Friday, August 2, 2013


Hugh Jackman pops out the adamantium claws once again in The Wolverine, a punchy action adventure that successfully revitalizes our favorite X-mutant as franchise material (after the debacle of X-Men Origins: Wolverine).

It works because director James Mangold and scriptwriters Mark Bomback and Scott Frank stick close to the tormented psyche of Jackman's brooding Logan as he copes with everlasting life and unsettling dream appearances by deceased lover Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), while coming to terms with his responsibility to the world. Stunts and CGI effects, while often impressive, are secondary to the human story.

The setting is modern-day Japan, where Logan has been summoned to the deathbed of a powerful tycoon whose life he once saved. (This follows a prologue set in a Nagasaki POW camp at the end of WWII, a pretty nifty sequence except for an unusually benign atomic bomb which takes its time wafting over the hills toward the camp instead of incinerating everything in sight on contact.)

Anyway. Before long, Logan is in the middle of a war between Yakuza mobsters, Ninja assassins, and the evil schemes of a sexy mutant called Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova).

His slowly simmering romance with the tycoon's granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), falls a bit flat, if only because we keep rooting for him to hook up with plucky, pink-haired warrior girl Yukio (Rila Fukushima) instead.

But the fact that time is spared for Logan to develop a romance with anybody is a plus in a summer action blockbuster. On the other hand, Jackman is such a personable and charismatic guy, onscreen and off (yes, even as Wolverine), it's too bad they don't give him better dialogue throughout—especially when delivering a coup-de-grace to some villain. ("Go f**k yourself, pretty boy," lacks a little something in flair; it's not exactly in the same league as, say, "Make my day.")
Still the action is fairly inventive, from a fight atop a speeding bullet train to self-inflicted open heart surgery. The central premise of whether Logan would give up his immortality as Wolverine for a "normal" life and the promise of eventual death—and if so, on what terms—is compelling, and Jackman still has presence enough to make us care.

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