Friday, July 26, 2013

The X factor for ‘The Wolverine’ features incredible action sequences

By Steve Crum

Marvel has the most tortured, flawed superheroes in the comic book universe. Proof positive is substantiated throughout The Wolverine, arguably the best of the shiv-wristed franchise. It is also the most grueling to watch. 

Unlike most superheroes, Marvel or otherwise, Wolverine’s roots have never been fully explained--at least in the movies. We know Spider-Man evolved after Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, and that Superman began as a Kryptonian baby. However, Wolverine aka Logan (played with perfection by Hugh Jackman) is an enigma. He is a mutant suffering from a kind of sleep apnea, and prone to nightmares. During one dream, we see him as he physically looks today, except it 68 years ago when he is imprisoned at a Japanese POW camp located on Nagasaki, Japan. A U.S. bomber then drops the atomic bomb--a sadly historic moment. And Wolverine obviously survives. Unlike other dreams he has, this is a valid memory, not a hallucination. How can this be? (Gasp as you ask.)

It is an intriguing premise, which also opens the movie, immediately hooking the audience. No surprise when the story’s locale easily shifts from the USA to present-day Japan, where it remains until the end of the film. With virtually any movie set in Japan, expectations include at least an appearance by ninjas or samurais. The Wolverine gives us pagodas packed with kicking, jabbing, and arrow shooting ninja warriors. As for a samurai warrior, would you believe a gigantic, silver-plated, robotic samurai? Ah so. 

To take up any slack at Japanese action central, prepare yourself for dozens of lethal Yakuza thugs. Wolverine is multi-challenged. Fortunately, his body absorbs any bullets, arrows, stabs, and punches, and then immediately heals itself. Thanks to some scientific conniving, orally delivered by a lethal babe appropriately called “Viper,” Wolverine’s regenerative powers are jeopardized, affecting his life and those he is trying to protect. 

Time to backpedal a bit, plot-wise, without disclosing too much. Be aware that The Wolverine is essentially a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand, which ended with Logan in deep depression and traipsing out to the wilderness following the death of Jean Grey, his honey. He has frequent dreams  in which she appears next to him in bed and elsewhere. In each case, she implores him to join her in death. 

Now a recluse, and looking the part of a homeless man with unkempt beard and all, he is tracked down by a pert young lady adept at martial arts, Yukio, charismatically played by Rita Fukushima. She is sent by an old colleague of sorts who immediately needs his help in Japan. By the way, in this early part of the movie, Wolverine has already encountered a Grizzly as well as a half dozen thugs in a barroom. In fact, the fight scenes are plentiful, lengthy, and wow-factor impressive. Listing all of them in detail would be a disservice, but I have to mention one action stunner involving Wolverine battling a squad of killers atop a moving Japanese train zooming 300 mph. Fight scenes on top of moving trains have been around since the dawn of motion pictures, but this new ingredient takes the cake. Sorry, sushi.

For good reason, The Wolverine is reminiscent of a favorite James Bond adventure, 1967's You Only Live Twice, also set in Japan. Both heroes battle martial arts foes, and both fall in love with a Japanese woman. For Wolverine's Logan, she is the young lady he repeatedly saves, Mariko Yashida (Tao Okamoto).

Director James Mangold and screenscribes Christopher McQuarrie, Mark Bomback, and Scott Frank transition Wolverine on an incredible journey from 1945 to present day Nagasaki. By the finale, the body count is high, and Wolverine’s purpose in life is ascertained. Doubters need only catch the brief epilogue inserted about three minutes into the credits, featuring a couple of major folks in Marvel’s gallery. Set in an airport as Logan prepares to return to the USA, the bit also serves as hype for Wolverine’s inclusion in the next X-Men flick. What brilliant, comic book showmanship.  
GRADE on a Scale of A to F: B+
This trailer previews the thrills:

1 comment:

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