'Wolverine,' a summer movie that finally delivers

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By ANDREW LINK
(digitalBURG) — Marvel promised a different type of superhero movie with “The Wolverine” and made some giant leaps toward fulfilling this promise. It’s easy to forget that you’re watching a superhero film for long stretches. While it’s not exactly as dark as, well, “The Dark Knight,” the story delves into the life of Wolverine when he’s in a much more human place than we’ve seen him in movies past.
It’s almost as if the writers actually cared about making a good screenplay. Despite three writers working separately, the plot not only showed up, but also stuck around long enough to make sense. The summer season has seen a lot of duds in the action scene, so it was very easy to tell how well-paced “The Wolverine” was.
The success that this film will achieve in the box office is owed entirely to the writing staff for understanding that reactionary action — action that happens because it makes sense in the plot — is far superior to action that happens simply because it’s been 10 minutes without an explosion.
Kudos to Mark Bomback, Scott Frank and Christopher McQuarrie for adding another notch to their pens.
Chronologically, “The Wolverine” takes place after “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the 2006 film ending the trilogy. Although “The Wolverine” is being touted by many as a stand-alone film, the constant presence of Jean Grey, reprised by Famke Janssen, in Wolverine’s dreams will make little sense to anyone who’s missed out on the other films.
The short clip in the credits will likewise seem a bit nonsensical without having viewed the trilogy. However, “The Wolverine” does not rely much on its origin film, and is easily the most matured, polished movie to come out of the franchise so far.
While the ending might leave some with a bit of a, “That’s it?” feeling, the little promo during the credits tries to swipe a Get Out of Jail Free card by nodding to a follow-up movie. With the ending somewhat tapering off, the film does shoot itself in the foot during the last several minutes of wrap-up in an unsatisfying way by trying to leave the door open for a sequel.
Direction from James Mangold (“Girl, Interrupted,” “3:10 to Yuma”) was solid, but I can’t for the life of me understand the emerging hero movie fad dictating that a minimum amount of footage has to be filmed guerilla-style. An early stretch of the movie involving some fighting and running through the streets of Japan has the handheld camera bouncing around so much that people prone to motion sickness should probably just look away and have friends tap their shoulders when it’s over.
There will be plenty of unfamiliar faces for a lot of people, but rest assured Hugh Jackman’s chest gets plenty of screen time. It would be difficult to say that any of the actors really stood out if not for Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper. On top of a film gift-wrapped in decent acting, Khodchenkova apathetically smashed down a mangled bow. The CGI samurai robot was more inspiring.
Her lackluster performance would have gone unnoticed in most hero movies, but next to Shingen, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, trying to murder his own daughter, not even Khodchenkova’s prized mole could distract from her uninspired performance.
While minor issues keep “The Wolverine” from becoming a break-away standard for Marvel movies to come, it will not disappoint fans and should pleasantly delight skeptics. It’s light on sexual content, provides unobtrusive humor, and presents action that makes sense.
The romance that is present seems to happen just because it’s time for it to happen, and some questions are never answered, such as why does Wolverine save a Japanese soldier in the first place?
In spite of minor shortcomings, “The Wolverine” has been one of the best films of the summer and receives a rating of 7.4/10.