It’s Movie Mondays and I managed to watch a bunch of movies this past week! Here’s my review of THE WOLVERINE (2013), directed by James Mangold:
What works really well in the X-MEN Series is how the writers tie in world history/events to give greater meaning to the action. In THE WOLVERINE, that event is the atomic bomb landing on Nagasaki. In that opening sequence, US B-52s fly over a Japanese POW camp in Nagasaki and everyone realizes the end is near. A Japanese soldier, Yashida, frees the prisoners, including Wolverine knowing how dangerous he is. Wolverine in turn stops Yashida from committing hari-kiri and protects the soldier’s body with his own when the blast goes off. It is a moment that humanizes the “enemy” and the war and also reminds the audience in stunning visual FX of that horrible time in our world history. It made me wonder how we will remember these events as time passes and more and more of that generation dies. There was a young child sitting in front of me who was awed by the A-bomb explosion and it made me cringe a little. Nevertheless, I think the moment was handled well and while there was no explanation or reason as to why in the hell Wolverine was a prisoner in Nagasaki (I assume based on his history this was one of his many tours of duty in the US Army), it served well as an introduction to Wolverine and Yashida.
The theme of being a soldier, protecting people, and doing what’s right is a constant theme for Wolverine’s character in the X-Men movie series. He seems to want to be the anti-hero, but he can’t stop himself from doing what’s right. It’s a great character and Hugh Jackman plays him well.
On the whole, THE WOLVERINE was better than X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. It stuck to a basic relationship, its evolution, and resolution. There are a lot of interesting themes and issues, especially with the character of Yashida: he seems like a good and honorable man, but in the end he is still unwilling and afraid to die and that compromises his integrity.
The plot goes a little soft with everyone trying to kill Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko, including her own father, and there’s even some implication that Yashida left the company to her because he could control her when he was resurrected. It doesn’t make much sense and it makes even LESS sense when Mariko throws herself at Wolverine and he jumps into bed with her. Especially since Wolverine has been dreaming about Jean Grey and how much he loves her the entire movie. Mariko overall does seem weak, but there are hints at her strength. She could have been developed more. Instead we have her butt-kicking, red-haired, Harijuku best friend Yukio who takes more of that importance, though she is not part of the final battle. The movie splits the traditional female character role in two, which undermines them.
Completely underused, under-developed, and thoroughly confusing is the evil villainess Viper and her Yashida/Mariko-loving side-kick Harada. Harada changes sides without reason and Viper has no backstory. She’s just bad and poisonous. Completely empty.
With James Mangold directing, the strength in THE WOLVERINE and why it works lie in the central themes and character journeys. Unfortunately, it doesn’t extend out to all the characters, but there’s enough action and explosions and beautiful visuals to enjoy the ride and come away satisfied.
If you’re a fan of X-Men, go see it! If you’re just a fan of action movies, go see it!