Friday, December 6, 2013

Movie Review: The Wolverine - 2013

A beautiful X-Men film that could be yet more courageous

IMDB Wolverine is the X-Man who has been properly characterized by Bart Simpson as the one who always leaves when everybody wants him to stay. Regarding the comic book character, there is actually not much more to say about him. In the movies, however, he is more complex and likable, thanks to Hugh Jackman who brought life and a certain charm to the character. Jackman's Wolverine just isn't as self-serious as the comic book original. "The Wolverine" exemplifies that in an amusing scene in which the protagonist's personal hygiene gets proactively questioned.

"The Wolverine" is refreshing in that it takes a step outside the X-Men universe. Wolverine aka Logan fights real people instead of mutants this time - with one unfortunate exception, but more about that later. He travels to Japan where an old tycoon whose life Logan once saved is dying and begging to see Logan so he can thank him. Logan only wants to stay "one day" in Japan, but soon he gets involved in a power struggle over the tycoon's empire. Things become especially difficult for him when he partially loses his self-healing power.

Now, loss of super powers has already been dealt with in "X-Men: The Last Stand", which is storywise the predecessor of "The Wolverine". But this time the power loss actually makes the movie more interesting. If Wolverine was the ever indestructible warrior, his fights would become dull. Roger Ebert once criticized Wolverine for that, and he was right. Fights are not interesting if one side never risks a thing. And with only human opponents, watching a fully functional Wolverine would be like watching a giant lawnmower driving through a petting zoo; great fun for the whole family at the beginning, but perhaps a bit nauseating as time goes on.

But the movie doesn't rely too much on fighting anyway. It actually slows down for longer periods, giving stage to the characters. I liked that, just as I liked the locations and the cinematography. "The Wolverine" is easily the most beautiful X-Men film so far.

I would love the "The Wolverine" to bits, but unfortunately its makers felt obliged to remind the viewer that it is an X-Men movie. As is typical for X-Men movies, there is a set looking like a James Bond villain's hideout, but in this movie it feels unnecessary and even out of place since the movie has real, more interesting sets to offer.

Another unnecessary and even confusing addition is the presence of a second mutant besides Wolverine. It seems the makers felt uncomfortable with the idea of having no other mutant  in the movie, so they added a venomous woman who serves the old tycoon. It is never clear though what exactly she had been hired for, nor do we know her intents. She is just there to be evil, somehow. Other than that, she adds nothing significant to the story. Her uselessness is almost explicitly demonstrated in one scene where all the parties are present as a big fight breaks out. While everyone else is being involved in the action, she is just standing there, taking pictures with her cell phone (sic!). Is she  recording a clip for Youtube? Or is she just checking her mail?
The mutant woman seems to have been added last minute to the screenplay. She could be removed entirely from the movie without losing anything. In fact, the movie would be better since this character makes it more confusing than it could and should be.

"The Wolverine" is a good movie. It could have been an awesome movie if the makers sticked with the real world setting instead of adding unnecessary sets and characters just to remind the viewer that it is placed in the X-Men universe.

Rating: 7 out of 10 adamantium claws.