big budget treatment of his origin story!

Without getting into specifics, Origins was just embarrassing. One of those cases where fans and general audiences alike felt like hiding their faces from sight when exiting the theater, in shame that the studio not only put faith and money into making that feature, but also that we were dumb enough to pay ticket price to see it. FOX doesn't really know what to do with their properties, so announcing The Wolverine, another solo adventure, was met with tentative enthusiasm. For me, it just needed to make up for Origins. The good news, and the short answer, is: mostly yes. But, naturally, it's a flick that still feels problematic, and doesn't live up to its potential. That said, this probably is Wolverine's best show yet.

Alright, so you've left the X-Men, you've killed the only woman you really, truly ever loved [remember, we're forgetting that Origins nonsense], and you've turned into a caveman, wandering the world, not belonging, not connecting. That's the state Logan's in right now, alone and in self-imposed solitude. Ten years after The Last Stand, Logan is plucked from the wilderness and brought to Japan, where a old man intends to pay a debt to Logan for saving his life in Nagasaki decades ago. This old man, Yashida, the most powerful man in the world, has tinkered with biology for a long while, and came up with a way of regressing Logan's abilities. Basically, Logan can finally have what he's wanted for all these years: a peaceful, honorable death.

And that's what The Wolverine is, it's about Logan thirsting for his pain and eternity to end, but through the course of this movie, rediscovering his reason to live. It's genuinely a beautiful story on its own, and even more beautiful and appropriate for Logan, this man whose years of love and losses are now weighing heavier on him than ever before. As this character-centric tale, The Wolverine is friggin' gobsmacking. Finally, a non-DC/Marvel [you know what I mean] movie that emphasizes character over nifty mutations and big budgeted action sequences. So from a story standpoint, this is very, very, very strong ground to walk. But the script? The execution? It's good and all, but it ain't great, it ain't what it could be.

[Oh! And Famke Janssen's return as Jean Grey is much bigger than originally expected, and also brilliantly used. The execution of her return to Logan is exquisite, and the push-and-pull going on between her and Logan is truly one of the movies highlights.]

Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) haunts Logan with reminders of what he's done and what he's lost.

Most of the movie is about Logan and his mental state, and then it evolves into this Keep the Girl Safe story, and then it, regrettably, devolves into this rather too comic book-y thing with a giant Silver Samurai suit, a unsurprising twist, and lots of insane action beats. Granted, some of those fights were cool, and the whole adamantium thing - didn't see it coming [and still not sure how I feel about it], but damnit, I would have been completely fine if this movie didn't have yakuza, or giant Silver Samurai, or this evil bitchy American Viper chick, or Mr. Ninja Guy. The Wolverine didn't need it. And by its inclusion, it represents the filmmakers fear that their script wasn't strong enough on its own, so they needed all this fancy, glamorous ass kickery to bring audiences in.

Don't want to sound like I hate the flick. Not at all. Saw it twice already in a twenty-four hour span. I merely think there were some missed opportunities, or rather, roads taken that would have been better not, y'know, taken. But man, the positives - director James Mangold shot this quite beautiful movie, and even made the Bullet Train sequence [something that looked horrible in the trailers] frakken riveting and wonderfully put together; and there's two strong female roles in Mariko Yashia (by the scene stealing Tao Okamoto) and sword-wielding Yukio (Rila Fukushima), both women who don't just stand in the sidelines and actually play important parts in the narrative, and, even more importantly, take action on several occasions. And the mid-credits sequence is a doozy. A setup for what's to come in the X-Men cinematic universe, it should not be missed.

Without rambling more, The Wolverine has a lot of strengths in its story and characters, but also has some weaknesses that water it down, such as a out-of-place third act, but by no means does it hinder enjoyment as a whole. So, I opened this review by basically bitching about X-Men Origins: Wolverine and saying that this flick needed to redeem it. Did it? Did it redeem that misfire of epic proportions? Kinda. But not quite. Why? Origins is just so damn awful, a disgrace to the X-Men line. All that being said, though, The Wolverine can stand proud and tall and worthwhile, a film worth owning and revisiting and actually can stand not being embarrassed liking it.

This isn't the movie we deserve, but it's the best we got right now. Although, with all this talk about a bloodier extended cut for the home video release, color me intrigued on seeing what non-gruesome character pieces were left on the cutting room floor. Okay, so, The Wolverine, worth it? Hell yes. See it.

Logan doesn't take being stabbed by samurai swords too kindly. . .

1 comment:

Scott Mattson said...

I like how you gave a great review, without spoiling major plot points