Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Last Wolverine

James 'Logan' Howlett, aka 'Wolverine,' has always been my favorite X-Man.  Unlike other X-Men (or X-Women), he can't fly, manipulate the weather, teleport, steal other mutant powers or shoot laser beams from his eyes.  Though his Weapon X 'gifts' are formidable indeed: instant self-healing and a virtually indestructible adamantium endoskeleton.  Not to mention those retractable adamantium claws of his are pretty nifty too. 
'The Wolverine' is the second spin-off of the popular X-Men character, following the much maligned 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' back in 2009.  While that movie wasn't terrible, it was a bit of a messy affair, overwrought with action set-pieces piled on one after another to the point that you stopped caring.  With that in mind, 'The Wolverine' is a welcome change of pace and scenery.
Japan is the setting of the new Wolverine movie, which should be familiar to X-Men fans well versed in the comic books.  While visiting an old WWII acquaintance at his death bed, Logan found his abilities impaired and became embroiled in the Byzantine affairs of the Yashida family, in particular the well-being of the granddaughter of the patriarch he came to say goodbye to in the first place. 
'The Wolverine' is richly textured and layered with nuances, a subtle, character-driven and at times poignant story without all the excess of action too common in summer blockbusters nowadays.  And when the action scenes do come, they are not only exciting but memorable, such as the fight atop the Bullet Train and the final set-piece between Wolverine and the Silver Samurai.  The movie captured the essence of Wolverine perfectly, a tortured man living by his own personal code of honor (Bushido).  There's also romance: the budding love between Wolverine and Mariko, and Yukio's J-Pop schoolgirl crush on Logan as his 'bodyguard.'  Perhaps hiring a respected director more known for 'art films' like James Mangold to impart 'The Wolverine' with the feel of 'The Last Samurai' isn't such a bad idea after all.

Grade: A-

'Wolverine' is a study in contrast, of light and shadows
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