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Article by Teddy Durgin

"The Wolverine" Still Has Claws

I will say one thing about "The Wolverine." For a movie starring one of the manliest men on the planet, this is a pretty darn good chick flick. And I don't mean the kind of chick flick where you need to bring tissues. I'm talkin' tough ladies, kickin' butt, throwin' down with ninjas, fightin' with swords and (of course) marveling at Hugh Jackman's muscles and chest hair. The film features Jackman as the title character. He's in pretty much every scene of this "X-Men" spinoff, and he's great. But what most people will take away from this movie is the unusually strong female characters, especially for this kind of comic-book fare. Four of the seven major roles are women, and each one brings something different to the picture. Chief among them is the return of Famke Janssen's Jean Grey, who Logan (a.k.a. The Wolverine) fell in love with but was ultimately forced to kill in the third "X-Men" movie. She appears here as a vision in Wolverine's dreams. It's Logan's guilty conscience working overtime. Jean Grey, in his mind, is whatever he needs or wants her to be when his head hits the pillow each night - a tender lover, waiting for him on the Other Side; an uncaring cynic, urging him to turn a blind eye to those who need his help; a fierce protector, keyed into his physical senses even as he dozes. We find Wolverine at the film's beginning, living in the wilderness of Alaska. He wants only to be left alone. But he is found by the film's strongest female, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a fellow mutant who can see glimpses of the future - specifically how people will die. Her and Logan's relationship develops in a similar way to the Wolverine-Rogue dynamic of the original "X-Men" flicks. Kind of an older brother/younger sister thing. Yukio brings Logan to Tokyo to honor the last request of Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a dying billionaire who the Wolverine saved from the Nagasaki bomb decades earlier. In Japan, Wolverine meets the other two strong women in the film - Yashida's beautiful granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), and a mutant scientist named Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). The former needs Wolverine's protection when she is targeted by the Japanese mafia. The latter, meanwhile, wants to harness Wolverine's regenerative powers for her own shady means. Directed by James Mangold of "Walk the Line," the film is more rooted in character than the majority of other superhero movies that have played in theaters in recent years. This is a good, but not great film that is just a touch confused at times about what it really wants to be. For the first two-thirds, this is a fairly serious endeavor that has Wolverine both running for his life and dealing with his personal demons in a way that flows really quite nicely. It's the last third where Mangold has to heap on the action and special effects that feels SO "been there, done that," especially in this summer of spectacle after spectacle, weekend after weekend. The final major battle is in one of those secret mountaintop strongholds we've seen in dozens of other flicks, and it involves Wolverine fighting a giant robot-like samurai that seems lifted from six or seven other movies. But even if you pay to see "The Wolverine" and find it just OK, I will say that the film leads up to a super-cool sequence during the end credits that bridges this film with next summer's "X-Men: Days of Future Past." I won't give away anything about this minute-long scene. But I will say it makes "The Wolverine" seem more like a two-hour trailer than an actual movie. This is a good flick. "Days of Future Past" could be a GREAT flick!

"The Wolverine" is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.

 

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