Cultures clash when east meets west in The Wolverine

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While commercially successful, the X-Men films have been been a roller coaster of sorts ranging from completely awesome to downright laughable. So where does ‘The Wolverine’ fall into the mix?

 

Wolverine is probably the most iconic alumni in Marvel’s vast gallery of mutant characters. He’s so popular that 20th Century Fox saw fit to tap him for his own film series spin-off after the original X-Men trilogy derailed into laughable obscurity in X-Men 3: The Last Stand. After an equally embarrassing film debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hugh Jackman has returned to play the titular character Logan (aka “Wolverine”) in this summer’s mutant action romp The Wolverine.

Aside from Jackman’s reprisal of his role, The Wolverine sports a hugely unknown cast due to this film’s setting overseas in Japan. Japanese film stars Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hal Yamanouchi and Brian Tee add a far-eastern flair to the mix while Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova rounds out the cast of new faces. Famke Janssen has a cameo role in this film as well.

Taking place years after the events that transpired in the third X-Men film and borrowing a page from Logan’s comic book roots, The Wolverine tells 20th Century Fox’s abridged version of Logan’s well-chronicled history and ties to Japan after he is invited to the Land of the Rising Sun by an old acquaintance that can offer Logan an end to his eternal suffering. But like in any superhero film, things aren’t always what they seem. So when the Japanese mob tries to poke around in other people’s affairs you can bet that everyone’s favorite scrappy mutant bad ass with claws might have something to say about that.

The main positive The Wolverine had going for it was its cultural aspect. In the comic books, Wolverine learned many lessons about himself and life in general while in Japan that helped shape him to become a better man (or should I say “X-Man”?) and the film’s tone actually did a very good job of capturing that faithful mystique of the comic’s narrative.

Nothing is more fun than watching Hugh Jackman, in probably his best physical shape ever, kick butt and take quite the punishment.

The Wolverine isn’t without its fair share of action sequences either and nothing is more fun than watching Hugh Jackman, in probably his best shape ever, kick butt and take quite the punishment. Fortunately, The Wolverine definitely didn’t have the cartoonish feel that the first Wolverine film reeked of, but there were parts of the film where the pacing seemed to drag and you found yourself just waiting for a scene to end and the next action sequence to start up.

Having a relatively unknown cast in The Wolverine worked as a double-edged sword. On one hand it helps put the audience in Logan’s shoes as an outsider in a foreign land that has to interact with characters and their unfamiliar customs in a very traditional culture. On the other hand some of the Japanese actors just weren’t very believable in their roles. Perhaps it is the traditional style of Japanese acting that’s to blame? Tao Okamoto as Logan’s love interest “Mariko” was most bothersome. Besides a Famke Janssen cameo as Jean Grey, The Wolverine had such a weak cast that it actually made the film boring in those scenes where you were waiting for the next exciting thing to happen.

My biggest complaint however had to deal with the highly advertised plot device of Logan losing his ability to heal.

My biggest complaint had to deal with the highly advertised plot device of Logan losing his ability to heal. The Hollywood trademark of “stripping a superhero of his or her powers” comes into full swing just to show Logan’s vulnerabilities and quite frankly, I’m tired of seeing this plot tactic because it is so overused. We as the audience know that Wolverine won’t die. We’re watching a movie based on a Marvel comic book character — not an episode of Game of Thrones. We as the audience just aren’t going to fall for your storytelling ploy — so get creative!

Ultimately, The Wolverine was better than I thought it would be. But then again I did go into this film with pretty low expectations especially after how horrible the first Wolverine film turned out to be. Better and more polished than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this actually tries to stay as faithful to the original source material as it can for a movie. So if you’re a Wolverine fan, an X-Men fan, a comic book fan, or an action movie fan then The Wolverine is at least worth checking out. And definitely stick around part of the way through the credits. A special tease for next summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past is definitely worth any Marvel fan’s time and money alone.

Let it be said that with movies like The Dark Knight Rises and this summer’s Man of Steel, it is safe to say that the bar has been raised for the quality standard when it comes to superhero films. While I was at least entertained by what The Wolverine had to offer, it definitely hadn’t reached that standard. Perhaps Christopher Nolan should come over to the Marvel side of the filmworks to lend his magic touch? Wishful thinking, I know.

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Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

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