The Wolverine

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The sixth movie of the X-Men film series has been released on that day on which I had to submit my thesis, which I found to be a reason to identify myself with the Wolverine; with immortality reigning both in my that thesis of mine and also through the blood of our leading character in this movie. The fact that this movie follows the events of the 2006 movie and the worst one of the series, X-Men: The Last Stand was depressing, but not many people can deny Wolverine a.k.a Logan a visit after how well X-Men Origins: Wolverine turned out to be. It was when X-Men: First Class released, that the realization about how much we miss this character flashed through the mind which was full of absurdity. The movie was still good, and if we think about how much bigger that movie would have become with this character, there might be shocking box-office figures expected. This is the impact Wolverine brings with him, and he is that character who has the status that almost rivals most of the individual heroes like Spider-Man, Superman and Batman, and clearly makes an impression which none of the X-Men can make alone. This is that movie which can take all the other English movies out of the theatres here, and from the bookings happening right now, that is quite likely.

So, this installment of the movie series comes up without the X-Men tag added to its title, and it is clear that this is more about Wolverine than anything else, and there is enough power in it to survive without that tag. Chronologically, this is to be considered X-Men 4 though, as this doesn’t follow X-Men Origins: Wolverine as some had thought it would. Logan (Hugh Jackman) has been living the life of a recluse after the death of Jean Grey which was a major part of the events of X-Men: The Last Stand which practically ended the need for the existence of X-Men as there was a period of relative peace which followed. But there is no peace of mind for Logan as is frequently troubled by hallucinations nightmares about Jean, whom he was forced to kill, and a lesser memory from the Nagasaki bombing of 1945 where he saved the life of a Japanese soldier. He maintains very less contact with the human world, and stays in the wilderness most of the time. One day, during a fight with a group of hunters in a bar, he is found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), another mutant, representing Ichirō Yashida, the man whom Logan had saved earlier. He is asked to go to Tokyo so that the dying man can possibly thank him and bid adieu, to which Logan reluctantly agrees.

After reaching Japan, Logan comes across Yashida’s son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada)and his grand daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), both seemingly having problems with the relationship with eachother. Yashida offers Logan the opportunity of a transfer of mutant powers to get rid of his immortality and die in peace instead of living in nightmares and pain. Logan refuses to transfer his powers to the dying man, and is later informed that Yashida has died. During the funeral, he saves Mariko from the assassins of an enemy clan with help from Kenuichio Harada (Will Yun Lee), an archer and Mariko’s lover. They get onboard a train and more opponents are encountered in a fighting sequence which involves combat even on the top of the train. While fighting, Logan is shot multiple times and finds out that he is not healing instantly as he used to, and has to be taken care of by a doctor. With another mutant, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) chasing him for his powers, and Mariko being hunted by her own father for the control of the family business empire, Logan has more to deal with this time, at a time when he is losing his powers and has become incredibly close to mortality. But this would lead to that moment which he needs to get rid of the psychotic monster that his lover was, from his head. It might be worth fighting for.

It is fair to say that Hugh Jackman controls this movie and makes the whole thing work as if he is playing that much of a superhero as Spider-man, Superman or Batman. Wolverine has turned out to be the one mutant who can work out alone and be the saviour of the world alone. Hugh Jackman has achieved all these alone, and from what it seems, this could get a better box-office collection that X-Men: First Class which had so many more mutants with interesting powers. I would consider that one the better movie, but this one has Hugh Jackman and he has done magic with his character, something which would depress the audience if someone else was to play the Wolverine, from what it seems right now. The possibility of a stand-alone expansion to X-Men has been wonderfully done through his character. X-Men: The Last Stand might have dminished the scope of the whole franchise, and had made X-Men: First Class suffer; but the case of the movies featuring Wolverine as the hero would be different, and Hugh Jackman scores again and again right there. He was there as Leopold in Kate & Leopold, as Gabriel Van Helsing in Van Helsing, and as our favourite robot-controlling boxer in Real Steel. But what Wolverine does, stays not only with one movie, as the man has made the character bigger than what one mutant could ever be, and that is worth all the respect.

Haruhiko Yamanouchi as Ichirō Yashida brings surprises, and be ready for it. Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida brings a kind of serenity to the world which is otherwise full of heavy action and hidden evil. Rila Fukushima as Yukio adds to the martial arts segment of the movie, and as a mutant, she is one of the main three gifted people in the movie, and may be the more physically trained and skilled one among them. Will Yun Lee as Kenuichio Harada and Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen Yashida also adds to the martial arts powered action sequences. Meanwhile, Svetlana Khodchenkova makes an entrance as Viper, a poisonous mutant immune to toxins, resembling a snake in many ways. She is seen as the most powerful and the most vigorous enemy of Wolverine and Mariko until the Silver Samurai finally shows up covered in adamantium armour and holding an adamantium sword of immense power. Famke Janssen is also there as Jean Grey, but more as a hallucination or nightmare for the protagonist, but still the character portrayed better than X-Men: The Last Stand. This is hundred percent a better Jean Grey than that of the third movie of the X-Men franchise. It is a vital presence, even as it is not real. There is also a post-credits scene involing Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto respectively.

Even in the presence of the psychological elements, the movie runs on its action sequences, and some of the one-liners as the others lack innovation. The battle of the claws against the swords of the samurai makes an impact, but I would still prefer the usual mutant battles, or the Wolverine v/s Sabretooth head-to-head combats. The action sequence on the bullet train came as no surprise, and it was indeed powerful. The most interesting thing is that all these action sequences and interesting dialogues happen around Wolverine, and the whole situation is about him, just like the title suggests. Everyone else just revolves around the character, and with Hugh Jackman holding one end strongly, there is no need for anything spectacular. There was always the need for balance, and it is attained by the Wolverine suffering from that pain which Louis de Pointe du Lac seemed to suffer in Interview with the Vampire, the only difference being the lack of need for blood which is replaced by the need for combat. As Louis wished for death as he hated his inability to act, Wolverine hated his life as he had acted in such a way that he lost control of his world even as he saved the same. Both were reborn as hunters, weren’t they? Both were seemingly indestructible, and both were clear misfits in a world which had no place for them.

There are a few things one has to be aware of; this one is not an origin story, but still it moves on like one, with a good amount of slower moments. The 3D was almost unnecessary. It also has a predictable climax and not too surprising twist which supports it. There is the absence of an imposing villain, as the one expected challenge for Wolverine is unleashed only the end, but that too within limitations. There is so much left on the shoulders of Hugh Jackman. But still the man with the claws cannot be resisted. X2: X-Men United would still be the best of the franchise, followed by X-Men: First Class, the first entry of the series, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But there will be more hope about X-Men: Days of Future Past which combines the cast of all these movies. For now, The Wolverine will do just fine at the box-office, as this week doesn’t have many powerful competitors around here, which has caused Pacific Rim to bounce back. Turbo, Despicable Me 2 and Man of Steel hasn’t left the theatres too, but they should worry this one less. We need X-Men, and we need Wolverine, and therefore we will need to watch this movie – even with varying thoughts about the X-Men movies which we can agree to disagree on. I would still miss Nightcrawler and Shadowcat, and that fact diminishes this X-Men world.

Release date: 26th July 2013
Running time: 126 minutes
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Brian Tee, Patrick Stewart (cameo), Ian McKellen (cameo)

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

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