Film Review “The Wolverine”

the-wolverine-posterStarring: Hugh Jackman and Rila Fukushima
Directed by: James Mangold
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hrs 6 mins
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Wow, *the* Batman – or is it just “Batman”?

As you can see, there is something to be said about the word “the.” In “Batman Returns” it was a way of identifying a hero. On the flip side, that single word drove the Knights That Say “Ni!” into a rabid tizzy. So does the inclusion of “the” make this film better than 2009s “Wolverine?” In a word, yes.

August 9, 1945. In a prisoner of war camp outside of Nagasaki, Japan, we find the man Logan (Jackman) being kept in an underground prison cell. An imminent air attack has frightened the leaders of the camp, causing one of the guards, named Yashida (Ken Yamamura) to set the prisoners free. He frees Logan last then is called to join his fellow guards as they perform hari kari. As Yashida pulls his sword his eye catches a sight across the water that he will never forget. A single plane dropping a single bomb. Suddenly he is picked up and dropped into the cell Logan once occupied. Logan covers Yashida’s body as the city erupts into a giant ball of flame. Six days later, the Great War is over.

Present day. We join Logan as he sleeps. But his sleep is not easy. Visions of his late love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) fill his dreams. Dreams that do not end well. One day he is approached by a young woman named Yukio (Fukushima). She has been sent to find Logan by her master, a man that wants to thank him for a great deed. That man is Yashida. Logan consents to fly to Japan, noting that he’ll only be there long enough to say “hello” and “goodbye.” You would think by now he would know better!

Full of kick-butt action and some incredible stunts, “The Wolverine” joins this summer’s “Iron Man 3” and “Man of Steel” as a worthy member of their respective series. As embodied by Jackman, Logan/Wolverine is a decent man who has accepted the fact that he will always be different. When we meet him in the future he is living in the woods outside a rural town. When he goes into town to buy some batteries for his radio the clerk asks him if he, like most of her customers, is a hunter. “Not anymore,” is the reply. But like the creature he is named after, Logan is constantly on the hunt, though at times he doesn’t seem to know what for.

While in Japan we are introduced to a now very old Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), who acknowledges his debt to Logan and asks him if he had the chance, would he trade his immortality for a normal life. Logan understands the question. Yashida is willing to do what is necessary to gain the power hidden behind inside Logan’s body. But is Logan ready to provide it? That is one of the many problems confronting our adamantium-clawed hero. Others include battles with ninjas, the Yakuza and an eight foot metal warrior. Piece of cake.

Here’s some trivia for you fans: Hugh Jackman was not originally cast as Wolverine in the first “X-men” film. Director Bryan Singer wanted Russell Crowe and settled for Dougray Scott. Scott left the film to join Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible 2,” giving the role, and an incredible career, to Jackman. I tell you this because I can’t for the life of me see anyone else playing this character. Jackman IS Logan/Wolverine. He inhibits the role and gives what could easily be a one-dimensional comic book character a soul, albeit a tortured one. On the production side, who knew that James Mangold, the director of films like “Cop Land” and “Walk the Line,” had a comic book movie in him? Like Kenneth Branagh and “Thor” he was a surprising choice but he delivers the goods here in spades. The Japanese locations, both in the city and country, are breathtakingly beautiful. The visual effects are outstanding, including a rooftop fight on the top of a Bullet Train traveling over 300 mile per hour. To call it exhilarating is truly an understatement. If I had to find a problem if would be the time. The film ends with a group of “ninjas” giving Logan and his talents a hard time in what appears to be another film that feels it must present a long and rousing final battle. It isn’t needed here and the film could easily lose 20 minutes and still play as well.

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