Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Wolverine

But first, I have one question: What is the first name that comes to mind when you think of X-Men? 9 times out of 10 you would probably answer that question with Wolverine and for good reason too. He is the most popular X-Man on the team, not to mention one of the most badass comic book heroes of all time.

Complete with an adamantium skeleton which include knife-like claws, a berserker rage, and accelerated healing powers that render him unable to die. In fact, he is the Clint Eastwood of the Marvel Universe. Which is probably not fair considering Clint Eastwood is represented twice in the Marvel Universe with the other character being the Punisher. And if the Punisher is Dirty Harry then Wolverine is the Man with No Name because he’s got the attitude and he’s so mysterious. For one thing, no one knows how old he is because of his inability to die even though we sort of got a pretty good idea in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I mean he fought in the Civil War for Christ’s sake.

And the reason that I bring up the Punisher in a review about Wolverine is that both characters were created around the same time as villains for more established Marvel heroes. While the Punisher was conceived as a villain for Spider-Man, Wolverine was conceived as a villain for the Hulk. In fact, his first appearance was in a 1973 Hulk comic. Then a year later, Marvel decided to make him a good guy and made him part of the X-Men (despite his reputation as a loner) where he has been on and off ever since. And his popularity started to grow, but it wasn’t until his landmark 1982 limited series featuring a story about Wolverine going to Japan that his popularity really started to soar. And the basis of that limited series has become the movie we’re reviewing today, especially since this ties in with the fact that this ties in with the final Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman Logan being released to theaters this weekend.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is The Wolverine.

The movie takes place after X-Men: The Last Stand (which I have not seen but I’ll take your word for it that it sucks) but it actually begins in a Nagasaki POW camp during World War II (Yes, Wolvie fought in World War II. Again, X-Men Origins) where a captive Wolverine (once again played by Hugh Jackman) saves the life of a guard who will be known as Yashida throughout the rest of the movie just seconds before we nuked Nagasaki to end the war. Either that or Nagasaki had a shitload of bad movies they wanted to see destroyed.

But now on to the current story. Since X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine has been in hiding in the Canadian wilderness still haunted by the fact that at the end of that movie, he was forced to kill the love of his life, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). That's what happens when you let Brett Ratner direct while the franchise's original director Bryan Singer goes off to direct a subpar Superman movie. Throughout this movie, Jean appears frequently and acts as sort of his conscience. And her appearance is getting a lot of buzz primarily because of the fact that every scene she’s in, she’s wearing lingerie for no obvious reason other than as fan service to attract the male geeks in the audience. Now that you mention it, there was another scene like that in another movie that came out in the summer of 2013 but I can’t think of it at the top of my head. Oh, yeah. Now I got it. It's that pointless scene with Carol Marcus stripping down to her underwear in front of Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness. So I'm guessing the summer of 2013 went down in history as the summer of pointless lingerie scenes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But anyway, our pal Logan (Wolverine’s real name by the way) is soon spotted by a badass Japanese chick named Yukio who works for Yashida who wants to repay our hero for saving him from the big bad nuke by offering him a chance to be human by transferring his healing powers to Yashida, who is dying of cancer. He also wants Logan to protect his granddaughter Mariko, a character who was also a love interest for Wolvie in the comics, for reasons that I will not disclose because it could be a major spoiler. And just like in the comics, Logan and Mariko fall in love even though at first they can't stand each other. Sounds like a plot for a typical romantic comedy.

So anyway, what ensues is a nonstop montage of really great action sequences which includes Wolverine actually killing people (this movie almost got an R rating by the way, partly because we see blood on Wolverine’s claws at one point) and even a breathtaking action sequence on top of a bullet train that makes this feel less like a comic book movie and more like a cross between the Nolan Batman films and the Bourne movies.

Wolvie's adversary this time around is a mutant called Viper who is basically Marvel's answer to Batman villain Poison Ivy. She is played by a hot Russian actress named Svetlana Kochinkova, who kind of looks like all those hot girls I usually get on ads for Russian dating sites. She's after Logan all right but not for marriage. She needs him for her secret weapon: an adamantium-plated cyborg known as the Silver Samurai that basically looks like a cross between the ED-209 in Robocop and the Iron Monger in the first Iron Man. Like Poison Ivy, Viper has the ability to kill anyone with a kiss. However, when she first encounters our hero, she makes out with him while he is having another hallucination about hooking up with Jean Grey. What results is Wolverine's healing ability gets inhibited and that makes him vulnerable, a position that our hero rarely finds himself in.

Another fun fact: The role of Viper was originally offered to Jessica Biel but she turned it down because she and Fox couldn't come to a deal quick enough.

As of now I will have to say that after playing the iconic character in
several movies, Hugh Jackman owns the role of Wolverine in pretty much the same way that Christopher Reeve was Superman and Robert Downey, Jr. is Iron Man. I think someone should actually make Hugh sign a contract where he has to show off the claws in every movie he's in. Hell, he could have used those claws in Les Miserables. He could have used them when he hosted the Oscars that one year. That's how good he is in the role. In fact, getting back to the fact that the movie is based on the 1982 limited series comic book, Hugh said that the mini-series was his favorite Wolverine story.

Since about 60 percent of the cast is Japanese (well duh, the movie's set in Japan) I can't really name names but most of the Japanese actors did pretty good. Mariko on the other hand was kind of meh. I would've rather seen Wolvie hook up with Yukio because his chemistry with her was really good. Famke Janssen was pretty good for spending the entirety of her scenes in lingerie which again was kind of pointless. The hot Russian chick did okay as Viper, and since Viper is Marvel's answer to Poison Ivy, she is a big improvement over Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin.

Director James Mangold, who helmed some really good movies like the remake of 3:10 to Yuma and the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line and who is also directing the upcoming Logan which is Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolvie, actually gives us a decent Wolverine movie. He gives us some really awesome action sequences and when there are quiet scenes (such as the Jean Grey scenes and the Nagasaki flashbacks) he makes them count. This movie is a true Wolverine solo movie and this is the movie X-Men Origins should have been.

In short, The Wolverine is a lot of fun and it is a pretty decent action movie. And trust me, this is probably the best X-Men related movie I have seen to date and it's the best X-Men movie since 2003's X2: X-Men United (which ironically was the last X-Men movie I saw in theaters before this one.) If you have a chance, check it out. You won't be disappointed.

And one more helpful hint: You may want to stay past the credits. There is a coda at the end that sets up X-Men: Days of Future Past in which Wolverine will be a major player in and look for two surprise cameos at the end. However, at least unlike the latter film, The Wolverine did not leave me bored.

So all I can say about this movie is SNIKT!

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