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Snikt Redux – The Wolverine

July 26, 2013

thewolverine

  1. I watched this in the same theater that I saw X2 ten years ago. Ten years — and that was the sequel. Time flies. That Jackman’s enthusiasm for the character is still so evident is really something special. We fans of this material owe the man a debt of gratitude for always trying his damnedest on these movies — even Origins. You can see things going in his eyes — there’s life beneath those mutton chops. We can even applaud him for apparently ingesting his body weight’s worth of anabolic steroids to get in shape for his many, many shirtless scenes. Also, look for the meta-metaphor moment in which this Logan chucks some of his old PG-13 cuddliness out the window. If only there hadn’t been a pool down there…
  2. The film is refreshingly small-scale. No threats to the world, no beams of light coming down from the sky portending the end of days. Just a family power struggle in Japan, a debt of honor, betrayals, ninjas, samurai swords, and pagoda fortresses built into mountains. It’s almost quaint.
  3. “Hip replacement.”
  4. Rila Fukushima is the revelation of the film, playing swordswoman Yukio, who finds Wolverine hiding in his hole, befriends him and becomes as much of a partner as the Logan we know will allow. She’s wonderful, a pretty, big-eyed warrioress who’s a lost soul herself, and more simpatico with her charge than either of them realize. Sadly, she disappears for much of the middle of the film, which drags on forever as the lukewarm romance with Mariko (Tao Okamoto) runs its course. I can offer Rila/Yukio the highest compliment: I want to see more of her character. She and Jackman have excellent chemistry, even when not saying anything to one another.
  5. The fiftieth time the gauzy, overexposed, horizontal Jean Grey appears, you’ll realize that you had enough of her the second time she showed up in Logan’s dreams. Sorry, Famke.
  6. The action works well, and fits into the same aggressive, bone-crunching groove as James Bond’s pursuits in Skyfall. Logan running, jumping, and flipping his kebabed foes is well-executed, though often it’s all sadly obscured by shaky cam, the bane of modern action cinema. (Akira Kurosawa is rolling in his grave.) And as for the takeaway fight on the roof of a bullet train, it’s neat, but I’m unsure of the physics involved. I recently read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Einstein, and couldn’t help but wonder what Albert, with his penchant for using moving trains and stationary observers in his relativity thought experiments, would have made of it. E=MCgoofy.
  7. If Logan is having trouble healing (thanks to tech borrowed from the first Matrix movie), shouldn’t his knuckles be oozing blood after every use of his claws?
  8. Remember January Jones as Emma Frost in First Class? Remember how flat and useless she was? Svetlana Khodchenkova (a rough Scrabble hand) plays a doctor/scientist/whatever who’s revealed to be Viper, a reptilian mutant with a mastery of poisons. She “acts’ more than Jones, but I found her to be infuriating every time she showed her face on screen. It really says something when a striking blonde is so unappealing that you can’t stand to look at her, and I don’t think this was intended in her performance.
  9. The final fight is predictable and stupid, with a giant Silver Samurai that feels like it belongs in the Stark-infused, Destroyer-infused Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a “reveal” that only country bumpkin plankton wouldn’t see coming. This is an element sure to upset ardent X-fans the most. I empathize, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker for this viewer. Though it tried.
  10. My bladder and I would like to thank whoever decided to put the expected post-credits scene only a minute in. We can both live without knowing all the grips on the film. This is definitely one you want to hang around for, with an old friend and an equally old enemy making welcome returns to this universe, with hints at next year’s Days of Future Past.

So concludes the main program of our comic book movie summer. I found Man of Steel to be a more enjoyable experience, but The Wolverine is like a twenty-dollar bill you find in an old jacket pocket. It’s not really that much, but it’s an unexpected boon. I was braced for this film to blow, and was pleasantly surprised to discover much to like in it. It’s not what it might have been in Arronofsky’s deft hands, but Mangold and Jackman exorcised many of the Origins demons. For that, we should all be grateful.

Three and a half extended middle claws out of five:

claws

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