A Dying Man’s Demand – The Wolverine

24 10 2015

The Wolverine (20th Century Fox - 2013)

What is it like to be alone? I am not talking about being alone for a couple of hours, or away from home, no, being alone for great lengths of time, days, weeks, months or even years. No human interaction, just living with the thoughts going through your head. The things that you must dwell on, the beliefs you have, the reasons as to why you are like this. Then imagine, that out of nowhere someone comes looking for you, and offers you a way out, will you take it?

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Released in 2013 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by James Mangold and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; The Wolverine is the 6th film in the X-Men film series, and the second film to feature Wolverine as the central character, instead of the entire X-Men team. While it could be considered to be a sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine (thankfully) makes no mention to that film, and instead works more as an entirely standalone film. The film’s story is based on the Japanese story saga featured in Wolverine’s own comic series, but also includes references to previous films in the series, namely X-Men: The Last Stand where Logan is struggling to cope with the loss of Jean Grey.

In 1945, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is being kept as a POW in Nagasaki Japan when the Nuclear Bomb is dropped. As the bomb gets closer to him, Logan rescues Army Officer Ichiro Yashida (Ken Yamamura), sheltering him from the blast and nuclear fallout, healing almost instantly. In the present day, Logan is living alone in the Yukon Mountains, tormented by dreams of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who he was forced to kill. One night, while getting retribution for the death of a Bear, Logan is found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a mutant who can see people’s deaths. She asks him to come to Japan to see Yashida who is about to die of old age. Although reluctant, Logan goes to Japan and meets Yashida’s son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). After being given a wash and haircut, Logan goes on to meet Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) who is now a very rich man and head of Yashida Industries, one of the biggest companies in Japan. He tells Logan that he wants his ability to heal handed over to him so that he can live on forever, and Logan can be finally rid of his immortality. Logan refuses claiming it’s a curse and that Yashida doesn’t really want it. During the night, Yashida’s physician Dr. Green (Svetlana Khodchenkova), also a mutant better known as Viper, attacks Logan; he dismisses it as a dream, but wakes up to hear that Yashida has died.

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Logan attends the funeral for Yashida which is watched over by archer Kenuichio Harada (Will Yun Lee), and Mariko’s Fiancé; Noburo Mori (Brian Tee). Suddenly the funeral is attacked by Yakuza men who try to kidnap Mariko. They shoot Logan, who suddenly can’t heal from his injuries. He manages to get his strength together and runs after the Yakuza soldiers, and rescue Mariko. Once they have some distance from them, Mariko tries to make her own way home, but Logan follows her onto a bullet train, attacks some men sent to look for Mariko, and then checks both him and Mariko into a Love Hotel. During the night, after seeing a vision of Jean, he collapses, and is operated on by a vet who manages to heal him of his injuries. Curious as to what is going on, he follows Mariko to her home in Nagasaki where she reveals that in a few days’ time, she will become head of Yashida Industries. Back at the Yashida residence, Shingen is desperately trying to look for Mariko, while Yukio keeps an eye on him. In Tokyo, Harada is revealed to be working for Dr. Green, who desperately wants him to find Logan. Back in Nagasaki, Logan settles into the life of the village, and finds where he was kept when the bomb struck, remembering his time with Yashida. Slowly both he and Mariko fall for each other. The following morning, Mariko is captured by Yakuza. Logan goes in pursuit, but is still hindered by his sudden inability to heal. The men get away with Mariko, but Logan interrogates one of them.

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Yukio arrives to inform Logan, that she has seen how he dies. They go to Tokyo where Logan confronts Noburo who reveals that he has conspired with Shingen to kill Mariko, because Yashida has given control of the company to Mariko, and not him. Mariko is taken to Shingen who ordered the hit on her, but before he can kill her, his residence is attacked by Harada and his ninja’s who take Mariko away with them. Logan and Yukio arrive at the residency, where Logan uses Yashida’s old bed to discover that Dr. Green has implanted something near his heart, preventing him from healing. He performs open heart surgery on himself, when Shingen appears. Yukio attacks Shingen to defend Logan, who succeeds in removing the thing near his heart. Now able to heal again, Logan attacks and kills Shingen.

