The good news is that Wolverine finally gets the film he deserves. The bad news is that in these times when films like Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 are recognized as great superhero films, this one may not get the amount of love it deserves. I hope it will but I won’t be surprised if people don’t warm up to it. This year’s other two superhero films were all right, bigger in scale but just not awesome enough. Actually, they weren’t films in the first place. One was an action montage and the other a slight comedy. The Wolverine is a film, it tells a story with characters it makes you care for. Better still, there are scenes with good dialogue.
This time the action shifts to 21st century Japan (but begins with the 20th century). Samurais – check. Yakuza – check. Ninjas – check. While the plot of the film or even its originality isn’t its biggest asset, the merits of this film outnumber the minuses, the prime one being its earnestness. As far as real action is concerned, there is one scene atop a bullet train that is wonderfully thrilling and fun. There are also fight scenes that involve you as a viewer. The best part is that the action doesn’t exist for the sake of it.
I was most impressed by James Mangold’s decision to make this a quieter film when he could have easily made an ‘Adamantium claws vs. Samurai blade’ slam-bam action film. Visually, the film has a terrific combination of it being dark yet not joyless. Japan is filmed in all its exotic glory like how it would exist in a comic book. Or probably something straight out of a Jidaigeki. The dark element does not come from how the film looks or how heavily gloomy the music is but by the character and his complexities. Surface level stuff, but passable.
The film begins with Logan (Hugh Jackman) saving the life of a Japanese officer, Yashida, after the bombing of Nagasaki. Yashida wishes to see him once before he passes on and offers him the gift of mortality. (A quick recap – Wolverine is probably 256 years old and is immortal). The Wolverine is indestructible. He doesn’t feel pain and can never get killed. He is a mutant with adamantium claws. This film turns it all on its head. His immortality is at risk. He is in pain through most of the film. Blind fans may not be happy seeing their favorite mutant slowly becoming powerless but I was happy that we get to see him being vulnerable and not laboriously fight through a film and bore us on the way like the Origins film did. We don’t want to see him as weak but we want to see him bounce back. It’s like a spring that goes two ways and not only one.
The film is essentially about Logan trying to move on from his past. The things that bind him. Be it his attachment to Jean Grey or the burden of his powers. There are 3 other female characters in the film. A villainess - Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a love interest- Mariko (Tao Okamato) and a red-haired mutant- Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who can see the future (and thank god we don’t see her visions in weird effects-heavy flashes). It’s been a long time since we had a diabolic villainess. She may be one-dimensional but exactly the sweet poison required. Yukio is a sort of sidekick to the Wolverine and not in a bad way. There is a scene where she perfoms her duties while Logan performs an open heart surgery that is more thrilling than any thunderous climactic showdown.
The ending is like how it should be. No big explosions, no destruction. Only man-to-man combat. (Or woman to man and other permutations). Yes, the final half hour does not match up to the rest of the film but I was rather pleased at not being bombarded with mindless action. And then there is the Silver Samurai who gets his share of being badass.
When the film is wrapped up, we get a post-credits scene that would have all X-Men fans collectively salivating. I’m not the biggest fan of the series but even I felt like I was handed a massive treat. Please do not leave your seat and wait till the main end credits are done. The wait for X-Men: Days of Future Past begins!
The Wolverine isn’t as good as X2 (2003) or X-Men: First Class (2011) but hey, at least it isn’t X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). For my money, it is the most satisfying superhero film of 2013 so far.view less