Review: THE WOLVERINE (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Review: THE WOLVERINE (2013)

Grrr... How many times have I told you not to make fun of my hairstyle?
THE WOLVERINE has its moments, but the movie suffers from inconsistent pace, draggy mid-section and strangely anticlimactic ending.

When X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE was screened in 2009, it was greeted with negative critical response but still able to make a decent amount of money at the box office. Now four years later, the studio (Fox) attempts for the second time to resurrect a solo WOLVERINE movie by enlisting a new director (James Mangold) and wisely uses the much-beloved 1982's Wolverine comic-book miniseries created by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller as the main source of narration. The good news is, THE WOLVERINE is quite an improvement over the convoluted mess of the X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE especially in terms of characters development. Director James Mangold also made a bravura move not to stick to the typical comic-book movie formula by emphasizing more on drama with a dash of neo-noir undertones over action. However, despite trying so hard to be different, the result is mostly uneven that doesn't quite reaches to its fullest potential.

THE WOLVERINE begins in Nagasaki during WWII era when a B-29 bomber appears in the sky and about to drop an atomic bomb. While the rest of the Japanese troops decide to commit ritual seppuku, young soldier Yashida (Ken Yamamura) is too terrified to sacrifice his own life. Instead, he quickly takes cover in a heavily-fortified prison pit with the sudden help of Logan a.k.a. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who shields him from the atomic blast with a metal frame. Cut to the present day, Logan is now living as a hermit at the Yukon wilds following from the event of X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006) where he has sworn off violence after he was forced to kill his beloved Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). He often dreams about her and hardly sleeps well. One night, when he discovers a poor grizzly is badly injured from illegal, poison-tipped arrows, he confronts the irresponsible hunter at the bar to teach him a lesson. But before he begins to go berserk again, a red-haired and sword-wielding Japanese girl named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) arrives at the scene and helps him instead before she summons him to Tokyo on behalf of his old and dying employer, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) who is now the Japan's largest and most powerful tech giant. Upon arriving in Tokyo, the frail Yashida offers Logan a rare chance to become mortal by using advanced technology of transferring power because he's not ready to die yet. However, Logan declines to do so. When Yashida finally passed away in a matter of hours, Logan soon finds himself caught in the middle of family conflict involving Yashida's beloved and long-suffering granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), and her crime-boss father Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada). Trouble arises when the yakuza attempts to kidnap Mariko during Yashida's funeral. Logan manages to rescue her, with the help of Mariko's childhood ninja friend Harada (Will Yun Lee). Both Logan and Mariko subsequently goes into hiding, at which they unexpectedly fall in love. While the yakuza is still hot on their trail, the poison-tongued mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) who used to work as Yashida's doctor before his death, is scheming with Harada to strip Logan of his immortal super powers.
THE WOLVERINE begins quite promising enough and becomes increasingly intense in the first half-hour once the action pumps up with a showdown at the Yashida's funeral, which follows by a thrilling foot chase and concludes with a memorable fight set-piece atop the speeding bullet train. Characters-wise, Hugh Jackman is at the top form playing his iconic Logan/Wolverine role with a strong dramatic flair. Japanese supermodel Rika Fukushima, who made her first acting debut here, is surprisingly spunky and entertaining enough as the red-haired sword wielder Yukio. Technically speaking, the Tokyo-set production design is top-notch and particularly unique for an otherwise typical comic-book movie setting while Marco Beltrami's fusion score that cleverly mixed with Western and Eastern musical influence is simply inspirational.

The highly-entertaining showdown between Logan and the yakuza atop the speeding bullet train is a must-see to behold.
James Mangold's direction is uneven and the pace is erratic. The middle section is especially draggy in places when the story cools down to a near standstill to make way for Logan and Mariko's unconvincing romance as well as few soapy melodramas. As Mariko, Tao Okamoto is stunning to look at but her acting flair is somewhat stiff. Then there's the third act, which ends up with a disappointing finale involving a CG-heavy battle between Logan and the towering Silver Samurai.
Hah! Miss me, old man!

So is this the best WOLVERINE movie as some critics claimed to be? Well, given most of the glaring flaws, it's certainly far from it. Instead, THE WOLVEINE is best described as a half-realized movie that could have improved further. By the way, do remember to stick around for the mid credit as there is an interesting teaser which features two surprising cameos that leads to next summer's X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST.

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