Ben's Review of The Wolverine
If there's anyone that Hugh Jackman needs to thank for becoming one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, it would probably have to be Bryan Singer and the rest of 20th Century Fox. Nearly 15 years after his first appearance as Marvel's iconic "Wolverine," Jackman has returned to the big screen to distribute the second of two x-men films that focus specifically on his character. Jackman has appeared in six films as Wolverine, with a seventh appearance in the works for next year. Yet, after all this time, his embodiment of the Wolverine still attracts large audiences and provides quite the box office success. Throughout these 15 years, Jackman has represented a mainstay in the face of constant production changes and switch-ups. Bryan Singer is recognized today as the man who was finally able to get mainstream audiences to take superheros seriously. When Marvel Entertainment finally began to co-produce these films in 1998, Singer was one of the first on the scene, taking the helm for the first and second X-Men films. These pictures received widespread critical acclaim, and probably gave birth to a new age of summer blockbusters. Singer was replaced in 2007 by infamous Hollywood Director Brett Ratner to direct "X-Men: The Last Stand." Considered a complete failure by fans of the comics and critics alike, Ratner was immediately removed from play and the future of the franchise was called into question. 20th Century Fox saw much promise in Jackman's character, and produced an origin story that would focus on the foundation and creation of his character. Released in 2009, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was considered even more of a critical failure. Character development was thrown out the window for cheep explosions and poor visual effects. 2011?s "X-Men: First Class" saw a return to form with a wonderfully put together cast. Through all of the flip-flops that the series has done in the eyes of the public, Jackman's character has remained the fan favorite. Fox saw yet another opportunity to bring Wolverine's character to the big screen in his own picture. 2013?s "The Wolverine" finds Jackman doing what he knows best: running around, screaming, and slicing and dicing. "The Wolverine" fails to break any new ground like other films in its genre, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it wasn't fun to watch.
When it comes to these types of pictures, I do have my limitations of knowledge. I called in my buddy Zac, one of the biggest comic book nerds I know, to give me some perspective on how "The Wolverine" performs as a comic book-adaptation. I would focus on the films execution cinematically while he would study its ability to stay faithful and true to the comic. I decided to start off with how the movie executed itself as a comic book adaptation. According to Mr. Teller, "The Wolverine" remains pretty faithful to its comic-book counterpart. The movie itself does take its artistic freedoms, but the film does recognize the importance of keeping beloved fans of the comic happy by sticking to the original source material for the most part.
Based around Wolverine's Japan Saga, "The Wolverine" finds the title character self exiled in the woods of Alaska; relegating himself from the rest of society to avoid any kind of violent episode ever taking place on his behalf. Wolverine sees himself as a threat and a danger to other people and self-isolation is the only choice that he has. Haunted by the death of Gene Gray, Wolverine is constantly bombarded with sporadic subliminal dreams that approach his former love that tap in and out of life and death. Wolverine has made a promise to Gene that he will try his best to avoid exerting physical violence on anyone. This promise, which is broken almost immediately, coincidentally guides him toward Yukio, a skilled Japanese warrior who confesses her relation to Yashida, a respected Japanese businessman whom Wolverine saved from the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Yashida is an old man at this point, and Yukio confesses her intent to rendezvous with Wolverine and bring him to Yashida. She claims that Yashida wants to thank Wolverine for saving his life many years ago during his final hours. Wolverine eventually agrees to this and the two of them embark on a journey to Japan. Without giving too much away, Wolverine finds himself in situations that he wasn't anticipating, and everything goes on the line; as most of us would expect from a film like this. Many of the plot points of "The Wolverine" don't necessarily bring anything new to the table. However, this picture provides enough intrigue with its overall premise to keep audiences engaged throughout its run time.
Almost a complete antithesis to "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", 2013?s release sees a major transformation in visual approach. One of the biggest things that I personally appreciated was the exterior shots of the film being shot on location in Japan, rather than some studio in Burbank, CA. Ross Emery's sweeping landscape shots, and dramatically captured fight sequences all correlate to the gritty and understated tone of the picture. From the first sequence onward, it was apparent that there was much more care and delicate attention to detail conveyed in this project than with some films of the past. Despite this visual edge, the film does maintain its level of run-of-the-mill blockbuster-style cinematography. However, what truly stuck with me even after the film was over were the random sequences of artistic integrity that I found myself baffled by. These moments were scattered throughout the movie, occurring at random times. And even though this artistic style didn't dominate a major portion of the movie, I still noticed artistic methods that I definitely did not expect from a movie like this.
After 15 years, Hugh Jackman is still able to convincingly portray an almost invincible killing machine with full force. It is also becoming apparent that Jackman needs to use every trick in the book to look as young as he did on camera in 2000. In an interview on Los Angeles radio, Jackman discussed the methods he has used to retain his physical image at this point in his career. He talked about drinking large amounts of water for days at a time, followed by a forced dehydration that would expose some of the veins on his body. He would proceed to exert himself physically to keep these veins exposed. This work-out method is what Jackman used throughout principle photography. Most of the posters that were released to advertise this picture reflect this physical image. As he grows older, it is becoming more and more difficult for Jackman to look 15 years younger, and while he was able to pull this off yet again for a sixth time in "The Wolverine," his portrayal of this character may be coming to an end. I'm not sure where the fate of his character lies in "X-Men: Days of Future Past", but its my belief that Hugh Jackman is coming to the end of the line in terms of a universally accepted suspension of disbelief that all audiences have for him. Still though, the amount of physical strain that Jackman puts himself through for this series does reflect the care he has for this character. Whether or not Jackman's age comes into question, his appreciation and respect for the material never will.
I didn't really walk into the theater expecting much. The last time Wolverine had his own movie, the film backfired completely. However, I was pleasantly surprised with this picture. "The Wolverine" in no way, shape, or form breaks any new ground. Its not a timeless picture, and its certainly not an excellent movie by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the film's dialogue is what you have come to expect, and you'll find yourself anticipating action scenes just for the sake of seeing them, rather than focusing on the major story of the movie. This movie serves as a necessary bridge film that separates "X-Men: First Class" with "X-Men: Days of Future Past." It seems that this movie was put in place to satiate the hunger of the fans. Through all of this, "The Wolverine" is still able to provide solid entertainment to audiences. Its a fun Blockbuster and nothing more. What stuck with me and my friends upon seeing it were the random and sporadic sequences that really grabbed my attention. There were moments where I actually found myself at the edge of my seat; something that doesn't happen often. These moments came and went, but they stuck with me. Hugh Jackman's performance as Wolverine is the same as it was 15 years ago, and if you liked it then, you'll like it now. The rest of the cast does a good job of keeping themselves out of the limelight while he dominates the screen. The movie's visual effects are certainly a step up from the film's predecessors, and this becomes blatantly obvious within the first few minutes of the movie. To put it in the most simple terms, you pretty much get what you payed for. You wanted him? You got him.
Directed by: James Mangold