Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Wolverine review

    The Wolverine is a better movie than it has any right to be. After X-men: The Last Stand, the franchise has been on a downward spiral. X-men: First Class was entertaining but a thoroughly flawed movie elevated by gimmicks as much as the writing. Was I remotely interested in a sequel to X-men: Origins: Wolverine? No, I can't say I was. Even if I was one of the few who didn't hate it, I certainly didn't love it. As a result, I didn't enter this movie expecting much and thus was pleasantly surprised.

    So is The Wolverine good? Yeah, sort of. Above average and extremely so! Mediocre is an entirely pleasing way! Maybe I'm impressed with the results due to my lowered expectations but it's a pretty decent adaptation of Frank Miller's Wolverine comics (back when Frank was about ninjas rather than hookers). There's actual character development, emotions, and storytelling.

    Perhaps the part I enjoyed best about this movie is it's a sequel to X-men: The Last Stand that justifies the existence of said movie. A large part of The Wolverine is the titular character dealing with the fallout from Jean Grey's death. Having someone have a semi-realistic reaction to the traumatic events of X-men 3 was so unexpected, I was inclined to give the movie a pretty long rope to hang itself.

    And it didn't.

    There is nothing I hated in The Wolverine. Indeed, there's much I loved. There's Wolverine fighting ninjas. There's Wolverine fighting a giant robot. There's Wolverine, uh, umm fighting ninjas! He fights some Yakuza too, on a bullet-train! Now if he'd fought a dragon, this would be the best movie ever but I suppose they have to save something for the sequel.

At one point, Wolverine fights ninjas. This, automatically, makes it better than its predecessor.
    The premise is Logan, still mentally screwed-up by the events of X-men 3, has retreated into the wilderness as he is so prone to doing in the comics. Contacted by a billionaire technology magnate he saved during WW2, Logan is made an offer of mortality. Thankfully, this doesn't go in the direction you'd expect and when Wolverine does start losing his powers it's for a less cliche reason than Connor Macleod-esque angst. It's still pretty cliche but Wolverine is too much of a fighter to want to die.

    The stand-out character of this movie is Rila Fukushima's Yukio, a character I didn't care much for in the comics but who is transformed into a living anime heroine here. Given the X-men are all about translating animated characters into real-life, I was surprisingly okay with this. She's a fun psychic katana-wielding schoolgirl in a setting where that's entirely normal.

    Tao Okamoto's Mariko is bland but gorgeous, which is true to the source material.

Wolverine also fights a giant robot. This is enough to make the movie tolerable.
    Jackman, himself, is capable of playing Wolverine well. God knows, he should be able to after half-a-dozen films. He doesn't exactly break new ground as Wolverine in this film but he manages to display more emotion than he's been required to do since X-men 2. I still think he's the best choice for the character and while he may be overexposed, there's a reason kids like Wolverine. He's the only mutant whose power is a bunch of knives and getting up after getting his ass kicked, which is the definition of cool to a seven-to-fourteen-year-old.

    The movies villains are nothing to write home about but I'll give them props for managing to incorporate a giant robot, Viper, and the Silver Samurai. Mostly, the first. The movie's Viper has more in common with Poison Ivy meets Toad than Madame Hydra but she's serviceable as an insane sex pot psychopath (which is Viper's personality, if not background). The person I thought was the Silver Samurai wasn't, which was disappointing, but William Yun Lee did excellent for what little screen time he had--a common problem in superhero movies.

It says something about comic book fans my biggest complaint about Viper is her hair isn't green.
    So, overall, it exceeded my expectations but didn't blow me away. Maybe that’s a really bad standard to hold the film to but given the way the ball has been dropped with the Fox Marvel franchises lately–it’s nice to see them holding onto it. It makes me semi-excited to see Peter Dinklage unleash a horde of Nazi skyscraper-sized robots on our genetically abberant (but better for the diversity) species. In other words, bring on X-men 4 (or 7, depending on how you count Origins and First Class)!


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