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The Wolverine 3D – film review

August 1, 2013

THE WOLVERINE 3D

An existential X-Men.

Reviewed on Thursday 25th July 2013

the wolverine - hugh jackman

Directed by James Mangold. Screenplay by Christopher MacQuarrie, Scott Frank     and Mark Bomback. Based on the Marvel comic book character created by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi and Brain Tee. Running time: 126 mins.

The Marvel universe continues to expand with Hugh Jackman reprising his signature role for a fifth time – surely some kind of record. And once again, Jackman shows us why he is one of the most popular stars working today (and indeed, the third highest paid Hollywood actor currently working).

In his second stand-alone adventure, Logan is coerced out of exile and lured to Japan, where his invulnerability is taken by a skin-shedding, acid-spitting adversary known as Viper. With his self-healing powers diminished, The Wolverine becomes embroiled in a corporate power struggle involving the Yakuza – which may ultimately lead to his mortal demise.

Helmer James Mangold – hand-picked by Jackman after the departure of first choice director Darren Aronofsky – brings a certain grown-up sensibility to the film which was noticebly absent from that other Marvel summer release this year – Iron Man 3D. Being a meditation on the drawbacks of immortality (and, to an extent, an exploration of a man dealing with personal loss), it is easy to see what first attracted a filmmaker like Aronofsky to the project – particularly with his championing of the outsider being a common thread running throughout his work. And although it’s a shame we will never get to see Aronofsky’s take on the material – Mangold is no slouch either, especially when it comes to staging coherent action scenes. The Yakuza fight atop   a speeding bullet train – travelling at a breakneck 300 miles per hour – is definitely the action highlight of the film, while the Nagasaki flashback sequence which opens the movie is one of the most vivid and terrifying depictions of a nuclear attack yet seen, and is certainly hands down the most visceral and startling curtain-raiser of     any film this year.

Hollywood’s summer assault on the lucrative Asian market continues with The Wolverine being the third such blockbuster with an Asian-centric villian or locale – in this case, Japan – although it was mostly shot in and around Sydney. All cynicism aside though, it was actually a masterstroke in relocating Logan to the Land Of The Rising Sun – as his self-imposed exile from the X-Men (following the events of Last Stand) has essentially made him a Ronin – a samurai without a master – a pitiful position to be in in the eyes of Japanese tradition. As well as giving him a strong thematic arc – plonking him slam-bang in the middle of Japanese culture also gives Logan the opportunity to cross blades with sword-wielding ninjas – which in turn provides for some brilliantly choreographed fight scenes. Of the predominantly Japanese cast, only Rila Fukushima makes an impression, as Logan’s red-haired, precognitive, self-appointed minder. Considering this is her first appearance in a film, she is undoubtedly a natural – destined for a promising career in movies.

rila fukushima - the wolverine

Script-wise, the film suffers the same issues as Iron Man 3 – in that it tends to slide into mediocraty during its formulaic finale – with the hero facing off against a more powerful adversary in the villian’s lair (in this case – a giant mechanical silver samurai). The other thing in common it has with Iron Man’s most recent outing is its poorly developed villian. Just like Guy Pearce’s character, the antagonist here lacks a convincing character arc (or indeed ANY arc) and his motivation is muddy at best. Although he is initially a sympathetic character, his abrupt fall from grace and sudden transformation into cliched Bond supervillian lacks proper development – the result being; he is severely diminished as a believable threat. Is it really that hard to come up with a clearly-defined and formidible villian these days?

The music score by Marco Beltrami (Mimic, I Robot, Knowing) uses traditional Japanese instruments to suggest the exotic locale with a nice degree of subtlety, while the crisp cinematography by Australian lenser Ross Emery (who began his career as 2nd Unit DOP on The Matrix Trilogy) – lends the film an icy slickness     which is world class.

On the 3D side of things, this conversion adds virtually nothing to the overall experience – so I wouldn’t go shelling out extra bucks for the glasses this time around.

And the violence, apparently, has been toned down for this theatrical bow – but will     be reinstated for the home video release.

It is interesting that Logan currently shares the same headspace as Tony Stark – in that both characters are struggling to come to terms with some traumatic event which happened last time around – Tony Stark’s near death experience in New York and Logan having to end the life of the resurrected Jean Grey in X-Men: Last Stand. Perhaps if Wolverine does indeed feature in the next Avengers outing (as Jackman     is currently lobbying for) – then he and Stark could potentially begin a bromance, which could then lead them to pairing up for their own spin-off adventure – a sort of superhero buddy movie in the vein of Lethal Weapon or Tango & Cash. Now THAT would be something to see – Wolverine and Iron Man, teaming up together to trade wisecracks and kick ass. Gee, have a listen to me – I’m beginning to sound like     I’m actually a fan of this stuff!

The bottom line: This existential Wolverine begins well with lofty intentions – but ultimately fails to follow through with its muddled finale. Despite this, its positive aspects are still more than enough to make it worth seeing.

3.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4  – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed in 3D at the Piccadilly Cinemas, North Adelaide, July 25th 2013.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.

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6 Comments
  1. You’ve seen a current film I haven’t!!! Good review. 🙂 I do want to see this but might not have time.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Thanks table9! It’s a shame you won’t be able to see it – it really does deserve a big screen. 🙂

      • Well, I did manage to see a movie but chose The Conjuring instead. Seemed to be getting better reviews…

      • gregory moss permalink

        Cool! – I’ve heard really good things about that one. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. 🙂

  2. Dianna Taylor permalink

    Always enjoy your reviews Greg.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Cheers Di! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by.

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