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“The Wolverine” Delivers Stylish and Smart Superhero Entertainment

July 26, 2013

By John Corrado

The Wolverine PosterThere might only be about a month left in the summer movie season, but The Wolverine delivers something entertainingly different from many of the blockbusters that we have gotten over the last little while.  Although we are unable to provide our usual five reviews for the film opening today, I recently caught up with this one and am recommending it for the weekend.

At the beginning of the film, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is living in the middle of the woods in the Yukon, still struggling with the decisions he has made and haunted by the memories of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).  But then he is called upon by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) to travel back to Japan and say goodbye to Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), who he saved during WWII and is now dying of old age.

Yashida is now the most powerful business man in Japan, and he offers Logan a way out of his immortality if he agrees to protect his daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto).  As they face different forms of adversaries sent after them by the Japanese mob, Logan is forced to come to terms with his existence as the Wolverine.  The story takes place after the events of the first trilogy of films, and The Wolverine delivers a satisfying character arc, that has been adapted from the popular 1982 series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller.

Taking place mostly in Japan, with a predominantly Asian cast, the tone and feel of The Wolverine is admirably different than most summer blockbusters or even comic book films.  Although the climax plays pretty much as expected and Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) makes for a bit of a campy villain in the final few scenes, there are several surprisingly mature martial arts sequences that give this entertaining superhero saga a unique edge.  These nicely done combat scenes fit well with the darker tone of the film, including a mesmerizing nighttime sword fight.  A sequence atop a speeding train is exhilarating, and Rila Fukushima more than holds her own when she is called upon to fight.

James Mangold directs the film with a dark tone that is closer to his work on the western 3:10 to Yuma than the bright hues of his fun action comedy Knight and Day.  Having also helmed the Oscar-winning performances of Girl, Interrupted and Walk the Line, the director brings an interesting feel to the story, both in the exciting fight scenes and quieter moments between the characters.  This is a well made film, and Hugh Jackman is excellent in what counts as his sixth appearance as Wolverine.  Almost like Clint Eastwood with claws, he convincingly portrays both the physical power and existential crisis of his character, as he struggles with the prospects of his immortality.

There is a lot to like about The Wolverine, and an end credits scene that nicely sets things up for a sequel is another reason why this is a solid addition to the increasing slate of Marvel adaptations.  This is a stylish film that delivers surprisingly smart superhero entertainment, with another strong performance from Hugh Jackman and exciting fight scenes that push right to the edges of the PG-13 rating.  Although coming relatively late in the summer movie season, this blockbuster is easily recommended.

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