Film review: The Wolverine (2013), directed by James Mangold
There are apparently a lot of people very unhappy with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and they haven’t had their hopes up for this X-Men 3 sequel. As someone who knows Wolverine as Hugh Jackman, I didn’t really see anything particularly wrong with Origins. Actually, I thought it was interesting to see where he came from, even though I don’t really remember much of it right now. Not that it really matters, because you don’t need to have seen Origins to be capable of following The Wolverine.
The film begins in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945 where Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is held in a prisoner of war camp. When the Bomb falls, he saves the life of a young soldier, Yashida.
Many years later, the X-Men trilogy has taken place and Logan is hiding out in the Yukon looking like a caveman. There’s a touching scene with a bear. In a nearby town a Japanese woman, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), intercepts him and tells him an old friend wants to say goodbye to him.
Yashida (Hal/Haruhiko Yamanouchi) is an old man on his deathbed. Things have gone very well for him after the war and he’s now the head of a technological giant, so he’s basically the most powerful man in the country. He has an offer which Logan can’t possibly refuse – or can he?
At any rate, Yashida’s son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) is waiting for his father to die so he can take over the company, Yashida’s doctor or whatever (Svetlana Khodchenkova) seems to have nefarious plans of her very own, and someone is trying to kill Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Oh if only Logan didn’t keep getting distracted by guilt-ridden visions of the late Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), he might actually be able to do something to help.
Also starring Brian Tee as Noburo, Mariko’s fiancé, and Will Yun Lee as Harada, the ninja with the bow and arrow. Because yes, there are NINJAS in this film!
Before we go any further, there is something that needs addressing: You can’t fail to notice that Hugh Jackman is shirtless for about 70% of this film. Which really isn’t fair on him or indeed us. “But why? Hugh Jackman is a DISH!” But that’s exactly it! Because he’s such a handsome man, him walking around with his shirt off all the time sort of distracts from the plot, and also distracts us from him being a very good actor. So while the shirtless thing is a huge fanservice, it’s not doing the actor any favours. Especially when you consider that he had to be really dehydrated to film those scenes to make the muscles stand out, and that’s actually quite hard on your body.
Fortunately the women in this film got to do stuff and they didn’t need to take their clothes off in the process. Okay, so Jean Grey was in a nightie, but he did always have his heart-to-hearts with her in bed, so that makes sense. Yes, Mariko was the Damsel in Distress that needed saving but she was resourceful at the same time, and Yukio kicked butt – often saving Logan’s bacon. Evil Blonde reminded me of a younger version of Kim Cattrall, mole and all. I was surprised to learn she’s Russian, because she spoke impeccable English. Until I looked on IMDb and it’s said that her voice was dubbed. Tricksy.
Was it a good film, then? Oh, quite. I like Logan’s broodiness and sense of honour. The bear thing at the beginning was very touching. The fight scene on top of a bullet train was memorable, although it’s surprising how no one aboard seemed to notice big, metal claws coming through the ceiling. Fake snow was very fake: a) real snow generally only looks sprayed on like that if there’s a snowstorm, and even then it doesn’t normally look quite like that, which Hollywood always ignore but I guess they don’t get a lot of snow in Los Angeles, b) real snow doesn’t bounce like, say, white felt or whatever those roofs were made of that clearly wasn’t snow for health and safety reasons.
Logan is a likeable character whatever he’s wearing or not wearing. That’s why I like this film, even if it was a little slow at times. On the other hand, the small, throwaway bits meant to be funny were funny (unlike in Pacific Rim), like Logan taking a bath.
Walking to the car after the film, we had a conversation around the plot hole that is Logan’s hair growing back after the Nagasaki blast, because it wouldn’t have grown back to that particular haircut, surely. My response to that was something like “it’s a film about an invulnerable mutant with adamantium claws who doesn’t age, and you’re concerned about his haircut?!” Well, what can I say? We’re easily amused. This film did amuse.
4 out of 5 holes in the ground.