Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Hal Yamanouchi, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Ken Yamamura, and more.
Directed by: James Mangold Screenplay by: Mark Bomback and Scott Frank Based on Characters from: Marvel Comics Cinematography by: Ross Emery Original Music by: Marco Beltrami
Premise: Hiding from humanity and living alone with his emotional demons, Logan is found by Yukio, a young Japanese swordswoman, who's spent the last year trying to track him down. She asks him to come with her to Japan, to visit Yashida, the Japanese soldier whose life Logan had saved during the bombing of Nagasaki during World War II. Yashida wishes to offer his old savior a boon for his kind act so long ago - he wants to give Logan the one thing he's longed for, but couldn't achieve on his own - an escape from the extended life that is a side effect of his mutation. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the mutant Wolverine with all the attitude and aplomb the character is so well known for. Tao Okamoto did great as Mariko, showing both amazing strength of will and empathic femininity. Svetlana Khodchenkova was a lot of fun as Viper. Kudos to Famke Janssen as Jean Grey and all the creepiness and bittersweet moments she added to Logan's nightmares.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: From Wolverine's bone claws to the exploding bomb over Nagasaki, the effects throughout the film were top notch. The bullet train sequence and its similarity to a Western topside train battle but at almost three hundred miles an hour was a 'hoot'. The effects of Viper's touch and the visuals that went with it were nicely done. The giant adamantium samurai with the flaming sword was entirely too cool.
I also totally loved Yashida's reactive bed and his body scanner. (I want them!)
3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: Back in the 80's I read a ton of comics and one of my favorites were the Wolverine stories of his time in Japan. While a lot of details may have changed, in general the film stays true to a lot of the original and reimagined information about Wolverine. Just the fact they put ninjas, yakuza, and a bullet train fight and did them right was more than enough to win me over.
There were several crisscrossing underlying themes of honor, responsibility, and self worth throughout the film. Emotional clashes between love, duty, and family were also abundant. The movie was paced well, and the plot convoluted and multifaceted.
The only marring point was over the final villain. I would have been better satisfied by their choice if some explanation, other than the obvious yet 'hard to swallow' reason had been given for the actions taken - a tumor, radiation, poison - anything. It's sad when the gaijin (the foreigner) has more honor than the samurai around him. (Though I did later get the odd feeling that perhaps a subconscious part of this last villain purposely set some things into motion to defeat his own mad desires, knowing deep down he was in the wrong - but then again, this might be wishful thinking.)
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: Ninjas! Did I mention there were ninjas in the film? A ton of ninjas! It was great watching all those men in black running around in the shadows doing what they do best. The attack on the main house was fantastic. And getting to watch a ninja and yakuza showdown? Awesome! The choreography on the fighting and chase scenes was phenomenal. I especially enjoyed the fight and chase which ensued at the funeral. It was multidimensional!
Of some note is the scene when Logan enters the village. The actions by the group of ninja and the visuals of Logan during that determined attempt to get to Mariko were very reminiscent of a similar scene with Toshiro Mifune and of the great Akira Kurosawa's works.
5) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: Though many scenes in this film were done in Australia, many others were actually filmed in Japan. This was great because as part of the chases across the country, we got to see many iconic spots of Japanese daily life - pachinko parlors, themed love hotels, bullet trains, traditional and modern Japanese architecture, and more.
Add to that the multidimensional filming, especially during the fight and chase sequence from the funeral, and the whole thing was visually delectable. The images of Logan and the guards fighting the yakuza from the ground, while from the rooftops and wires and beams over them Harada used his ninja skills and his bow to kill foes around them from a distance, made for a fantastic scene.
6) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: Great job by the costuming department with regards to period clothing and of course outfitting our favorite Wolverine in his signature comic book clothes. Viper's outfits outside of work did well in giving her a snakelike overtone even before we find out more about her. Nice job too on how they carried over Yashida's scar over time.
7) Music - Total Thumbs Up: The talents of Marco Beltrami added so much to the film! I very much enjoyed the Japanese flare he introduced to several of his pieces, which added to the mystique and gave homage to this foreign land. (On a side note, Beltrami seemed to have some fun naming his song list. Included are "Logan's Run" and "The Hidden Fortress" - fun word play with the action occurring in the scenes they were used in and of films of the same name.)
Conclusion: "The Wolverine" is a fun thrill ride with the added bonus of an oriental feel. Definitely a must see if you love the character and have any interest in things Japanese. One of the better films I've seen this year!
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Paying Full Price to See Again)