© Twentieth Century Fox of Germany GmbH

Wolverine: Weg des Kriegers (The Wolverine)
U.S.A. 2013

Opening 25 Jul 2013

Directed by: James Mangold
Writing credits: Markus Bomback, Scott Frank
Principal actors: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova

I am not that chick, I promise. I don’t just go watch superhero movies to humor a new boyfriend. While a certain level of simplicity and predictability is an intrinsic part of the genre, and actually something I am looking forward to every once in a while, Wolverine’s lasting impression was: what and why? But let’s start at the beginning. Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is being kept at the bottom of an old well shortly before Nagasaki gets hit by the atomic bomb in World War II. While the bomb detonates, he saves the Japanese officer Yashida (Ken Yamamura), shielding him with his body. Decades later, Wolverine is a disillusioned man who lost everyone he cared about, including his love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Yashida (now Hal Yamanouchi) is dying from cancer and sends his foster granddaughter Yukio (Rila Fukushima) as an emissary to bring Wolverine to Japan in order to say good bye. In Japan, Wolverine meets Yashida’s family, including his son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). After Yashida’s death, his funeral is attacked by the Yakuza who want to kidnap Mariko. Wolverine flees with her and also discovers that his super powers are waning while Mariko’s enemies are following them.

I had a hard time coming up with a summary because, honestly, I couldn’t make sense of the plot development. Even in the beginning, I was wondering why Wolverine was allowing the Japanese to keep him as a POW when seconds later he is out of imprisonment saving someone with his super powers. I even checked back at Wolverine’s bio: the only thing that temporarily slows him down is drowning, but in this case, the well was dry. It is unclear why Wolverine gets involved in Yashida’s family dynamics, since he didn’t seem to be close to him in the first place. Needless to say, Wolverine falls in love with Mariko, which is totally random due to a lack of chemistry between the characters. In fact, it would have made more sense if he had fallen for Yukio, since they were fighting buddies at least. The whole Japan setting made an attempt at the Manga style which didn’t work out. Basically, whatever drove the characters was lost on me, up to the conclusion in the very end. The action was pathetic at times with ninja fighters flipping just because they could. Hugh Jackman, who mostly doesn’t lack in the charm department, was unappealing and looked haggard. All in all, I would recommend this as a film on DVD if there really isn’t anything else around. (Katia Trost)

Second Opinion

Following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has been living an inconspicuous life of seclusion in a cave in the woods. After avenging the death of his only friend, a grizzly bear, he is contacted by a mysterious Japanese woman named Yukio (Rila Fukushima). Yukio implores him to go with her to Japan to speak with her dying employer Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi, Ken Yamamura), a man whose life Wolverine saved years ago. Yashida offers Wolverine the chance to live a normal, mortal life, but when dangerous events begin to unfurl, Wolverine must face his emotional and physical demons to become triumphant.

Despite Hugh Jackman being the quintessential representation of the mutant with an Adamantium skeleton and super-human healing abilities, it seems unlikely that there will ever be a good solo film made of the character Wolverine. With an interesting trailer and eye-catching promotional materials, there was hope that The Wolverine would be a decent action film, as opposed to Jackman’s previous outing as the character in the travesty that is X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). However, it was quickly revealed that The Wolverine suffered from similarly ridiculous writing – characters lacking in motivation, an indecipherable plot and absolutely no emotional impact.

What makes Wolverine such an interesting character is his anti-hero antics – his constant struggle between his moral consciousness and his emotional and physical defensiveness caused by his mysterious and often troubling past. In order to make a decisive Wolverine movie, it is therefore important that the writing be focused on this interesting aspect of his motivations. In The Wolverine, this is not so much ignored as it is terribly executed. There is a glimpse at his past where he, a prisoner of war, saves a young Yashida from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. However, there is absolutely no emotional connection with this scene. We learn nothing of his trials being a prisoner of war or even whether he felt any conflict in saving a man who had previously helped imprison him. It is simply another example of Wolverine being selfless and helping someone. This emotional deadness continues with Wolverine’s recurring dreams of Jean Grey, his love interest from the first three X-Men movies. This is supposed to be the emotional crux of the movie, his wanting to give up his immortality to be reunited with his dead love. However, the way the two characters interact is so poorly written, that it feels almost like two acquaintances are speaking instead of two lovers. As these two events, the saving of Yashida and the Jean Grey dreams, are supposed to be the driving aspects of motivation for characters in the film, it is easy to understand why it fell completely flat.

There is no plot to The Wolverine, at least not one that makes any sense. The film essentially is a ridiculous romp of all things stereotypically Japanese. There are two-dimensional thugs, love hotels, kimonos, the Nagasaki bombing, katanas and ninjas. Honestly, half of the film involves Wolverine chasing down or running away from thugs in order to save the granddaughter of Yashida, whom he apparently cares about because she is a woman. There is no development of characters in this film and their actions are often confusing. The granddaughter of Yashida, despite being an apparent champion knife fighter, is constantly being helplessly kidnapped. She is at first not a huge fan of Wolverine, who randomly has decided to be her bodyguard, but after a day she decides she really likes him and has sex with him (creepy sex at that, because Hugh Jackman looks like he could be her father). Wolverine, on the other hand, who at first seemed really reluctant to be in Japan, decides to help this granddaughter of Yashida for no apparent reason, then follows her around everywhere and fights to near death trying to save her. To add to that, there is the fact that he apparently doesn’t have his healing powers for much of the film (something that is rather important to the whole film, but poorly explained), yet somehow he survives being shot dozens of times without any major issues. It is almost as though the film doesn’t even want to try to be intelligent or good, it just knows that people will watch it regardless for being a part of the X-Men franchise.

There is so much more that could be criticized in this film, but honestly, with the lack of character motivation and development, a ridiculous plot that makes no sense and no emotional connection between characters or to the audience, it is clear that this film is not worth the ticket prices. While it can be argued that writing is not necessarily so important for action films, even the action scenes in The Wolverine were rather tame and boring. There is nothing new here and with a lack of charm or respect for the intelligence of the viewer, this film should really be a miss. (Rose Finlay)

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