The Wolverine

Genre: Action

Director: James Mangold

Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Mark Bomback, Scott Frank, based on Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi

Running Length: 126 minutes

Synopsis: Based on the celebrated comic book arc, this epic action-adventure takes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the most iconic character of the X-Men universe, to modern day Japan. Out of his depth in an unknown world, he will face a host of unexpected and deadly opponents in a life-or-death battle that will leave him forever changed. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality.

Review: The Wolverine is somewhat of an anomaly in the roster of summer blockbusters – although this is the sixth time Wolverine has featured in a movie, the film’s only name actors are Hugh Jackman and Famke Janssen, with the rest of the cast being relative unknowns. And despite what the trailers might have suggested, this is actually a rather intimately shot film, with only a handful of action set pieces in  itstwo-hour plus running time. While the storyline is undoubtedly engaging, and the film as a whole is definitely superior to the dreary X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it remains to be seen if the film’s box office would be impacted by mismatched expectations of the audience.

The Wolverine comes off to a pretty slow start – the initial exposition takes up more than half an hour before any true action is witnessed on screen, by which time it’s abundantly clear to audiences that this movie is trying to be more than just the typical summer action blockbuster. Credit must be given to Mangold for trying to delve deeper into the psyche of Wolverine and what makes him tick, but it isn’t always very successful. All the Jean Grey visions in particular are cheesy and cringe-worthy, but there are moments of introspection that feel as though he has succeeded somewhat.

Apart from this, The Wolverine is a pretty formulaic superhero movie offering up few surprises. There’s the obligatory (in this case, extremely obligatory) romantic interest, the typical action sequences, and the final showdown. The finale is particularly disappointing, because the villains seem to pose very little threat to the heroes and are quite quickly dispatched. Wolverine’s loss of his super healing powers (much vaunted in the slew of trailers and pre-publicity) also don’t manage to make too much of a difference. Thankfully there is at least a refreshing take on the typical “brawl atop a speeding train” sequence, since it happens on a bullet train travelling at 300km/h, which changes the rules of combat and physics somewhat.

Placing Wolverine in a foreign locale does also help to shake things up a bit. Apart from Wolverine, Jean Grey and Viper, every other character of note are Japanese, often speaking in their native tongue. This is an interesting gambit for a summer film, since subtitles are popular amongst the typical movie-going crowd, but suffice to say it being of the X-Men universe will ease the discomfort somewhat. Mangold and the writers do play quite hard and fast with the canon of the story arc the movie is based on, which may annoy the hardcore Marvel and X-Men fans, but otherwise there’s really nothing glaringly out of place with the plot. X-Men fans would be particularly pleased with the coda just after the first segment of the end credits, which alludes to the already-announced X-Men: Days of Future Past, coming our way summer of 2014.

Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)

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