Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Wolverine (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes complains that this was a movie half done

Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the title character in James Mangold's The Wolverine (2013), a decent if not great movie that suffers from far too much stuffing. I say stuffing as this is a film with way too many characters and not enough story behind them. Less would have been A LOT more.

The film picks up the Wolverine as he is in a hole about thirty feet under ground in a Japanese World War II POW camp, right when the Americans drop the Atomic bomb on Nagasaki. He saves one of the Japanese commanders, Yashida, from the blast and years later Yashida, now a billionaire business man wants to return the favor to the Wolverine. He offers a chance to make Wolverine human, again with out the steel bladed knuckles. Wolverine refuses, but then becomes involved with a series of contrived plot mechanisms that only seem to exist so there is plenty of Jackman snarling, growling, scowling and looking like he is ready to cough up a hairball. 

The Wolverine seems to have a lot going on with at least six different characters that are not very interesting and are not given a lot to do. There is the daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), the street urchin turned half daughter, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), the son, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), the nefarious assistant, Viper (Svetlana Khodachenkova), the Ninja assassin/protector Harada (Will Yun Lee) and Noburo (Brain Tee). I know I am forgetting at least one or two more characters that seem to come and go with little explanation or development. 

Of all of these characters I would have dropped all of them except Viper, Yukio and Yashida. I would even drop Yashida if it weren't for the fact that he is the main character behind most of the film's action. There are Ninjas, Yakuza and all matter of street thugs that seem to pop up only to be quickly dispatched. None of the characters seem to have a lot to say to each other and there are long periods where not much happens at all. 

I don't mind a film that has lots of characters as long as it makes good use of them. Here they seem to exist to simply slow the story down with contrived plot devices like an insipid fight on top of a bullet train in Japan. It looks cheaply done in a studio. I know people will burn up my e-mail saying that I need to go easy because this is based on a comic book and is not real, blah, blah, blah. I KNOW this is fantasy and all that but I still would like to see something rooted in reality and not look like it was slapped together. For me, that helps sell the story and gets me invested in the characters. 

Now, I will say some of the action is well done, and Jackman is a fine actor who sells it very well. But the script written by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank does very little with the lead and lets the rest languish with boring, underdeveloped characters and stale plot devices. Still, there is some fun to be had with some of the action and there are some humorous lines, mostly delivered with dead pan seriousness by Wolverine. Marco Beltrami's score ramps up the action and the cinematography is beautiful as it makes good use of the Japanese locations. But as a whole, The Wolverine is overloaded and seems to sputter along to an almost laughable climax. Some will say I have been too hard on this film but, I have to call it like I see it. Save your money and see another Hugh Jackman film which is one of 2013's best films, Prisoners. The Wolverine-**1/2 out of 4


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