Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Movie Review: The Wolverine (2013)


Logan (Hugh Jackman) is living a solitary life in the woods, riddled with guilt after the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Yukio (Rila Fukushima) shows up and informs him that Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a Japanese soldier he befriended during the bombing of Nagasaki, is dying and wants to see him to say goodbye. Logan travels to Japan to see his old friend, who is now incredibly wealthy. Yashida informs him that he has found a way to cure Logan's immortality and offers him a normal life -- one where he can grow old and die. After Yashida dies, Mariko's life is suddenly in danger. Logan steps in to protect her but finds that his power is weakening.

The Wolverine (2013) movie poster

Main Cast:

Hugh Jackman - Logan
Tao Okamoto - Mariko
Rila Fukushima - Yukio
Svetlana Khodchenkova - Viper
Hal Yamanouchi - Yashida
Will Yun Lee - Harada


Video credit: TheWolverineMovie | Youtube


This movie is visually pleasing and the scene depicting the bombing of Nagasaki is particularly impressive. Due to the theme and location, the movie's aesthetics is refreshingly different from the previous X-Men movies. Speaking of visually pleasing, if you plan to watch the movie to bask in the hotness of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, you won't be disappointed. He looks damn good in this film.

The action scenes are good and exciting and are well balanced with the slower, more emotional parts so fans of fast-paced action associated with superhero movies as well as fans looking for more internal characterization of such heroes both get what they want. The physical (power weakening) and emotional (guilt about Jean Grey's death) vulnerabilities of Logan add to the isolation he feels as a stranger in a strange land.

The Wolverine is a PG-13 movie. The body count is high in this film but there are no explicit shots of violence. There is very little blood as well even though Logan hacks and stabs his way through a lot of enemies.

One thing I noticed is that the film contains a lot of Japanese stereotypes. To me, it feels like a white Japanophile's wet dream featuring all the "mysterious exoticism" of Japan. It is as if the writers listed down all things that first come to people's mind every time they hear "Japan", then threw them all in the film. You have samurais, ninjas, seppuku, a girl with wacky fashion sense, a submissive girl, Yakuza, a very rich old businessman, a sleazy pervert, and an emotionally cold father. If Godzilla or Pikachu had suddenly popped up in the film, I would not have been surprised at all.

Personally, I don't find the film racist, just full of stereotypes and cliches. However, I can understand if someone will see this film as racist, especially since there's a white hero (savior figure) who goes to Japan and fights a lot of predatory Japanese men.

The thing that irks me (and makes me cringe, literally) is that Logan spends a good part of the movie pining for his beloved Jean Grey, then he easily falls in love with a girl he just met and even sleeps with her, but in the end, when he gets to "talk" to Jean again, he exclaims "I love you, Jean!" Duh.

As for the major villains: I'm not sure if the man behind the Silver Samurai is supposed to be a big reveal since it seems pretty obvious. Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) starts out as an intriguing villain, a real femme fatale -- gorgeous yet incredibly deadly -- but her character development is shallow. We don't even know how she got in the Yashida household and what her motivation is. Her fight is a lot shorter than expected and the shedding of her skin even seems pointless. The fight scenes with the minor villains are actually more exciting to watch.

Nevertheless, The Wolverine is an entertaining film. Hugh Jackman's acting is solid and gives justice to Wolverine's conflicted and somber nature. Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine. The other actors also do a great job bringing their characters to life. Many of these actors are new faces to non-Japanese moviegoers and that helps the audience to see the characters as they are instead of just actors playing their roles.

Rating: 6/10



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