Thursday, August 08, 2013


Went out and saw The Wolverine last night. First three quarters of the film were GREAT. Last quarter (final fight scene) was...meh.

The Wolverine is an American attempt at making a Japanese film. It really is. There is a wonderful contrast set up with Logan as the powerful, skilled ronin living in the wilderness, seeking kinship with beasts. He is found by the loyal retainer (Yukio) of a man whose life he once saved, despite their being on opposite sides of a war (Logan saving Yashida at Nagasaki). Logan the Ronin has forsworn his warrior's life following the death of a woman he loved (Jean), who was married to another man (Cyclops), and the death of his own lord (Professor X). The whole story focuses on Logan finding new purpose, first serving Yashida's dying wish to protect his daughter, Mariko, and then avenging the crimes done in Yashida's name (before the big reveal). All the while accompanied by Yashida's loyal retainer, Yukio...who is probably the single best character in the movie.

They...they made an American samurai movie. And for most of the film IT WORKS. The actual filming style has a certain Japanese aesthetic to it, an almost manga quality at times (and this is ignoring that Yukio works entirely on her own set of anime/tokusatsu-esque physics). We're not talking ridiculous framing with lotus blossoms or falling cherry flowers, but rather just the general right-to-left way that many of the scenes are blocked, as well as the fact that many scenes are performed in unsubtitled Japanese. The audience rides along with Logan in a foreign land which...isn't really so much a parody of Japanese society as a juxtaposition of new and old social values.

This is a *HUGE* step up from Origins, which was deeply steeped in stupidity and a 90s-era Marvel approach to storytelling. The Wolverine has a much cleaner, sometimes more complex and definitely better told methodology, and it shows through. Jackman does a great job portraying Wolverine less as a superhero hero and more as a rogue samurai hero, which is helped because, until the end, no one has powers that make shit glow or do anything particularly weird. Yukio's death sight power is thankfully never shown, leaving her as something of a grim champion who goes through life with an absolute knowledge of the mortality of both herself and everyone around her, a sort of literal reflection of the values espoused in the Hagakure.

Yukio is...pretty much one of the most awesome action heroines I've seen. This is largely because her gender is not really an issue. At all. She doesn't have a romantic plot or subplot, she doesn't get hit on, she doesn't really talk about relationships at all. She is the loyal samurai to Logan's reluctant ronin, and the fact that she IS a she is secondary to her character. Yukio is also probably the most kick ass character in the film. Sure, Logan has his moments, but Yukio straight up beats down any opponent she encounters with any object that comes to hand, and does it with credible style and panache. Rila Fukushima, the actress who plays Yukio, has a very distinct look to her, and pulls off what could be a one note character with a wonderful degree of depth and glee. Yukio isn't in this for revenge; she's in it for duty, both to Yashida and to Mariko, and because she genuinely enjoys what she does. GREAT character.

Wasn't as happy with the twist for the villains at the end. The Silver Samurai bit was just too big a tonal shift from the relatively high action, low-science fiction parts of the movie. The ninjas were neat, though, and pretty much required for an X-Men film taking place in Japan. But then...BAM. Giant robot.

Liked Lady Viper. Interesting take on the character. Think she was a bit underused at the end in terms of personality and acting talents.

LOVED the post-credits stinger. Always great to see Ian McKellan reprise his role as Magneto, especially when he's not decked out in purple. He is substantially more terrifying as the character when he's just an old man in street clothes who could pretty much murder everyone around him with a blink of the eye.

Overall, very fun movie. Four out of five. Worth seeing.