3 Stars Movies

James Mangold’s The Wolverine is the right kind of “serious”

I was very pleasantly surprised by James Mangold’s The Wolverine. Everybody involved did the right thing by simply pretending that the appallingly awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine was never made.

Marvel Comics continues their (mostly) winning streak, showing everyone how superhero movies should be done. Hopefully soon we will be rid of grimly ultraviolet takes on children’s characters like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and The Man of Steel. The Wolverine is just the right kind of “serious”, in the sense that it focuses on character and not on vengeful violence. I’m tired of gruesome sights like Superman summarily executing General Zod in the Man of Steel by snapping his neck.

The Wolverine should be commended for having four major female characters, when a typical superhero movie maxes out at one (such as Lois Lane in Man of Steel and Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man). But The Wolverine squanders this achievement by casting women than look like supermodels, and a script that fails The Bechdel Test. All any of the women talk about are Logan and their daddy issues.

Mangold is a true chameleon, having tackled everything from indie drama (Heavy) to Oscar-bait biopic (Walk the Line). He’s handled action before (Knight and Day, 3:10 to Yuma), but here in his first real summer blockbuster popcorn movie, he exhibits a remarkable stylishness and even a little visual poetry. One scene stages a self-surgery straight out of a Cronenberg film. And when Wolverine races through the streets of a Japanese village to rescue his beloved imprisoned in a tower, swarms of ninjas shoot tethered arrows into his back, in an apparent homage to Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. The sight is startlingly moving, like something out of a violent fairy tale.

It also helps that until the climactic action sequence, not a single character parades around in a spandex costume. By the point that the villains Viper and Silver Samurai show up in full four-color splendor for a big comic book-esque fight sequence, I thought, what the hell, this movie has totally earned it.

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