Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Wolverine [2013]

Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Ken Yamamura, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Hiroyuki Sanada
Genre: Neo-noir/Superhero/Action
Rating: Teen
Verdict: "For the most part eschews visual effects in favour of giving this superhero story the Neo-noir treatment..."

Taking place sometime after the events of X-Men 3: The Last Stand [2006], Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is on his own again, haunted by memories only eternal life can give. He continues to live in a state of constant disorientation as his mind keeps going back and forth between past events and present time. One day, a man whose life he once saved seeks him out. Despite his misgivings, Logan travels to Japan to meet him and before long, he finds out the hard way that the man's intentions are not entirely altruistic. Unbeknownst to Logan, he is now caught in the middle of a bizarre corporate espionage.

What to Expect
1. A neo-noir feel to the movie
2. A very human superhero story
3. Masterful film-making
4. Memorable performances
5. A superhero movie of a much smaller scale
6. Unusual pacing for a superhero movie

What NOT to Expect
1. Wolverine being impervious to injuries
2. An origin story
3. Disaster porn
4. CGI porn
A superhero movie that refreshingly doesn't feel like one.
In late 2011, almost two years ago (wow, really?) I wrote an entry about how excited I was to hear about James Mangold taking the director's seat in place of Darren Aronofsky for a Wolverine project. You might think that I'd be skeptical because X-Men Origins: Wolverine [2009] was really that bad and uninspired. But no, as I wrote in that entry, I was intrigued from the get-go about Mangold and the direction he planned to take.

True to his word, The Wolverine ended up being exactly how he pitched it to us.

However, if you're not aware of this, or perhaps forgot about it, watching the film is going to feel somewhat jarring at first because maybe you weren't expecting it to be like that. You might even ask yourself if you're actually watching a Wolverine movie. So yeah, let me tell you what you're not going to see in this movie.

First of all, it's neither a reboot or an origin story. They've done that with the aforementioned Origins and we all know how that turned out. Forget that. Consider it a closed chapter.

Second, it also distanced itself from X-Men movies as you know it. Because the prior X-Men movies featured an ensemble cast (though nobody had any illusions as to who is everybody's favourite character), there really was no other way to do it; everything had to be big and flashy. But it was all very well-done (up until X2) under Singer's direction.

With The Wolverine, however, it's all about the title character. Therefore it was a wise decision to scale everything down and eschew extensive use of visual effects. But what's really clever about it is how they incorporated elements of neo-noir. This is anything but coincidental as Mangold explicitly mentioned that he drew influences from Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales [1976] and Chinatown [1974] starring Jack Nicholson.

The only downside is that it's a love-it-or-hate-it type of a film. However, there's a really good chance that you will love it or hate for the exact same reason; it's different, all the way down to its pacing. To my eyes, it's refreshing. Now you might think that I'm a little soft in the head for hating Man of Steel yet I was able to immerse myself in The Wolverine.

After all, they both featured mopey and depressive superheroes who always seemed to constantly grumble under their breaths.

"Fuckin' villains, man!"
Ah, but here's the thing... The likes of Man of Steel intentionally had all the fun sucked out of them for no other reason than that's the trend set by Nolan's Batman films. It's weird, and it doesn't make sense. Kal-El was just too much of a sourpuss for someone who has the ability to fly. It sure wasn't what Christopher Reeve Superman movies were made of. Superman is a fun guy.

Wolverine, on the other hand, is a tortured soul. Always has been. It worked for Batman due to the same reason.

However, if The Wolverine has any weakness(es), they lie in here, i.e. the reason for him being so depressed throughout the whole movie. Sure, one can take into account that being practically immortal can really mess with your head. Therefore the simplest depressive moment echoed through his head with so much pain, it would be like sticking your head inside a church bell and have it rung.

Don't try that at home.
But like I said, very few things about The Wolverine depend on your willingness to meet it halfway. The rest was just masterful film-making on top of an already good story. If you're on the fence about seeing it, I'd recommend that you do so just for its refreshing take on the X-Men lore.


Zulfahmi said...

I've been wondering when they would bring out my favorite X-Men enemy - The Sentinels. The end credit scene might have just answered that. I'm hyped! I was like, DAMMMNNNNNNNN...

Anyway, this movie is definitely superior than Wolverine Origins in terms of story. The pacing was quite slow but the story kept me guessing what the hell is going on here?

In terms of action, I love the bullet train scene! I wish the climatic fight would be just as awesome & tense.

Mamü Vies said...

It's a hit-and-miss, but good to know you like it!
'cause I thought it was a brilliant homage to noir films.

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