wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
Hugh Jackman returns as The Wolverine, and he is one of the key reasons why the film made for a better watch than I expected it to be. Simply by holding back on action sequences and focusing more on character, director James Mangold has made a film that just seems different from the typical films of this genre.Read more
No matter how strong or how fast you get, you just can’t outrun your own inner demons. And Logan has stranger, darker demons, and for far longer to boot, than most other people – if you can classify him under ‘people’, that is. The brooding, sombre mutant is back, and he’s still being haunted by the ghosts of his past.
Despite Logan being, by some distance, my personal favourite character from the X-Men series, I must confess that I didn’t have too many expectations from The Wolverine, because there have been far too many X-Men films coming out far too soon, than the world strictly requires. Besides, a few years back, director James Mangold managed to do the impossible by making the first and only Tom Cruise film I dislike, in Knight and Day.
I’m unsure, then, if it was my low expectations or the fact that it actually is a film with its own merit, but I quite enjoyed The Wolverine. For one, it has far lesser action than one has come to expect from an X-Men film, or indeed, a film based on any Marvel/DC character or world. The film focuses more on Logan, the character - a mutant whose gravest problems stem from deep within – from his past, his present and his seemingly perpetual future.
With the film being set in Japan – mostly in Tokyo, before moving to the outskirts, The Wolverine also has a flavour of Japan that is undoubtedly superficial, but one that works in its favour. Capturing the flavour of a country or city that has its own distinctive culture is largely unexplored territory for a Hollywood film of this genre, and it thus makes for a refreshing change in this film.
Indeed, the entire narrative of The Wolverine took me slightly aback with how much it focused on the character and his surroundings, rather on VFX-powered set pieces. The few of the latter that are there in the film are quite well executed as well, without bordering on action-porn, as films tend to do these days. Watch out, particularly, for an imaginative and riveting scene on the top of a thundering ‘Shinkansen’ – what is ubiquitously known as a Bullet train – again, something quite typical of Japan.
It helps, of course, to have the towering presence of someone like Hugh Jackman to hold the film together. After Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, Jackman is the only other actor to have a made a comic book character so much his own that it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing it. Also, after watching his incredible turn as Jean Valjean in last year’s Les Misérables, my respect for him as an actor increased tremendously, and his intensity shines through in The Wolverine as well. Every performance around Jackman, though, is so stilted and effected that it jars.
The pace of the narrative isn’t breakneck, and yet the film never pauses and lingers around pointlessly either. The runtime of just over two hours thus seems about perfect. To round it off, the film also looks good – despite a bleak, de-saturated colour tone, it makes generous use of solar flares, which always seem to improve the look of even an averagely shot film. The film has a wider 3D release than 2D, so it’s more likely that you’ll end up watching a 3D show. The 3D isn’t particularly great, but it doesn’t hamper the film either.
Of course, there is the post-credits scene to look forward to as well, an intriguing little teaser for Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is summer 2014’s big release. So, if you’re absolutely fed up of big franchise films that OD on VFX and action, then you could give The Wolverine a shot – it is a wee bit different from the usual. If nothing else, Logan - and Hugh Jackman - almost adamantly keep things interesting.
This article is by guest author Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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