Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Film Review: The Wolverine

Copyright: 20th Century Fox
There is something very satisfying in the X-Men film franchise. I’m not a big Marvel fan, and I’m sure I’m not a scholar of its lore. In spite of that, I found every film in the series really entertaining.

A few years back, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was also an enjoyable experience. Gavin Hood, the artist who created the fantastic Tsotsi directed it and gave it a bit of his unorthodox, not-so-much-Hollywood touch. But this approach wasn’t a sure shot by no means.

Because the same thing backfired before -  Ang Lee’s Hulk was a total flop for both big audience groups that went to see it. Those who wanted to see a green monster destroying everything got an unimpressive Eric Bana drama, while those who wanted to see something like Ride with the Devil with comic heroes got even less.

Hood didn’t fall into the same trap, and wisely joined his artistic sensibility and character development with a pure fun & action pace straight from comic books for 14-year-old.

The Wolverine has been directed by James Mangold, who further decreased any non-action, non-comic influence. Almost every superhero movie today must feel tempted to do what Christopher Nolan did with the Batman franchise and make it a bit darker and realistic. Mangold decided that Logan, a mutant who possesses an amazing regenerative abilities and adamantium skeleton, doesn’t really need to be anything like a real and gritty vigilante. Instead, the film shows a broken and disillusioned Logan lives in the wilderness. A woman seeks him out and invites him to Japan, where an old man on his deathbed wants to say goodbye to him. He accepts and this decision brings him to the land of the rising sun where ninja clans, Yakuza gangs and adamantium robots await him.

This film isn’t short. In its runtime of 126 minutes it only becomes a bit boring in the third quarter, which is all things considered, a big success for the fun department. Hugh Jackman is comfortable as the main superhero and delivers his character with ease and ferocity. Mangold did an excellent job when the script needed his help it the most, like the fight scene on the bullet train roof, which looked silly in the trailers, but turned out fine. I suspect his experience in the director seat made this possible.

Wolverine meets Japan could be an unofficial tagline of this movie. There is nothing revolutionary about it, but Mangold didn’t try to make of it anything like that. A solid director, a solid lead actor and a solid scrip together made a really good superhero movie.