Friday, July 26, 2013

Film Review: James Mangold's The Wolverine

Loosely, and I mean very loosely, based on the 1982 Marvel Comics limited series by Chris Claremont, the man responsible for everything good about the X-Men, and Frank Miller, the man who a few years later would give Batman back his balls in The Dark Knight Returns, one of the finest works in comicdom history, this new revamping of sorts (who wouldn't want something revamped after Origins!?) has a powerful potential, but is never able to cash in on any of that potential.  Taking the most basic structure of the aforementioned 1982 limited series, and inserting most of the correct characters into place, director James Mangold, and his screenwriters Scott Frank and Mark Bomback, pretty much rip to shreds the very comic they claim the film is based upon.  But that ain't even the half of it.

Granted, one expects a bit of retconning when comics go to the big screen (enjoyable films such as X-Men: First Class and last year's The Avengers did more than their share of fucking with continuity) and one must give a bit of leeway when considering such adaptations (think of them as an alternate universe scenario, if you must), but when such adaptations not only rip asunder everything we comicbook fans know and love about these characters, but also turn their films into anything ranging from bad to boring, one must put one's foot down.  Now the character of Wolverine is one of the most archetypal and fascinating ones the superhero world has ever known, and therefore should, in theory make for an interesting read and/or watch.  In 1982, Claremont and Miller's series was groundbreaking.  It was Wolverine's first foray into solo adventuring - long before Marvel decided the character needed to be on every superhero team in existence, and in at least 75% of all Marvel titles (only a slight exaggeration btw) - but what is done to this classic tale of love and honour, revenge and loyalty, is just disheartening to the nth degree.

Yes, Hugh Jackman, reprising the role of Logan, aka the Wolverine, for the fourth time (fifth if one were to count his cameo on First Class) does a bang-up job with what he's got to work with, and yes, model-turned-actress Tao Okamoto, though not the most stellar of thespians, looks appropriately drop-dead breathtaking as Mariko (upon her first appearance in the film, an audible 'wow' came from an audience member somewhere behind me), the love of Logan's life (well, unless you count Jean Grey, but any faithful Marvel acolyte knows that Miss Grey, who appears here in dream form, portrayed by Famke Janssen, goes beyond mere love of anyone's life), and the other model-turned-actress in the film, Rila Fukushima as Yukio, though playing a character whose entire demeanor is turned upside-down here (she's supposed to be a bloodthirsty assassin dammit!), is cute in that sassy, kick-ass fox-you-wish-was-next-door kinda way, but the film is just not able to hold up under its own insipid weight.  And just when one gets to the point where they think that this pointless film cannot possibly get any worse, the third and final act shows up to prove everyone oh so wrong.  Just like they did to the Mandarin in Iron Man 3 earlier this year, the long-running image of the villain, the Silver Samurai, is turned into a joke here, and it just adds to the complete collapse of the an already pretty stupid film come that final act.  Sad really.  

But, all things are not bad, for if you wait for a few more minutes after the end credits begin to roll, you will be rewarded with a damn fun teaser for next year's X-Men: Days of Future Past epic mutant event, featuring a pair of everyone's favourite mutants.  The fact that this ninety second clip is, by far, the best thing about this movie, is a bit sad if you let yourself think about it.  Another thing that we should probably not allow outrselves to think about (but, hey, I'm bringing it up anyway) is the sad fact of what this film shoulda, coulda, and woulda been if Darren Aronofsky hadn't bowed out before filming began.  Just imagine what such an inventive auteur would have brought to the table.  Actually, let's not think about that, it is only going to piss us off that it never happened.  Let's just look forward to Days of Future Past, and a hope that the X-films will get back on track.  And hey, where the hell is our Gambit movie anyway!?

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