The Wolverine (2013)

Many people have praised the story arc of the comic book on which The Wolverine is based, saying it’s well written, powerful, and deeply analytical of Logan’s character. It delves into his mind and soul, and then produces a superhero who’d rather not be a superhero. He is a cursed man, bound to an eternity of pain and suffering, unable to share love or affection. He has distanced himself from the X-Men, and now wanders the forests and shanty towns alone. He no longer wants to be a part of society; he wants to be outside it. It’s a pity, then, that this movie isn’t as well written.

Its screenplay can be attributed to three men — Christopher McQuarrie, Mark Bomback, and Scott Frank — yet it seems to have bubbled out of an adolescent mind that is more than happy to use the story of the comic as a trampoline to success. Yes, the story’s core is fresh and solid, but when it comes to dialogue and narrative explanation, intelligence is required. There is a scene where the enemy gang ambushes the son of a recently deceased Japanese industrial tycoon at his house. When the leader of the gang makes her presence known, the son says “You!”. And then the leader replies, “Me.”. I’ve seen children’s movies with smarter dialogue than this. And this is just one instance. The movie is ripe with predictable and immature words, and when characters are trying to explain the story, it’d have been more effective if they had held up placards instead of spoken.

So, Hugh Jackman is back. He looks bigger than before, and I suppose his extra bulk has made him extra cranky, because he grunts and groans a hell of a lot more than before. In fact, I think his groans outnumber his lines of dialogue two to one. He is more easily agitated this time round, though I have to say that his moral core is sturdier and his ability to distinguish right from wrong has never been so clearly defined. Why do I say this? Because he is brought to Japan to visit a dying old man, named Master Yashida (the industrial magnate played by Haruhiko Yamanouchi), and when things start to go wrong and Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), is in danger, Logan forgets that he originally wanted nothing to do with Japan. At once, his moral core kicks in and he is driven to protect Mariko. Inevitable romance ensues.

The movie opens with Nagasaki during the end of World War II. The Japanese soldiers spot bombers entering their airspace and at once give the evacuation signal. People are running and screaming, and prisoners are being set free. There is one prisoner who is still being held captive: Logan. He’s in an underground cell, but thanks to his bone-like claws, he’s able to climb his way to the top in order to see what’s going on on the surface. Three Japanese officers have acknowledged defeat and have committed the honourable suicide. A fourth — a very young Yashida — is stopped by Logan just before his knife punctures his stomach. And then the bomb hits, and it is devastating. Logan leads Yashida into the underground cell where it’s safe from the blast, and uses his own body as a shield. After the dust settles, Yashida is amazed to see Logan’s burnt-to-a-crisp skin regenerating in a matter of seconds. At first he is thankful, but then he realizes who and what Logan is, and he deicides that death is not for him. He wants to be immortal.

Like I said before, the story is fantastic. Logan, clumsy at first, enters the Japanese culture and soon fits in seamlessly. He is, by Japanese definition, a ronin. A samurai with no master. A wanderer bound by honour and skill. He has come to Japan to say farewell to the dying Yashida, now a grandfather. But there is a sinister undercurrent haunting the Yashida family that involves Logan directly. He just doesn’t know it yet. He is given more weight as a character. He has killed the woman of his dreams, Jean Grey, and now sees her in his dreams. He is searching for himself, and there’s a certain vulnerability about him this time, even though he never admits it.

Still, The Wolverine is mediocre at best. Its major draw is Japan, but once we get to Japan, the excitement slowly fades away. The characters pile up, and the villain I mentioned earlier is as hollow as an emptied out tree trunk. She is pointless, vile, disgusting, and actually quite comical. We know absolutely nothing about her past, present or future. All we know is that she’s a mutant with a slippery tongue (literally), and that’s it. Take her out of the equation and the movie can still function. Or can it? I’m not so sure. I’m not even certain the movie functions as it is now.

Best Moment | The opening scene of the bombing of Nagasaki. It’s really quite a powerful scene, especially with all the buildings crumbling like Jenga towers. Makes you wonder what it must have really been like back in 1945.

Worst Moment | There are quite a few. Much of the dialogue is bad. And the romance formed between Mariko and Logan just seems way too contrived, like it’s meant to happen. No romance is meant to happen.

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