James Mangold's The Wolverine has a lot to make up for, considering the atrocity that is The Film That Must Not Be Named. (OK, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) This attempt was a noble effort, at best.
When we first see Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), he's a prisoner in Nagasaki, minutes before the atomic bomb is set to hit. Against his best judgment, he saves a Japanese soldier named Yashida (Ken Yamamura) from the blast with his superhuman ability to heal himself. Yes, even from a nuclear device. Just go with it.
Fast forward to the present and Logan is in the outskirts of the U.S., hiding his passion to dance in the city from Footloose.
Sorry, we mean hiding in a cave like Gollum where he can be less of a danger to himself. He's pissed because he's killed so many people. He contemplates whether life is worth living. The existentialism starts becoming really heavy-handed here. So, he works through his loneliness the only way a real man knows how: the power of dance.
Er, um, with manly stuff, like fantasizing about sexing Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, in we dream ghost form). That is, until a pesky Japanese girl named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) with Sailor Moon-like fighting skills and a Sailor Mars-like attitude, rescues him up from self-pity and shuttles him to Tokyo. Her mission? To fulfill her boss Yashida's dying wish of saying goodbye to the man who saved his life. How Yashida went from being a cowardly soldier to a tech genius billionaire with his own ninja army is never explained.
When he arrives, Logan learns the nasty truth about Yashida's designs—the old man's not ready to die and so he wants to extract the mutant's immortality for himself. Yashida thinks Logan'll go for it because, if Logan becomes mortal, he can thus die and get laid in the afterlife with his beloved Jean Grey. Logan thinks about it, and thinks some more, and thinks too damn long, as a plot to kill Yashida's granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) comes to light. This, of course, kicks Logan's Wolverine superhero instincts into overdrive so that he can engage in samurai battles you will (hopefully) like.
Enter: countless ninjas, crooked politicians, a ginormous robot warrior, and a token white girl (Svetlana Khodchenkova) who turns out to be the world's most boring and underdeveloped villain, Viper, tacked on for the sake of having another recognizable name in the movie. Not to mention, a love story between Logan and Mariko that allows for horizontal tango with a person who's actually alive. (Sorry, Jean.) It's disappointing to watch, considering we have proof of what an impassioned Hugh Jackman actually looks like.
With a script written by Scott Frank (Marley & Me) and Mark Bomback (2012's Total Recall remake), director James Mangold attempts to produce a Wolverine movie that's fraught with emotional pain and filled with superhero spectacle. And, by virtue of an epic fight scene on a bullet train alone, the film doesn't entirely fail.
However, it's nothing to remember. The movie's ultimately a passing conversation you'll have with friends over a beer. We've seen everything in this film done before. You'll find yourself distracted by so many other that don't even tangentially relate to The Wolverine, like the majestic beauty of a natural born dancer.
Oh fuck it. Hugh Jackman's dancing has got everything the movie tried to nail: surprising sequences, impressive choreography, palpable passion, a perfect display of the actor's agility, and heartrending vulnerability. Now this we can watch over and over again.
[GIFs via Kiss Kiss Bang Bang]
Written by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)