Logan heads for the village of Yashida’s birth, where Mariko has been taken too. Logan is captured by Harada’s ninja’s, and is strapped to a machine he can’t get out of. Dr. Green reveals that she wants to remove Logan’s healing factor from him and plans to remove his claws using an electromechanical suit of Japanese armour made out of Adamantium called the Silver Samurai. Believing he is working in the best interest of Mariko, Harada tries to prevent her from helping Logan, but she manages to help Logan get out of the machine before the Silver Samurai succeeds in taking off Logan’s claws. Harada and Logan fight the machine, which succeeds in cutting some of Logan’s claws off before killing Harada. Yukio arrives before fighting and eventually killing Dr. Green. The Silver Samurai, although damaged, still manages to remove all of Logan’s claws and begins extracting Logan’s healing factor. At this moment Logan discovers that the Silver Samurai is Yashida, not dead, but alive and begins to feel new life as Logan’s healing is transferred to him. Mariko however, uses Logan’s claws like daggers to disable her grandfather, allowing Wolverine to use his natural bone claws to defeat the Samurai. Succumbing to his encounter, Logan has another encounter with Jean. She asks him to stay, but now believing he has a reason to stay alive tells her No. A few days later, Mariko is made CEO of Yashida industries and bids a sad farewell to Yukio, and then Logan who she wants to stay, still having feelings for him. Yukio decides to stay with Logan as his bodyguard and they both depart.

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The Wolverine has an interesting story and setting. It’s not like other Super Hero movies in that there is some great villain with a devastating plan to conquer the universe. Even more strangely it’s a very different setting as compared to other films in the X-Men film series. What has been founded about the other films in the series is that the main plot characteristic that flows from one film to the next, even if it’s not the main plot, is the story of Mutant’s fighting for freedom from a world that hates them. The Wolverine does make mention of this, but not all the time. Neither does it contain an arch super villain. It’s rather grounded and surrounds a group of characters which are all anchored down by one other. The setting and story of the film is that of Logan having to live with something he has done. The Death of Jean Grey, something that he was directly responsible for, but because of his feelings towards her and that he did it for a reason, not in cold blood, he is finding it hard to live on by himself, and being immortal he has no choice but to do that. So what happens? He gets dragged into a very different world, one that wants him, for something he knows nothing about. It’s not that he has walked into it, but rather, it wants him. What keeps him there though is an interesting idea. He doesn’t necessarily need to remain there, he doesn’t even want to, but something happens to him, that causes him to stay. This then explodes in your face and a story gets told, and a plot unravels as something is definitely going on, but then behind that, there is something even more sinister. It eventually wraps up but with a change to our protagonist. This plot then, like mentioned before is not a stereotypical, or common story as in it does not follow its predecessors, but is more a personal story line surrounding one character and how what he does affects those around him. It’s a really interesting story.

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I like how the film has kept its characters down to just a few. The Wolverine features a stellar cast of predominantly Japanese actors while also including others of different backgrounds and includes well known characters and the actors who have played them previously. It’s not without its casualties however. Harada and Noburo stand out in particular. Noburo seems like a comedic character on purpose; a light relief for the audience in what is rather an intense film. He just does not seem to serve any major purpose rather than A: to be made fun of and B: to offer some direction for the characters to follow as things begin to unravel. Brian Tee has done an excellent job though from what he has been given to do. Harada on the other hand is a complete mystery. I just don’t know what to say about him. He is played well again, and is an interesting character to look out for; I just think more explanation could have helped, including why he changes his mind in the end. What is his purpose for doing what he is doing? On the plus side he is interesting and adds a mystery depth into a film that goes from a theme of political and corporate corruption, into a story about genetics and desire for immortality. One plus The Wolverine has over X-Men Origins: Wolverine is that it hasn’t tried to desperately include well known, maybe even legendary or iconic characters from the Comic series. In Origins it tried really hard to include well known faces and enemies such as Gambit and Emma Frost, but it just didn’t need some of them. The Wolverine on the other hand really only introduces roughly one new character, and all the others are pivotal to the story and are featured in the story. OK, I have not read the Wolverine comics the story is based on, but it has strived to not bog the audience down in introducing seemingly pointless characters. I am of course talking about Dr. Green. I have no real knowledge of this character or her place in the comics, I do however really like her. She is an interesting blend of a comic style super hero like villain, but also possesses the brains to concoct a plan, like a true villain. She like many characters is a mystery, but one that grows to become the films secondary antagonist. She is Sinister, and like many a good villain possesses powers that are both deadly, and prevent her from being killed. She is very much a villain that you love to hate, one that you can’t wait to see defeated, but are not disappointed when it feels like the moment is never going to happen. Alongside her is of course series regular Jean Grey. While she does not appear in a physical sense, more rather being a hallucination, she does give the story and Logan in particular a sort of grounding. Something for him to deal and come to terms with. Her appearances arrive at the right time too, a sort of stand in to think about what is going on.

