Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Wolverine [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review (Christy Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

The Wolverine [2013] (directed by James Mangold, screenplay by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank) continues / elaborates on the saga of currently the most popular of Marvel Comics' X-men characters that of Logan [IMDb] born James Hewlett aka the Wolverine [MC] (played in all six of the films depicting the character by Hugh Jackman).

The X-men series is fundamentally about society's and a gifted individual him/herself's dealing with one's "Individuality" / "Otherness."  Most of the main characters in the series are "mutants," people gifted (or cursed ...) generally from birth with very strange/exceptional abilities that set them apart from most other human beings.  What does one do with one's special gifts/abilities and how does one choose to relate to the rest of society?  And how does society react/relate to them?

So as the preceding film X-Men Origins: Wolverine [2009] explains, Logan aka The Wolverine [MC] born into a relatively wealthy Canadian family living in Alberta in the19th century, discovered as a child that his actual father was not the owner of the farm/estate on which he was born, but rather a stable-hand, part-Native American working on said estate.  From his biological father, he inherited a number of wonderous/strange abilities: (1) even at rest/in a dormant state he could relate exceptionally well with the animals of the wild, (2) in an agitated state he could grow sharp bony "wolverine-like" claws from between the knuckles of his hands with which he could slash enemies who attack him, and (3) he could heal quickly from just about any type of physical wound.  This last ability made him (or rendered him...) virtually immortal while his more animalistic special abilities made him a danger to the "more normal" (mortal) people who surrounded him in life.

So what would you do if you found yourself both for all practical purposes immortal and yet also a danger to those around you?  This then is Logan's / The Wolverine's [MC] great dilemma.

We find Logan at the beginning of this film in literally "holed-up" in a hole (in solitary confinement) in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp across a bay from Nagasaki just as two American B-29 bombers approach (one of which, of course, carrying the atomic bomb which will destroy the city).  Perhaps sensing impending disaster, he calls over a Japanese guard (one who had previously shown him kindness?) and tells him to "jump in" into the pit with him.  The Japanese soldier initially resists not understanding why.  Logan, with the animal instincts of the Wolverine insists "Trust me on this." As we watch the rather large atomic bomb drop from one of the B-29s and toward the city, he simply pulls the Japanese soldier into the pit and just before the blast wave reaches them, he covers the Japanese soldier with his body (Logan/the Wolverine is capable of quickly recovering from any wound, so why not take-in some blast wave burns and radiation as well? :-).  In doing so of course, he saves the Japanese soldier's life.  Additionally, the Japanese soldier is stunned to see Logan / The Wolverine first horribly burned by the blast wave/radiation and then less than a minute later completely healed.  That's the kind of occurrence/memory that sticks with you ... ;-)

Flash forward to the present day.  Logan, always tormented by both his virtual immortality and hair-trigger/animalistic nature that makes him viciously lash-out (like a wolverine) at perceived enemies, has retired into the wilds of the Yukon territory of Canada where he spends most of his time living as a "half animal" and, more to the point, alone out there in the wilds with perhaps only bears as his friends (who seem to sense that he's "more the average human" and thus respect him ;-). 

After one of said bear friends had been killed by an "unsportsmanlike" sportsman (hunter) with a poisoned arrow, Logan saunters down from the wilds to a Yukon bar to confront the "unsportsmanlike" jerk who poisoned his friend.  (It would seem that for his very, very "gruff" exterior, Logan / the Wolverine has a keen sense of justice/fairness and gets very, very upset (lashes out ...) upon witnessing some injustice).

While meting out his sense of animalistic justice on the above-mentioned human who killed his bear friend, a young Japanese woman named Yukio (played by Rila Fukushima) with a very large / very, very sharp Samurai sword (that she knows how to use...) visits upon the same bar, looking for ... you guessed it ... the man who had saved her adopted grandfather, Yashida (played by Hal Yamanouchi), "back in the day" outside of Nagasaki on the day of the atomic bomb blast so many years ago.  Logan is told by Yukio that Yashida, had become a very rich Japanese industrialist after the War.  But now he was dying of cancer after reaching a ripe old age.  As his dying wish, Yashinda wanted to thank Logan for having saved him on that day and thus given him the opportunity to live such a long and fruitful life.

At first, Logan, ever weary of people didn't want to go with Yukio back to Japan, but "for old time's sake," he decides "why not?"  However, when he arrives back in Japan, quickly realizes that he's been sucked into a set of human intrigues (among them, who was going to succeed the dying patriarch?) that were clearly revolting to his much simpler Right / Wrong more animalistic instincts.  Much, of course, ensues ...

Throughout much of the remaining film, Logan / The Wolverine, seeks at least to protect a young woman  named Mariko (played by Tao Okamoto) who was a somewhat weak/sheltered grand-daughter of Yashida and had been designated by Yashida as his heir.  To his rather simple/animalistic/instinctual sense of right and wrong, this seemed to be the "right thing to do."  But even here things soon get very, very complicated... and very, very dangerous, as all kinds of shadowy forces want to do her (and soon enough Logan) harm.  

Who to trust?  Logan / The Wolverine, mutant, part human/part animal that he is, is almost always more worthy of trust than most human beings and is almost always disappointed by them, and not only by them but also by other mutants who he occasionally comes across.  By the end of the film (and really every story involving him) one understands why Logan / The Wolverine would generally prefer to keep largely to himself out in the wilds with perhaps "only a bear or two" as his friends.  The "simpler" animals seem more trustworthy than people or other (mutant) "intelligent" life forms.

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