“20 years from now, when Hollywood makes the 10th reboot of the X-men franchise, they will cast the role of Wolverine with a body double and digitally superimpose the face of Hugh Jackman using old, unused footage from his previous 12 outings as Wolverine. The actor who played the iconic character so well has become an icon himself.”
Barring this bit of speculative musing, I seriously think that when Hugh Jackman decides to stop playing Wolverine, Hollywood casting directors will have a terrible time looking for a suitable replacement.
In an effort to distance itself from the silly ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ (which I thought could have had more of Gambit and less of The Blob), the timeline of ‘The Wolverine’ is set after the events of Brett Ratner’s ‘X-Men, The Last Stand’ (which was spectacularly inferior to Brian Singer’s first 2 X-Men films). Jean Grey and Dr. Charles Xavier are dead, the X-Men have disbanded, and Wolverine feels more burdened than ever.
Because he’s had a long life, Wolverine is haunted by more memories than ordinary people. And early in the film, one of the people in his long past seeks him and makes him an offer that is difficult to refuse, for someone like him. But refuse he did and this sets into motion events that demonstrate how far someone would go to capture Wolverine’s burden/ gift of immortality.
Director James Mangold, who previously directed Hugh Jackman in the rom-com ‘Kate & Leopold’ and who thrilled us with the mind-bending ‘Identity’, fashioned a comic book film that doesn’t feel like a comic book movie. Well, that is, until the last third of the film sort of devolved into big-action-blockbuster-formula. But even this I can forgive the film makers. Because the rest of the film is imbued with ideas on the way we live, the legacy we all would like to leave behind, and living with the consequences of our actions.
Of course, the action sequences are excellent: I especially liked the fights at the funeral and atop the speeding bullet train. How good must it look on 3D. I also liked the fact that in spite of the gravity of the film’s theme, they found some space for humor–albeit unintentionally. But aren’t those the best kind? I read in an interview that Hugh Jackman is at ease when it came to baring his body as Wolverine. In this film, his nudity is played for laughs as he struggled against two little old Japanese women who were armed with body scrubs. This scene led to my favorite exchange between Wolverine and Yukio (Rila Fukushima):
Yukio: You look nice.
Wolverine: I feel violated.
And yes, the women. One interesting thing I’ve observed about the character of Wolverine is that he’s always beaten black and blue by women. In the first X-Men movie it was Mystique, in the second it was Lady Deathstrike, and in the third it was Jean Grey. In ‘The Wolverine’ it is Viper, played by Russian-born actress Svetlana Khodchenkova. Viper is a nasty villain; she reminded me of Typhoid from ‘Elektra’ (Rob Bowman, 2005), capable of killing with just her breath.
But ultimately she is vanquished by another woman: Yukio. Completing the trio of strong women leads in the film is Mariko, played by Tao Okamoto. I read somewhere that this film is the first major outing of Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto. I sense a long career for both ladies.
There is also a trio of gorgeous Asian actors here, headed by Hiroyuko Sanada who I first saw in ‘Ringu’, Will Yun Lee–who I remember as the sexy guy in a Mariah Carey music video, and Brian Tee who played a corrupt government official who gets thrown from a balcony wearing a sexy pair of red boxer briefs.
Contrary to other Marvel films of late, Stan Lee didn’t have a cameo in this. But there’s a scene where Wolverine is in the snowy forest, and I saw a bottle of whiskey called Stanley’s Whiskey. Is that a reference to Stan Lee? As always, there is fun to be had if you stay for the end-credits. I won’t divulge it here, but if you’re a fan of the X-Men, you would surely be delighted. Promise!
Is ‘The Wolverine’ worth a second (and so on) viewing? Definitely!