It was another beautiful sunny July evening in Vancouver, and I was going to spend it in a dark theatre watching a film. I was hopeful it would be worth the sacrifice. It turned out to be a classic tale of a street savvy wise-cracking troublemaker falling for the beautiful daughter of a wealthy and powerful family. Of course, the lady is betrothed to a despicably greedy and dishonourable man, all arranged by her father. Our underdog hero struggles to rescue the fair maiden from an assassination plot and earn his place by her side as her true love and companion.
No, I did not end up at a encore presentation of Disney’s Aladdin. Instead, I went to the Hugh Jackman starring Wolverine; or, as it is more widely known, the Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman.
First things first, if you know anything about recent X-Men films, you are probably trying to forget you saw them, or with any luck, you actually forgot you saw them. I had high hopes going into this one, especially after seeing some early reviews that this was the Wolverine movie that comic fans have been waiting for. I am a little bit of a comic fan, so this was promising news.
The action scenes were fantastic! Think ninja versus samurai versus Wolverine, with some great sequences involving swords with names and rooftop archery. There is a great fight scene on a high speed bullet train that manages to mix danger and humour all in a relatively believable fashion. Director James Mangold really lets the body count pile up, but like his 2007 film 3:10 to Yuma, it is not excessively gory. The violence was not too graphic, but not too tame, either; it was just right, what I like to call the Goldilocks factor.
I must emphasize that Hugh Jackman portrayal of Logan is, as always, spot on. As he sang out loud to the world during the 81st Academy Awards, he IS Wolverine. The surliness and sass you would expect from Logan is all embodied by Jackman, and I always appreciate a well delivered, yet borderline cheesy one-liner. His berserker mode was not as berserk as it could have been, but he does a good job of being annoyed and sharing his annoyance with everyone. Two of the characteristics I was not happy to see omitted is he sense of smell and awareness. He is always shown as being the early warning system on any Avengers or X-Men mission, even before Iron Man`s sensors or Emma Frost`s telepathy. But Jackman does not portray the bestial nature of Wolverine as much as I would have liked, I was expecting him to know where everyone was, just by following his nose.
[Spoiler Alert!] – Why I hated this movie at the bottom –
The film opens with Logan in Japan, during a bombing by an Allied B-52. He saves a soldier, Ichirō Yashida, from the blast, and Ichiro watches as Logan’s burnt body heals itself in a manner of (painful) seconds. This scene is framed as a nightmare that Logan wakes up from, and next to him in bed is Jean Grey; this also turns out to be a nightmare and Logan wakes up on a mountain crag in the Yukon. There is a brief subplot of a grizzly bear and some local hunters that loosely mirrors the introduction in Chris Claremont’s 1982 limited four-issue comic series that this film is based on. While in town, Logan meets Yukio, who persuades him to travel to Japan to say goodbye to a dying Yashida.
In Japan, Logan encounters Mariko Yashida, Ichiro’s granddaughter, Ichiro’s doctor, who turns out to be the villainous Viper, Shingen Yashida, Ichiro’s son, and Noburu Mori, Japan’s defense minister who has been arranged to wed Mariko. During a funeral, Logan spots Kenuichio Harada on a rooftop, and it is later revealed he is Mariko’s protector and childhood friend. A kidnapping of Mariko is attempted, which Logan thwarts, and he escapes with Mariko to a love hotel (think fetish Fantasyland Hotel at West Edmonton Mall).
They travel to south, and Logan finds his healing factor has been diminished. Similar to the comic, it is established that he is not fighting at his peak form. His time alone with Mariko leads to a romantic relationship, and she tries to help him with his nightmares and obsession with Jean Grey, who continues to haunt his nightmares.
Long story short, Mariko is captured, returned to Shingen, she is recaptured, and brought to a remote mountainside Yashida facility. Logan battles his way through a small army of the black clan led by Harada, and is himself captured and brought to the Yashida facility.
After Ichiro’s death, Yukio sobs, “I didn’t foresee this,” and it is unravelled through the film that her mutant power is the ability to see how the people she meets will ultimately die. After I put this together, I was expecting Ichiro to show up at the end as the mastermind of all the plots, and he does, but as the Silver Samurai. Logan has managed to restore his healing factor by this time, but he still needs Mariko’s help to defeat her grandfather.
Logan kisses Mariko goodbye outside the company jet, and he leaves Japan with his bodyguard Yukio, who asks him where they are going. Logan replies, “Up.”
This was a good movie, and I enjoyed it much more than any of the previous X-Men films, but those five films did not set a high bar to challenge anyways. Overall, I would give it four out six Snikts! All the components were there, from casting and characters, action scenes, and plot. As far as it being loosely based on Chris Claremont`s storyline, it had most of the main elements, I was hoping for Logan and Mariko to marry and give him a little bit of a happy ending, but I suspected that it was not going to be true to the comic storyline anyhow. However, I am still unsatisfied!
18 Reasons Why I HATE This Movie
Seriously, I only have one reason, and it is the only reason I need. Where was Wolverine? In mainstream comics, the only serious contender to Batman`s cowl and spiked gauntlets is, of course, Wolverine`s cowl and gauntlets. I just want Hugh Jackman to reach back over his head, and pull that mask on! I understand everyone wants to see his gorgeous face, and the Lautneresque shirtless scenes (he really is quite impressive). We even get a pretty humorous, yet gratuitous scene of him bathing to satisfy the Jackman admirers. But for the sake of a comic fan that is thinking of some great artwork of Wolverine standing next to Cyclops in Schism, just let us see Logan don the yellow and blue (I would even accept the brown on brown), pull on the mask, and finally stretch the gloves over his paws. Then, in the face of certain death or over a pile of newly slain foes, see him light up one of his famous stogies. The Wolverine? Close, but no cigar.