Wild Child of the Atom

The Wolverine: written by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, based on the miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller; starring Hugh Jackman (Logan), Tao Okamoto (Mariko), Rila Fukushima (Yukio) and Svetlana Khodchenkova (Viper) (2013): As a case study in pitching Hollywood blockbusters to the Asian market, The Wolverine is terrific. Other than Australian Hugh Jackman as Canadian Logan/Wolverine, almost the entire cast is Japanese, and much of the film is set in Japan.

That’s in keeping with the Chris Claremont-written, Frank Miller-illustrated 1982 comic-book miniseries that the film draws upon. I think the writers do something smart with that miniseries, which somewhat implausibly inserted an entire Japan-obsessed backstory into Wolverine’s history.

Here, while Wolverine has previously been in Japan, he doesn’t know much about its culture. I’d argue that makes way more sense, especially given Logan’s eternal memory problems. Even if he was an expert once, he isn’t any more. This also allows for exposition that isn’t delivered, as in the miniseries, by Wolverine’s narration.

Other than that cleverness and some nicely staged recreations of moments from the comic, though, this is awfully thin superhero gruel. As it’s a set-up for the next X-Men movie, we get a lot of references to the last (and least) of the original three X-Men films. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to make anyone think about director Brett Ratner’s crappy third X-Men film.

We also get one good mutant, one bad mutant, and one mystery villain in a giant cybernetic suit of armor. Also a really draggy twenty minutes in the middle, characters hiding in the most obvious place available to them, and some inadvertantly hilarious ‘footage’ of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, which was apparently accomplished by a bomber flying 1000 feet above the ground at about 100 miles an hour.

Hugh Jackman is good as usual, and improbably ripped — he looks like all 300 Spartans superimposed upon one another. But his Wolverine has been written as something of a bumbling boob when it comes to fighting strategy and tactics. It’s a good thing the villains are so kindly disposed to keeping him alive and filling him in on their plans. Lightly recommended.

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