The unnecessary and the potential – The Wolverine

The Wolverine - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Wolverine – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Wolverine (2013)

Director: James Mangold
Writers: Mark Bomback (screenplay), Scott Frank (screenplay)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima

The Wolverine is the latest instalment for the X-Men film franchise. The Marvel comic book universe of X-Men has come alive on the screen over the last 13 years. There is always some issues in adapting a piece of literature to the screen, and especially so with comics as they come with a plethora of canon and decades of story lines intertwining. The X-Men movie franchise has been somewhat successful in creating its own world on the big screen. There are however issues with this latest instalment.

Wolverine (aka Logan, played by Hugh Jackman) is practically immortal. His immortality comes in handy every now and again but it is more of a burden and a curse than a blessing. The story begins with Wolverine saving a Japanese man in the Nagasaki blast in 1945. In the present day the man he saved, Yashida, is dying and requests that Logan comes to say his final farewells to him before he passes away. Logan travels to Japan to see the man but all is not as it seems. Yashida has been researching Mutants and in particular the adamantium metal that Logan has infused in his skeleton.

The story is interesting and moves along in a swift and compelling pace but it is how the story is formed that is troubling. The saying “sex sells” is put into action in The Wolverine. Jean Grey, Logan’s previous love interest, turns up in his dreams as his conscience, always lying in bed with Logan in a silky night dress. And then there is the granddaughter of Yashida, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who Logan saves from Japanese mobsters and then falls in love with as they escape from danger and work out how to stop the evil guys. If the story was more fully developed then these two love affairs, one in the past that Logan still holds on to and the new one he is trying to move on to, could have made more sense. But the lack of time spent and clarity of the underlying ideas behind these relationships was disappointing. Instead Wolverine comes out looking like he is only using Mariko to get over Jean. This, I am told by a dedicated fan of the comics, is not what it is meant to be. Yes, I understand that the relationship between Logan and Jean needed resolving but to throw Mariko into the picture without being clear on Logan’s emotional progression creates flaws in the fabric of this, otherwise good, comic book film.

There are some great female characters in Yukio and Viper, as well as Mariko. They provide some balance to the overload of male ninjas in the film and are spectacularly cast, especially with Rila Fukushima as Yukio and her execution of the line “I am you’re bodyguard” to Logan. Nice touch Mark Bomback and Scott Frank.

All in all, The Wolverine is steady-footed film that helps progress Logan’s story to a place where X-Men: Days of Future Past (due out 2014) can really expand upon Logan/Wolverine’s role in the X-Men franchise.

3/5

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When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die – The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay) and Christopher Nolan (screenplay & story), David S. Goyer (story), and Bob Kane (Batman characters)
Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman

There are so many feature length films nowadays that should really have an hour of them removed because they try and do too much in the one film. Story telling has been lengthened and not always for the benefit of the film or for the audience. Christopher Nolan has perfected the art of creating a story that ebbs and flows in such a way that enthralls the audience for the entire time. The Dark Knight Rises is a long film but it didn’t feel like the 2hr 44min that it claims to be. It may be that I was just overly excited by the perfection of Nolan’s writing once again, or that the adrenaline and excitement got to me, but the film just picked me up and carried my imagination through it without a hiccup of lost concentration.

I have to admit I wasn’t that excited about going to see The Dark Knight Rises. Especially after being disappointed with The Amazing Spider-Man (see review here), I really didn’t want to get my hopes up too high to be crushed again. But to the contrary I was blown away and riveted the entire time. The narrative of this film is as brilliant as the previous two with its own little twists and turns along the way. I think I got so involved in the film that when one of the big reveals happened and my friend beside me whispered “I knew it!”, I was still rolling in the amazement of it. I now can see how one could have predicted the twists but I was enjoying the ride too much to take that step back and think about what was coming.

The amazing thing about this film was the audience’s response. I saw the film the second night it was out, with a packed theatre. There are particular moments in the film when the sound becomes basically silent and it was in these moments when I realised how involved the audience was in this story. There was barely a rustle of lolly papers or crunch of popcorn to be heard in the entire theatre. The power of this film was astonishing. It hooks you in and doesn’t let you go until those lights are lifted and you are jump started back into the real world. I know that this will not be the experience for everyone but it certainly was mine and I truly hope that you’re experience of watching The Dark Knight Rises is as thrilling as mine.

The only aspect of the film which I wasn’t completely satisfied with was that of the villain, Bane. The Dark Knight Rises is the end of a trilogy that has been acclaimed for more reasons than it’s brilliant story lines and production values but it has been shrouded in some sadness and drama of its own. The loss of the brilliant Heath Ledger before The Dark Knight came out in 2008 was tragic and the film will always hold that external loss to it. However the beauty of his performance in The Dark Knight was the thing that really gripped the audience. He played the Joker so incredibly well that I still have nightmares when I see pictures of him, let alone watch the film again. And thus, it was always going to be hard to create another villain as tremendously terrifying as The Joker. This is the only fault I find with the new film. The villain doesn’t give me nightmares. And this I attribute purely and simply to the voice of Tom Hardy (Inception, This Means War). Hardy’s British accent didn’t suit his villainous look. It wasn’t monstrous or maniacal, it was simply plain and had barely a hint of evil apart from the words which formed the dialogue. Maybe that was what was meant to be so terrifying about him, that he was just one of the normal people, that it wasn’t because he was a raving lunatic but that he was simply a causer of havoc and discord. But after Heath Ledger’s performance there was a certain level of expectation and it wasn’t fulfilled for me.

However, in saying that, it was still thrilling to see Bane unfold as a character and how Catwoman (Anne Hathway) was worked into the storyline as well. I really loved Hathway’s portrayal of the woman behind the spandex and how Nolan created her character outside the seductress. The other outstanding performance was that of Joseph Gordon-Levitt whose character was surprising and beautifully portrayed. Nolan tends to use the same actors throughout his work with good reason, they suit his dramatic style of writing and make what could’ve been a really cheesy line quite beautiful and genuine. The passion and depth to each character was explored throughout the drama and provided the reality that a comic film needs to be truly identifiable with our real world. It is the characters challenges, triumphs, and losses that make this trilogy the wonder that it is.