James Mangold’s The Wolverine In Review

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Through his role as Wolverine Australian actor Hugh Jackman has become synonymous with the modern superhero blockbuster. He was there at the start, in 2000’s X-Men, the film which, alongside Stephen Norrington’s Blade, is directly responsible for the current state of the mainstream cinema. He’s played the character more than any other actor has played any Western superhero on-screen, with next Summer’s Days Of Future Past bringing him level with the number of times William Shatner has played Captain Kirk in Star Trek movies.  

Wolverine, aka Logan, has always had a poetic, almost Shakespearean quality to his character. A man essentially trapped in time, unable to age at a regular rate, doomed to live thru the ages and see all who pass by him reach old age and beyond, and leave him behind. In this latest feature, and the first fully formed film at that, a figure from Logan’s past offers him that one thing all warriors need: death. 

The Wolverine begins where many an other superhero epic threaten to end. An Intense opening, which is in itself a series highlight, sees the bomb fall on Nagasaki. So often a third act plot device in comic-book films such as The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, it is actually perversely refreshing to see the bomb hit. Rather than try to stop it Logan is aware of his own humanity enough to understand that survival is the only option, which is in turn a key thematic element to the character and his movies. 

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The Nagasaki opening lays out the films East-Asian setting. Director James Mangold manages the legitimate fusion between Eastern and Western sensibilities. It doesn’t feel over Hollywood-ified, nor does he resort to stereotypes and cliches in too obscene a manner. This bew setting for the series opens up the action side of things inpressibely too. Peaking with a funeral-set assassination attempt gone awry, Mangold, of Cop Land fame, brings out the most ferocious, animalistic elements of the character, and combines them with a second, rooftop based scenario that opens up the intimate nature of the on the ground action. While the film struggles from second half fatigue, this opening act is remarkable, and as enjoyable a blockbuster as Hollywood has produced all year.  

Is it too much to long for the day when a filmmaker doesn’t feel the need to shoehorn jn a peripheral figure like Svetlana Khodchenkova’s Viper? Clad in a completely out of place combat garb, and “secretly” possessing mutant powers, her presence makes no sense, and negatively recalls 2009’s fairly dreadful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in which a whole roster of poorly realised second-tier comic-book characters wound up appearing in. The true villain of the piece is pretty inspired, and suitably Shakespearean. As mentioned afore, it’s these bigger ideas that really mark The Wolverine out for success. The fabricated culture of Mutants blend in surprisingly well with Eastern mythology, ensuring that The Wolverine is the most successful film in the X-series since X-Men 2, and is a work which renews interest in the series’ future direction. 

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