Friday, July 26, 2013


Release date:
July 26, 2013
James Mangold


Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Hiroyuki Sanada, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee, Brian Tee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Famke Janssen
English & some Japanese with English subtitles

We all have our weaknesses. Mine is that I’d happily pay the price of a movie ticket simply to see Hugh Jackman’s face. When Jackman wanders through most of that movie either shirtless or in just a vest, the price of popcorn, coffee, parking and petrol are also fully claimed. But seriously… It is the X-Men franchise’s good fortune that they picked a star in possession of such intensity, good looks and charisma to play Wolverine, Marvel Comics’ immortal mutant with the metallic claws and incredible strength. Jackman’s take on the comic book superhero has remained consistently convincing through the series’ six films, even on occasions when the films themselves have faltered.

With half its battle already thus won, The Wolverine takes us back in time to Nagasaki during World War II where we discover that Wolverine a.k.a. Logan survived the nuclear bomb and saved the life of a young Japanese soldier called Yashida. Cut to the present day, and Logan is living a life of seclusion in unnamed woods in North America, bearded, unkempt and tormented by the reality of his immortality. As alluring as unending life may seem to many, the truth is that death does not look like such a terrible thing when you know that your loved ones will inevitably pass on some day though you won’t. Logan is visited at this point by a red-haired Japanese girl called Yukio who seems to have her own share of superpowers: she can foresee the future and throw sharp blades around with the same speed at which she tosses her own lithe body about in fights.

Yukio has been sent by an aged and dying Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) who wants to say goodbye to Logan. When our hero travels halfway across the globe for the farewell though, we discover that the old man – now a millionaire businessman – is actually after Logan’s immortality. From then on, Logan gets unwittingly embroiled in a dark saga of family politics that involves Yashida’s exceedingly young granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), her troubled father (Hiroyuki Sanada), a corrupt politician (Brian Tee), a nimble ninja (Will Yun Lee) and a sexy mutant called The Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova).

Some of the film’s action sequences are stunning, in particular one extended fight atop a speeding bullet train in which Logan and a gun-toting assassin must indulge in all sorts of gymnastics to avoid being hit by overhead wires and other passing objects. Equally gripping yet in complete contrast is a nearly soundless scene in which Logan is attacked by a posse of archers on a desolate snowy night… the result of commendable teamwork between the film’s stunt director, cinematographer and production designer. Aided by Christopher McQuarrie, Mark Bomback and Scott Frank’s screenplay, director James Mangold keeps the suspense ticking right till the end when we finally discover who was actually out to kill who and why, why some people were protecting others and precisely why Logan was summoned all the way to Japan from his hideaway in the Western world.

Where the film does not score is in its failure to give us a villain to match Logan. Great heroes need great adversaries and in The Wolverine, none of Logan’s opponents is etched out well enough or given enough screen time to seem worthy of our man with the claws. The Viper has potential but her story is half baked. Yashida is barely there. And though the evil Japanese neta does provide us with one comical scene in his red underwear, he too is an under-cooked character. Besides, the effort to steal Logan’s Wolverine powers is too sketchily explained to be convincing. And while Yukio is intriguing, she is sadly under-used. 

The Wolverine’s other flaw is an error of both writing and casting. Logan is almost paternal towards Mariko throughout the film, so when he suddenly and inexplicably gets romantic with her, it sort of feels like a Salman Khan-Sneha Ullal moment. Model-turned-actress Tao Okamoto does not have the screen presence to match Hugh Jackman’s. She is just too glaringly young for him anyway. And their absolute lack of sexual chemistry is underlined by the brief appearances of Logan’s one true love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, hot as always) in his dreams.  

The good news is that Okamoto’s more impactful compatriot and fellow model-turned-actress Rila Fukushima seems set to re-appear in next year’s X Men: Days of Future Past, a teaser to which is provided at a point in this film when you are absolutely not expecting it. The Wolverine is not wholesome in the way James Mangold’s 2005 Golden Globe winner Walk The Line was. This film sorely needed more heft, but with all its limitations it’s still an enjoyable ride.

Rating (out of five): **3/4

Footnote: Don’t leave your seats when the credits start rolling.

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
MPAA Rating (US):
133 minutes (as per
PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language)
Release date in the US:
July 25, 2013

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