Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamato, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hal Yamanouchi, Brian Tee, Famke Jenssen,
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie, Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Another outing for the pivotal X-Men character that helped define a new saga in Marvel/Marvel Studios - launching their big way foray into the world of film back in 2000. But the big question is - how long can Jackman play the ageless hero for?
The production on this one ran into several hurdles - several large scale rewrites of the script, several directors (including an apparently pretty lengthy short list) as well as other smaller hurdles.
This film is a nice exploration into the darker side of Wolverine - taking cues from the 1982 mini-series of comics by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. Mangold follows the major thematic schemes of this run of the comics by focusing on Wolverine's emotional side - the torture and pain that comes with living through what Logan has lived through. The film also stretches to great lengths to show Logan's animal side - drawing many metaphors. The film is set after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand.
The story starts out in a WWII era Nagasaki - just as the bomb is about to drop. Logan (Hugh Jackman) saves the life of a Japanese guard by the name of Yashida. This cuts forward to the present - Logan is living life as an outcast in the wilderness. But Logan being Logan, he can't help but step in when there's trouble and his isolated life is shattered. He is pursued by a stranger named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) - who takes him to Japan to meet an aged and dying version of that same fateful soldier, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi).
The plot then derails into a plethora of structures that are a re-imagining of that mini-series. Logan gets a new love interest in Mariko (Tao Okamato) - a character that those who read the comics should be familiar with. While her story is slightly re-aligned, she provides a catalyst for Mangold's exploration of the vulnerability of this invincible character.
There's a slew of antagonists in this film too - from the Yakuza, to Mariko's own father Shingen Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanada), to the deadly-if-somewhat-boring Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). Jean Grey makes a return (Famke Jansse) - reflecting on one of the most important relationships that helped turn Wolverine into who he is. She appears as an ethereal other-wordly influence who flits between a range of emotions and responses to Logan's inner turmoils.
It's a big change from other comic book blockbusters of the summer - no cities were destroyed, the killing is 'relatively' tamer and it focuses more on the inner aspects of the character than the grand mythology it's building from. Some of the film's greatest moments come from Jackman's portrayal of a broken man - something that when you've survived for as long as Logan has, isn't easy. The sheer talent of Jackman raises the entire profile of the film - if someone else had played the titular role - blink and you might have missed it.
The Yashida clan also has mysterious ties to a a clan of deadly ninja assassins led by the enigmatic Harada (Will Lun Yee).
The music is underused and not powerful enough to fully flesh out the intimate feel that the film is hitting for. The cinematography helps create the-almost-claustrophobic atmosphere and helps the audience in the nightmare/dream sequence transitions - as well as creating a general sense of unease.
The generally 'un-epic' feeling of this 'epic' film is a great boost - it doesn't focus on Wolverine just killing the bad guy and saving the day, while being a troubled soul. It instead shows us the heart of a man who is undergoing a very turbulent maturation. It doesn't focus the violence needlessly - every act of violence is another step in the shading of the darker-side of Logan.
That being said - one of the biggest disappointments is the final cut. While there is a hefty amount of violence, very little of it is actual seen - and seen in any of it's full-fledged brutality. Bodies drop off-screen and rarely do we get to see the damage that those famous adamantium claws can inflict. It's like playing an FPS with the violence level turned down or watching an Old Western that's been edited for morning TV. It stops the film delivering the punches that it should.
We couldn't decide whether the CGI was brilliant or completely overshot. In the end, it came down to a bit of both. The fight that Logan has (which can be partly seen in the trailers) on top of a bullet train is, for a lack of a better term, spectacular. Later in the film, the CGI seems to weigh down on the film and almost becomes a burden, however.
For his sixth portrayal and his 13th year as Wolverine, Jackman looks as tough and toned as ever. His dedication to his role is nothing short of immense - and despite a previously lacklustre sequel in Origins, he keeps carrying the character forward.
It's clearly from the family-friendly cut to the way the entire film runs and feels that the studios have had a major input into this film. It feels like a film that's been through such a strong marketing team that what they wanted to portray was at odds with the main motifs of the film. I'm sure it was screened to focus groups, and there were surveys, and ideas about the overarching marketing strategies - but none of that fits in well with what Mangold and crew were trying to depict. Mangold's attempt, in itself, is impressive - he took a big scale budget and focused less on extensive special effects, and more on character development.
Stan-Lee didn't make his usual cameo appearance (unless we missed it!), but however, there is a reference to him early in the film for any eagle eyed viewers.
Jackman knows what he's doing - this has to be one of his best outings as Logan. The film, however, lets him down in that what we saw on screens around him. It felt like it was playing it too safe and pandering to what the studios wanted in creating a Wolverine that would 'sell'.
The film also makes a plot point that will have echoing effects in any future X-Men films in it's climactic finale. It's interesting to see how Marvel will play it from here on out.
In a similar vein to what the film tries to depict, the studios and fans would have much higher rates of return on money and enjoyment if -
Just let Logan loose.
What the Mr. Thought:
The entire film feels somewhat empty and restrictive. It aims for high moving drama, but then sees all the tropes and clichés of summer superhero movies start to creep in. While I admire Mangold's work, especially his run here, it feels like there could have been more. That there is yet a more intimate, more twisted and several shades darker side of Wolverine that is just waiting in the wings. In that sense, I suppose the potential and the celebrated areas of this film far outweigh the restrictions that you may feel.
I'm in two minds about this - but I'd recommend seeing it for Jackman's performance alone. It'll also set you up nicely for X-Men: Days of the Future Past.
Oh, and it's a Marvel movie - stay for the after the credits sequence to get a sneak preview of an upcoming film.
What the Misses Thought:
Hugh Jackman is certainly Wolverine (and he is just so good as this character!)
The film overall I felt was lacking...something. It was paced well, the acting on behalf of Jackman was spot on and the fight scenes hit the spot! However the story lacked substance and I feel as if the new love interest didn't quite work as well as they wanted her to.
Overall if you are a fan of Marvel (which we definitely are!) and if you love Hugh Jackman (which I definitely do!) then this film is just right for you!
But remember, you didn't hear that from us!
The Mr. and the Misses!