July 24, 2013

"What they did to me, what I am, can't be undone."
If there's one person who can impersonate and live his character so well it sticks, that'll be Hugh Jackman with his (let's just bluntly say it) alter-ego, The Wolverine. Four years after the fall of Gavin Hood's critically-showered X-Men Origins : Wolverine, The Wolverine is back with new claws, sharpened by director James Mangold and screenwriters Mark Bomback & Scott Frank. I honestly don't know what to expect here; I like Marvel superheroes and The Wolverine is (undeniably) everyone's favorite in X-Men mutants squad. But I have to be careful as well, remembering its fallen predecessor and the sting trailer. Let's just say that my expectation stays in the middle. So, how was it? Keep reading.

The story took place some times after X-Men : The Last Stand, Logan a.k.a The Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is now losing his identity due the death of his love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who constantly haunts him in his dream. He's now living deep beneath the frozen forest in Canada, lying to himself about who he really is. After an occurance that killed his beloved (and badly CGI-ed) grizzly bear, Logan finally got into a fight in a local bar, only to be saved by a red-haired squared face asian girl named Yukio (Rila Fukushima). Yukio then asked Logan to come with her to Tokyo, to meet a Japanese soldier he once saved during the atomic bomb at Nagasaki. That Japanese soldier is now a successful tycoon named Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), who (as a gratitude) asked him to give up his immortality as a trade for a death he craves so bad and in order to reunite with Jean. Logan -obviously- turned down the offer so easily, leading him to another scenarios involving Yashida's grandaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), her father Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and some Japanese Yakuzas. On the other hand, a mutant named Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) secretly sucked up Logan's healing ability, making him at his weakest. Now, it's up to Logan to find his true-self, in order to save Mariko, and honestly, himself.

Does The Wolverine classified as a superhero movie? Evenmore, Marvel's? Because I don't feel like this movie deserves to be called one. It's just another samurai-like action movie which Wolverine happens to be in it. Mangold's approach is distinctively clean and sharp, exploring The Wolverine's character like never before. This movie doesn't need mindblowing CGI or heartpounding explosives to lure people into the cinema; simply by using Jackman's name and The Wolverine himself. I also love how Mangold creatively explore Japanese's culture, from the ninja, bullet trains, pachinko parlors, love hotel, samurai, all of those stuffs. I also love how the mixture of past&present, cultural vs modernity and immortality-mortality work well. More to add, a careful world building in the first quarter, for then followed by never-ending actions involving ninjas, flaming swords, bows, fists, silver-y giant robot and claws, with the trilling chasing and running sequences (the fight on top of the speeding train, WUHUU!); super fun.

Yakuza & Ronin hold a big aspect in this movie, but somehow they feel like leftovers. Even the samurai aspect doesn't work quite well; it needs more blood and the slicing-dicing thing needs to be explored even more. And do please stop the Jean ghostly encounters; it's highly disturbing and sometimes make the timeline unfocused. Despite the corny dialogues (and Jackman's one-liners), cheesy and uninspiring twist, unbelievably slow plot in the entire 126 minutes, The Wolverine still appears a lot better than its predecessor though the less superhero aspect may cause it to be easily forgotten.

The Wolverine is having an identity crisis. It's a cliche thing nowaday, that a superhero is losing himself after a big tragedy, when he appears to be emotionally tortured, leading to his decreased physical ability, then slowly regains his inner-self, then to strike again even stronger. This formula works well for Jackman, but that was it; he's still bulky (even I cherished his shirtless performances even more), still made out of adamantium and still has his precious claws, only he's now healing whole lot slower; it needs to be levelled up. Then there's the soap opera aspect; the uninspiring and emotional love/family story that seems to be built only as an exercise to things that are even bigger; can't feel the chemistry between any of them. As for the villains, Yamanouchi, Khodchenkova and Sanada feel emotionally flat, uninspiring and are overclouded by the surprisingly strong performance from the two female heroines; Okamoto and Fukushima. As for the other side characters, they don't help much.

Easy to say that Mangold's Wolverine is better than Hood's Wolverine. It has the thrill, the action and the excitement, but it misses the whole point; a superhero. And it doesn't exactly sell a story as well. I can't give you a recommendation; decide for yourself. But one thing I can tell that I can't deny it still is enjoyable. AND GOD FORGIVES THE MID-CREDIT SCENE!

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