Movie review: The Wolverine
July 31, 2013
Directed by James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Tao Okamoto, Famke Janssen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee, Hal Yamanouchi
Rated PG-13, Action/Fantasy, 126 minutes
Hugh Jackman is spread thin in his sixth appearance as Marvel comic book character Logan/Wolverine. Carrying nearly every scene, Jackman brings a lifetime of angst to Wolverine's inquisitive nature. An above-average superhero script of just the right density, and a cast of characters worth watching, ease his task.
When we meet Logan he's dreaming, recalling a Japanese soldier's act of kindness that Wolverine repaid by saving the man's life during World War II. Logan awakens from this reminiscence to find Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) fetchingly strewn across his bed, where she drops pearls of wisdom accompanied by blobs of guilt. Although Logan once loved her and still does, he killed her in "X-Men: The Last Stand." Nevertheless, Jean Grey, seductively attired in a white negligee, pleads with Logan to join her in a dreamy afterlife, but because he's immortal, Logan won't be with her any time soon.
Since this too is a dream, Logan finally awakens in the woods where he lives alone, save for the company of a grizzly bear.
An unfortunate incident sends Logan into town where he plans to take revenge. Wolverine ejects claws (made of a virtually indestructible metal) from his knuckles, but before he can take his pound of flesh, Wolverine is approached by pixie Japanese Ninja Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who has been sent to bring him to her dying grandfather Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) — the very man Wolverine saved all those years ago.
Logan boards Yukio's private plane, disembarking in Japan where he soon find himself caught up in a sticky situation. The grandfather, patriarch of a large tech company and of a conniving family, hopes to transfer Wolverine's immortality to himself. Yashida's back-up plan is to leave control of his company and fortune to his favorite granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). He warns Wolverine to protect Mariko because there are many people prepared to prevent the girl from collecting her inheritance.
Wolverine, who has often regretted being ageless and immortal, is nonetheless reluctant to give up his immortality, but he does accept Yashida's plea to protect Mariko, a task that comes naturally because Logan is hopelessly attracted to this feisty damsel in distress.
Also on hand for the action is the venomous Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), equipped with a creepy tongue that functions as her fifth and most dangerous appendage. Viper's brief scenes are injected with menace. On the other side of the coin, Fukushima's Yukio is a breath of fresh air, cast not only for her spunk, but also for her ability to mimic a Manga comic book character — all darting eyes, pink hair and 100 percent loyal to her task. Yukio is at once Logan's girl, protector and consigliere. What's not to like?
With frequent nocturnal visits by Jean Grey, and a rather soulful performance by a buff Jackman, the film dwells in Wolverine's emotional life. This is good news for audiences, because unlike most superhero movies, the film's emphasis on Logan/Wolverine's internal journey allows him to dig into his character. Inspired by a series of Marvel comics published during the 1980s, the film's action includes three memorable set pieces, one of which, occurring atop a train, deserves immortality of its own.