Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jim's Movie Reviews: The Wolverine

So, I just got back from seeing The Wolverine, the latest X-film from Fox.

Truthfully, after the putrid bucket of nonsense that was 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this is a movie I wasn't really excited about...and it's lineage isn't exactly one to knock your socks off, either.  If you go over the credits, it stars Hugh Jackman (a great actor, but no guarantor of a decent film) alongside several relative unknowns.  Two of three of the female leads (Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima) have never been in a full length movie, much less a major studio release.  Writer Mark Bomback's credits don't exactly shake the rafters with such dross as Live Free Or Die Hard and the 2012 remake of Total Recall. Director James Mangold, at least, is of note for helming the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma, as well as 2005's Walk The Line, and co-writer Scott Frank did Minority Report, so I guess there's hope to be had there.  Oh, and Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) apparently co-wrote the script, but didn't get credit on imdb for whatever reason.

But, low and behold, Rotten Tomatoes' metascore is hovering around 75%, which, in my experience, is a pretty decent place to be for an action film.  I heard good things from the comics community, so I bought a ticket for a matinee at Penn Cinema Riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware (the 2D version).  

Getting to the point:  This is a half-decent movie.  It should satisfy fans left with a sour taste in their mouths after the '09 failure, especially those left hopeful after the far superior (but not perfect) X-Men: First Class. This is a movie that doesn't get everything right, but manages to engage enough to make it the "Wolverine movie fans have been waiting for" as it was billed...well, at least for die-hard fans.

First, the negatives:  Although the movie has an interesting setup and an engaging second act, the third act doesn't manage to bring all the plot threads to a close without some considerable stutter to the pacing.  To be honest, there are simply too many competing motivations at play, and the tone of the movie up until that point called for a more personalized, one-on-one showdown between our hero and those who vex him. I think a minor re-write, and perhaps the consolidation/elimination of a character or two, could have relieved the film of some cumbersome baggage.  Motivations early in the film seemed consistent and well thought-out, but in the end, several character arcs simply derailed in a completely unnecessary, "Wait, what??" fashion.  That, and the last nemesis, hinted at early in the film, is over-wrought and kinda clumsy...this is one place I wouldn't have minded the writers going off the comic book script.  The film suffers an ending that's either too long or it simply "ends" two or three times too often.  I can forgive even this, but I'll understand if some, especially the casual, non-comics-fan viewers, come away with a negative reaction.  Oh, and the infrequent use of steadycam, although it does enhance the frenetic quality of some of the action, gets a little heavy-handed...but not enough to spoil the fun.  

As for the positives...well, the first and second act give us a Wolverine with soul.  Mangold pulls performance from his lead, and the feeling you've walked a mile in Logan's shoes really hits home.  The backdrop of Logan's lost love is portrayed in flashbacks and dream sequences at tonally appropriate moments without straying from the path.  The Wolverine's healing factor plays a prominent role in the film, and each sequence involving our hero being wounded is used to maximum effect (truthfully, one of the most engaging things about Jackman's performance throughout all the films is his believable reactions to pain). The feeling of mystery surrounding the various players in Yashida Corporation is expertly delivered in the second act as well, although in this case the take-down doesn't have the luster of the setup.  For comics fans, the movie doesn't stray far at all from the Claremont/Miller stories it was based on.

All in all, I think the film ends up in C to B- territory. A 6, maybe a 6.5 on a 10 scale. It's good enough to be worth a matinee ticket, but the problems in the third act render my recommendation a little shaky.  This film is not for the overt film critic, and I doubt it will win any awards, but franchise fans will want to check it out:  It's the best Wolverine since X2...but that isn't saying much, now, is it?  

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