Opening this weekend is The Wolverine, the kind of sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine from 2009. I’ll get to what I mean by that later. From the film’s official synopsis:
Based on the celebrated comic book arc, this epic action-adventure takes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the most iconic character of the X-Men universe, to modern day Japan. Out of his depth in an unknown world, he will face a host of unexpected and deadly opponents in a life-or-death battle that will leave him forever changed. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality.
Hugh Jackman returns with James Mangold stepping behind the camera this time around. Director Darren Aronofsky was attached at one time with a script by Christopher McQuarrie, but that all changed and the resulting film changed because of it.
Now I called it a sort of sequel because the first movie established Logan/Wolverine as a character beyond the X-Men trilogy, but this doesn’t exactly follow that storyline beyond people knowing his backstory. This follows a comic storyline of Logan being based in Japan with a heavy emphasis on the samurai. It’s more a follow up to X-Men: The Last Stand because (spoiler if you haven‘t seen that film) Jean Grey dies in that film and she haunts Logan’s dreams because of it.
As for The Wolverine, I liked it, didn’t love it. There’s a lot of good in it, a lot of average stuff in it. It’s much longer than it needs to be and at times even feels longer. It’s probably the least “comic book” of any comic book movie I’ve ever seen and by that I mean, there’s no real superheroes and really only two bad guys (a mutant and a robot). Wolverine is technically a superhero, but he’s a flawed protagonist, what I like to call the “Han Solo complex”. He’s begrudgingly a hero, but at his own terms.
Being based in Japan, it’s very heavy on Asian culture. There’s lots of swords, samurais, a scene with chop sticks. It’s not what you expect out of comic book characters (if you don’t know the original story the movie is based on). Because of that, I don’t think young kids will like the movie. I don’t see too many 10 year olds going to see it 3 or 4 times like The Avengers or Iron Man. That will take away money at the box office. The Wolverine will make some money because he’s a beloved character and the fan boys surely love him, but it’s not a movie people will pay to see over and over again. It’ll do well, it won’t do great. Kids at the screening seemed to be somewhat bored with it.
As for the positives, there is simply no one else that can play Logan/Wolverine better than Hugh Jackman. Just like they will have a hard time finding someone who captured the darker Batman story better than Christian Bale, they will have a difficult time replacing Jackman if/when the time comes. Wolverine was my favorite comic character growing up and I’ve always enjoyed Jackman’s version even if I don’t think they’ve fully captured the essence of Wolverine on film just yet (X2 being the closest). The man looks the part (he even asked The Rock for advice on getting into the best shape possible for this movie) and just has that Logan swagger you want/need from Weapon X.
As for the rest of the cast, both Tao Okamoto (Mariko) and Rila Fukushima (Yukio) are newcomers and both are really good. I really enjoyed the Mariko character and hope she pops up again in other X-Men titles. Hiroyuki Sanada is solid as Shingen (Silver Samurai?). He has some great fight scenes and handles them well. Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova plays a decent enough foe as Viper.
James Mangold does a good job handling the action sequences and drama. The train scene is one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a while (without being overly destructive like Man of Steel). He pays homage to Shogun with a bathing scene and overall pays respect to the Japanese culture while contrasting it against violence and a man with claws.
I’ll probably end up owning The Wolverine when it hits DVD because I did like it. I still want one crazy Wolverine movie that really represents him, but for a non-comic-y film, it’s still pretty interesting. Unless The Conjuring really keeps its mojo, I expect the Jackman film to win the weekend by a big margin. There really isn’t much opening against it besides the female sex comedy The To Do List which I didn’t think much of. Plus I think the numbers might get padded a bit because of a great credits scene that gives us a bit of X-Men: Days of Future Past which is a must see for fan boys. Jackman continues to shine as the character that made him a household name even if this one really isn’t a kids’ movie.
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