Movie review – The Wolverine: The warrior beast returns

2013-07-28 14:00

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This riff on the creature featureis box-office ‘adamantium’. Gayle Edmunds reports

Of his strict diet and training regime in the run-up to The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman says: “I’ve always wanted people to look at the screen and go, ‘whoa’.”

Trust me, you are going to say “whoa” when you see the evolution of Wolverine.

Made for less than half of what Man of Steel cost, The Wolverine is likely to rip holes in the Kryptonian’s box-office takings, which is fitting as he’s one of Marvel’s most god-like contenders.

Living rough and shaggy in the Alaskan wilderness, Logan (aka The Wolverine) has given up on the world because he’s a danger to it. Famke Janssen reprises her role as the diabolically powerful Jean Grey to appear in Logan’s nightmares.

Meanwhile, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a Japanese woman with a big sword and pink hair, is looking for him and when she finds him she invites him to Japan to say goodbye to Yashida, a man he saved from incineration during the A-bomb drop over Nagasaki.

Yashida’s motives for calling the immortal Wolverine to his side might just be more proof that no good deed goes unpunished.

Japan is the ideal setting for a stand-alone X-Men film – it is off the beaten track and the society is insular enough for it to be realistic that Wolverine can exist there without his fellow X-Men at his side.

A loner by nature, he finds himself yanked into Yashida’s viper’s nest – literally as one of the villains is Hollywood newcomer Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper, a truly toxic mutant. And the only one who can make Wolverine “vulnerable” to attack.

Director James Mangold uses the Wolverine’s adventures in Japan – originally in the comic series that dates back to the 1980s – to explore the culture of the samurai and more specifically the ronin, a samurai without a master or purpose.

This, Yashida argues, is what Wolverine is and he offers him mortality and a purpose, but he dies before he can deliver on that threat. At Yashida’s funeral, Wolverine finds himself thrust into the role of reluctant saviour as Yashida’s daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), is kidnapped by the Japanese mob.

With the help of a mysterious masked bowman, he races her to safety and along the way fights thugs on the roof of one of Japan’s bullet trains – a whole new angle on the quintessential Western train-top fight.

And, in many ways, this film is structured like a Western – a hero created out of circumstance saves the damsel from the machinations of the all-powerful to finally mete out justice, vigilante style.

The Wolverine is a classic East meets West story as the samurai and the gunslinger are both echoed in the character. In the strangeness of Japan, Wolverine finds a way back into the world and, of course, there’s a romance between the delicate Yashida heiress and the beastly Wolverine.

Jackman has played Wolverine six times and is currently filming X-Men: Days of Future Past (due for release next year), so this film fits neatly into the alternate comic book timeline, doubling up as a teaser of more X-Men action to come.

In the pantheon of superheroes, Wolverine is as tortured as Batman, as cool as Spider-Man and as invincible as Superman, so expect his hold on the box office to be as powerful as his claws.

Film: Wolverine (Nu  Metro)

Director: James Mangold

Featuring: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Tao Okomoto and Will Yun Lee

Rating: 7/10

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