‘Wolverine’ sharp and to the point(s)

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Aug. 1, 2013 | Modified: Aug. 5, 2013
‘Wolverine’ sharp and to the point(s)

Hugh Jackman stars in ‘The Wolverine.’

Let’s try and forget about 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

In “The Wolverine,” it seems like the filmmakers already have.

This standalone sequel almost seems like an apology for those early celluloid misdeeds, a way of saying, “It wasn’t you; it was me. Let me apologize with a better movie that does one of Marvel’s most celebrated characters the justice he deserves. He can even fight some ninjas.”

Simply put, “The Wolverine” is a good comic-book movie — sharp, exciting and minus the propensity to take itself too seriously.

Even when dealing with a heavy theme or two, it never seems forced or thematically aloof, like some Men of Steel we know.

It’s a fun time at the movies, for both dedicated and casual fans; nothing complicated or terribly deep, but bolstered by another standout performance from Hugh Jackman (“The Prestige”), who’s effectively made this character his own.

“The Wolverine” opens with our hero, Logan, aka Wolverine (Jackman) — a mutant blessed (or cursed) with immortality and the gift of self-regeneration — interned in a Japanese POW camp in World War II Nagasaki. As allied bombers drop their atomic payload, Logan saves the life of an enemy soldier who tried to save his, shielding him from the blast and revealing his abilities.

Fast-forward to modern day (and after all the “X-Men” films), and Logan has cast himself from society, settling in the forested hills of the Yukon Territory. Having realized he’s doomed to live a life that, by default, outlives those he loves, he’s taken a pledge of nonviolence and solitude.

But not for long. After an incident with some less than scrupulous hunters, Logan’s summoned to Tokyo by the mysterious Yukio (newcomer Rila Fukushima), who works for Master Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”), the Japanese solider whose life Logan saved.

Yashida wishes to bid him farewell in person and make a most unconventional offer. Likening Logan to a ronin — a samurai without a master, forced to lead a ceaseless existence without purpose — he offers a way out. Through technology developed by his multinational conglomerate, Yashida proposes that Logan transfer his inherent abilities to him, granting Logan the peace he so desires and Yashida immortality.

Wary of the proposal and of sharing his curse with Yashida, Logan refuses, only to realize there are more sinister forces at work, including the fearsome Japanese yakuza, who are out to kidnap Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (newcomer Tao Okamoto).

Vowing to protect Mariko, Logan finds some semblance of purpose, but only in time to realize that his powers have somehow vanished. For the first time in hundreds of years, he’s vulnerable. But rather than lie down and accept the hand he’d always hoped for, he steps up for the fight of his life.

And, man, is it a good fight. “The Wolverine” boasts some of the most impressive action sequences of the summer, including a battle royale atop a high-speed bullet train and the sheer coolness of Wolverine fighting off a slew of samurai, ninjas and yakuza thugs.

Granted, the plot sometimes seems more like a means to an end in setting these scenes, but director James Mangold (2007’s “3:10 to Yuma”) keeps things moving along at an effectively brisk pace, allowing audiences to sit back and enjoy the ride.

“The Wolverine” is also rich in scenery and mood, all complemented and tied together by Jackman, who’s simply a pleasure to watch in this role — especially for fans of the comic. It’s a role he’s been developing for 13 years over the course of six movies (including his hilarious cameo in “X-Men: First Class”), and he wears it — and the character’s signature muttonchops — well.

Viewers should also stick around through some of the credits for a glimpse of what the “X-Men” series has in store.

“The Wolverine,” rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 13-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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