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It’s probably fair to say that the film has more than one villain. In fact it has lots, but while some work together, there are those who work on the other side. What am I talking about? Well, Shingen. Shingen is a very selfish character. A rough man who shows no real affection for those around him and only thinks about himself, something that is stirred on by the desire for the control of Yashida Industries. He is the films first virtual hurdle as he is the reason for the Yakuza’s involvement and becomes a video game like first boss. He is nowhere near pleasant and much like the film’s other villains is not a man you show the least bit sympathetic towards. While this could be initially seen as more his upbringing and view towards Logan, it begins to be seen that little bit more as time goes on. Once he has been dealt with though, it’s time to face the stories real villain. Yashida is the reason for Logan being there, he is the reason for everything bad that has happened so far. It all leads to one climactic battle with Logan. Taking on the persona of the Silver Samurai, Yashida uses it to finally attain what he has wanted. While he starts out as an old man and seems rather thankful and pleasant, his real motives come quickly, but he is able to mask them behind a sort of reasonable idea. He then disappears as he is believed to be dead, but the moment he is revealed to still be alive is a great shock, a big surprise. It’s the film’s ultimate Plot Twist. His transformation into his younger self is near seamless and the way he talks is just magnificent. He has such a sinister voice that provides for me, one of the most memorable quotes in the entire film (“Hold on… We are almost there!“).

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The Wolverine does something that I don’t feel like I have been able to do with the other film’s in the series so far, that being I feel like I can actually for once connect with the character of Logan. In the past he has been a narrator, a supporter, practically everything to even a cameo, but for the first time, I feel like I am able to just connect with him. I once read a quote (trying so hard to find it while writing this, I think it’s from Blake Snyder’s book) which said that film was about a person changing from who he starts off as. From the moment it begins, it’s about Logan living an existence he just wishes would end. A never-ending cycle of death around him done to those he loves. He just can’t live like that anymore and just gives up. As the film goes on; this stays pretty much the same until his relationship with Mariko really takes off. He begins to see more about himself and those around him. He begins to discover new things and realise that life is not what he sees it as and as the film reaches its dramatic conclusion; he has gone from a man who wishes not to live anymore to someone who has found reason to continue living. You feel for him, you journey with him, you experience with him. Such a brilliant character that until now has only just scratched the surface, revealing a character that is more than meets the eye. Something that has always been there, but now has come to light.

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Which brings us neatly round to Mariko and Yukio. Let’s start with Mariko. Mariko is the granddaughter of Yashida, and the un-wanting heiress to his company. She very much does not want to get involved, until Logan shows up. It’s around her that the films really begins to kick off as the struggle for control of such a powerful company revolves around the one who is about to get it. Her relationship with Logan starts off rather awkward but leads to a relationship between each other. She is a character that begins to bring out the good side of Logan, one that has been hidden for quite a while. He begins to leave his shell; much like Mariko begins to leave hers to become the film’s brightest star. On the side though is Yukio. Someone who doesn’t have a shell, someone who presents herself as whom they are from the moment they first appear. She is quick to build a relationship with Wolverine as a guide and friend, someone he knows he can trust. She cares greatly for him, but thinks of Logan as nothing more than a friend. She is very protective and caring for Mariko too as they both sees each other as sisters. The screen time these two shares is unlike anything the series has presented so far. Here we have two extraordinary characters played by two fantastic actresses. They are very different in persona with Mariko being more like an adult, and Yukio possessing traits that are more teenage like. Mariko is rather vulnerable, while Yukio is not afraid to fight. But while they are different, they are both nice and pleasant. They have no real flaws to make them seem mean or horrible and from the get go you care greatly for them. They possess a real on-screen presence that can’t be forgotten, and you don’t want to neither. While I have said over and over again in previous that some characters/actors are really enjoyable; these two stand out more than most. Two fantastic characters I can’t get enough of. There has been no announcement about whether or not they will be appearing again in the future, and I think it will be really sad for the characters not to be revisited or invited. I can’t state enough how enjoyable these two characters are. They are two such special characters, played by two terrific actors, ones whose portrayal I don’t want to forget. Two of the best and enjoyable film performances I have seen of any film.

Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima

There is one other character though I just have to mention. While this is more setting than character, much like how London can be a character, so can Japan. I love Japan, I have never been, but out of a list of things I want to do, go to Japan is right up there. The Wolverine makes great use of shooting such an amazing country. While there are some terrific set pieces like the Yashida residence and facility, Japan as a setting is the best bit. From the night lights and inner city shots of Tokyo, to the panoramic views of Tokyo (even shots of the city at night in the rain). Like across the river at the Yashida Residence, or the view from the hills showing that while it is a colossal city, it still has boundaries and when looked at from afar, can be such a beautiful sight. But it’s not just Tokyo, Nagasaki is beautiful too. Add to this the cultural life of those who live there, the food (which I really want to eat when I see it), the beliefs, the mixture of modern and the past, just everything is so spectacular that I can’t get enough of what I am seeing. Much like how a character is not just what you see, Japan is not just a setting, but a character too.

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Much like past films in the series, The Wolverine uses a spectacular amount of Special Effects, possibly more than those before it. While films like First Class and Last Stand in particular use shots and moments of large things being moved like a Submarine and a Bridge, the effects used in The Wolverine are more up close and personal, such is the tone of the film. It has its big moments like the effects of the Silver Samurai, to moments more close up like Wolverine with a Sword in his stomach. These effects all look incredibly realistic. It’s closer up and personal effect means more can be seen in terms of detail. Because of this extra level of detail, a lot of the films effects look more overly polished and finished, making them stand out more in comparison to the other films in the series. Particular effects I think are definitely worth looking out for include The Dropping of the Atomic Bomb in Nagasaki; to the Bear that Logan knows. Not to forget the films set pieces too. While these are small in number, that is not to say that they are bad or terrible. The film’s final battleground, that of the Yashida Laboratory is particularly superb. There is another kind of effect too, that is the films numerous actions paced and intense fight scenes. All beautifully choreographed and presenting a contrast between fist and sword fights, to elements of parkour to a fight on top of a moving bullet train/Shinkansen. While the fights are slowed down and more visible in the final fight, they are no means bad in comparison. All the fights in this film are amazing and remind me of such fight scenes as in Ong-Bak and The Raid 2.

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Something though I feel a bit lacking is the Soundtrack (composed by Marco Beltrami). In the past I have mentioned how the soundtrack in the series is known for standing out and being memorable. But even now as I write I am finding it tricky to think about it. I can remember some bits and bobs like the fights in Tokyo and Nagasaki, the drive back to Tokyo, the outer exterior of the facility and the final fight with Yashida. But it’s only really the film’s end credits theme that stands out. Something that sounds heroic with a cultural style woven in. It makes me think a little bit of the ending of Jurassic World. The way that the film is just a constant inventiveness that ends on a theme that is absolute calm. One that in a way is telling you to breathe. The Wolverine’s end credit does this by having something that is just calm and feels like an end, a good one.

Altogether, The Wolverine is a magnificent film; one of the series most standout moments. Containing characters that you will both love and hate from start to finish and tells a story with nearly an unending number of plot twists that don’t leave any loose ends. It’s a standalone film, that’s one thing that is so good about it. It’s a film that doesn’t necessarily require any previous knowledge or understanding in order to enjoy it as it is all provided for you here and now. It’s a film that you can just pick up and play. I really do recommend this film; it has something for everyone and is so well constructed and written that there is plenty to get your steel claws into. It’s a story filled with Political and Corporate Corruption, Desire, Greed, Lust; but also a film about forgiving ones self, finding a purpose as well as more importantly, friendship, love and compassion. I really want to watch it again, right now.

GENEPOOL

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