The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Wolverine

Those X-Men, they sure can make a lot of money. With seven movies to the franchise's name, the X-Men have earned almost $3 billion and that promises to go up with the recent entry currently doing quite well in theaters. But without a doubt, one character has risen above the rest, and that would be Wolverine himself, a star in the first three movies and given his own feature with X-Men Origin: Wolverine. Well, stick with what works, hence 2013's The Wolverine.

Living in isolation somewhere in the Yukon, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is approached during a barroom brawl with an offer from a mysterious woman. Her name is Yukio (Rila Fukushima), and she has an offer from her employee, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a dying Japanese businessman with a huge empire at his fingertips. Yashida knows Logan from when he was a younger man dating back to 1945 World War II and wants to know now if he would be giving up his ability to heal even the most traumatic injuries at an alarmingly fast rate. Having traveled all the way to Japan to see the old man, Logan can't believe he traveled that far for such a ridiculous offer. He declines, but his timing was spot-on, Yashida passing away in the night. It's only at the business magnate's funeral that Logan realizes he has already been thrust into a high-stakes game with Yashida's impressive business empire on the line. Making it worse? Logan is starting to feel weak, his wounds not healing nearly as quickly. What's going on?

So that Logan/Wolverine character is pretty popular, huh? And that Hugh Jackman fella, he's seems pretty popular too. I think? This most recent Wolverine entry received generally positive reviews and earned a boatload of cash in theaters, some $414 million as I write this review. I have never been a diehard X-Men fan, missing out on the animated TV show and comic books as a kid, but I enjoyed the most recent sequels a lot. This one? Meh, I wasn't dying to see it. I came away mildly disappointed only because it left me somewhat cold about the whole thing. As a movie and story, it is professionally done with some pretty cool action sequences, some characters with a ton of potential, but mostly it never rises above a generic sequel. A whole lot of people seemed to disagree with me -- $414 million?!? -- but this sequel was disappointing, even dull.

Okay, there is one saving grace, and it doesn't take a genius to figure it out. Movie audiences, meet Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. This is one cool, badass character, an anti-hero to end all anti-heroes. His body built up to the point he is almost impossible to defeat, Logan is now weakened by another mutant, but he's not sure exactly what's going on or what started it. A huge physical presence in the action scenes, Jackman more than anything looks like a superhero. This guy is insanely ripped. It's more than that though because we delve deeper into the character, and you don't always get that with superhero movies. He's haunted by the death of his love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the guilt weighing on him on a daily basis. He walks the Earth knowing he is fated to walk alone. Talk about a tortured anti-hero, Jackman's Logan is brimming with intensity. The violence he produces is surprisingly violent -- adamantium claws tend to do that -- and the character itself is a gem.

As for the rest of the cast, I didn't come away with that similarly positive reaction.While Wolverine is a very cool anti-hero to lead the way, I can't say I was too invested in the situation he finds himself in. Wolverine exploring Japan isn't exactly a page-turner for me. Logan ends up on the run with Mariko (Tao Okamoto), Yashida's daughter who stands to inherit her father's empire. There's also a mysterious ninja, Harada (Will Yun Lee), who may or may not be protecting Mariko. Who are the bad guys? Hiroyuki Sanada plays Shingen, Mariko's father, while Brian Tee is Noburo, Mariko's fiance. Then there's Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), Yashida's doctor who also happens to be a murdering mutant so she's got that going for her. These characters are means to an end and nothing more. We either know they're immediately evil or they're certainly gonna be.

A tad long at 126 minutes, the action scenes are the saving grace here. The highlight is Logan fending off Yakuza attacks on a bullet train traveling through a congested city. By the time he's on top of the bullet train, his claws imbedded in the train, well, let's just say it's all pretty crazy. Logan tearing folks up with his claws does get to be a bit tedious though, especially with a PG-13 rating. If this was an R-movie, it would be horrifically violent. So what are we left with? Jackman is exceptionally cool, as is Fukushima as Yukio, an especially talented fighter who's realizing she may be a mutant just like Logan. The rest falls somewhat short though, going for all style and no substance. A generally cold action sequel. That said, there's a nice set-up for the most recent X-Men movie, now raking in the cash in theaters.

The Wolverine (2013): **/****

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