The Wolverine

The WolverineThe Wolverine

3 stars

Starring Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima and Will Yun Lee

Directed by James Mangold

The most fascinating aspect of Logan/Wolverine is how alone in the world he is. At this point, he’s pushing 130 years old, he’s been put through the ringer, mentally and physically. And no X-Men film to date fully realized that part of his character until now. It’s a solid entry into the cinematic canon, and a bold risk that pays off by not even utilizing the other X-Men (save for Jean Grey, who appears only in his dreams)(shut up, that’s not a spoiler, it’s brought up in the trailer).

James Mangold’s work up until now hasn’t been impressive. His films aren’t really bad, but they never really stand out, and he’s a jack of all genres. But one thread that’s weaved through all his films is the character study. From drug addiction and psychosis in Girl, Interrupted to the bizarre psychological thriller Identity, the opposing forces in his remake of 3:10 to Yuma, and of course dealing with rock stardom in Walk the Line. However ultimately mediocre the films end up being, the characters never fail to draw you into their world for that briefest of time. And that’s what he achieves with one of the comic book world’s most tortured, storied and favoured characters. While the film overall is only slightly better than most, and definitely not the best adaptation of the year, its franchise or its publisher, it does achieve what most fail to do, and that’s examine the humanity of the super-human.

Hugh Jackman has, over the past 13 years, been able to fully explore the character in a way that allows him reach down into the heart, the core, of Logan. It helps that he’s grown as an actor as well, having been one of the high points of last year’s Les Miserables that earned him a well deserved Oscar nod. He carries the weight of over a century of hard living  so well that you’re rooting for the smallest of wins. It’s a testament to Jackman’s craft that he’s been able to bring the character so far over the past decade and a half, from the cold, stand-offish Wolverine wandering the halls beneath Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, to the weary, beaten Logan scrambling for something to hold on to.

The largely international cast (mostly Japanese, but Jackman’s an Aussie and there’s a Russian thrown in for good measure), bring an interesting flare to the film. Jackman’s been immersed in American cinema for some time now, but the two Japanese female leads were making their feature film debuts, while Svetlana Khodchenkova (guess where she’s from) is known for her Russian work, and the male Japanese leads have dabbled state side, but their popular in their home country. So seeing all these sensibilities and experiences come together gives it a very unique feeling for such a large budget, franchise tent-pole film. There are times when it feels like a smaller film than it really is.

But then the stock 3rd act shows up where our hero has to face a big bad and we’re reminded that it’s a comic book movie, and most of that good will that was built up over the preceding 90-ish minutes gets run over by exactly what we’ve come to expect. Thanks mostly to X-Men for kick-starting the decade-plus long comic book movie craze.

It’s a good movie, it really is, there’s a lot to like about it. But just when you think we’re being treated to something different, something more, something better… we’re handed exactly what we should have expected all along. And it’s just utterly disappointing.

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