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Jul 29, 2013

Theresa Montierros Film Review The Heat

The Wolverine sharpens claws to take on Japanese culture


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Theresa Montierros Film Review The Heat

Hollywood has a somewhat chequered history when it comes to depictions of Japan and Japanese culture. From the thoroughly reprehensible Bond excursion You Only Live Twice, to the twin monstrosities that were 1989's Black Rain and 1993's Rising Sun (Sean Connery really should have known better by this point), film-makers have rarely strayed far beyond cliche and stereotype when depicting life on the archipelago.

James Mangold's comic-book adaptation The Wolverine, for which a new expository featurette hit the web earlier this week, may face serious criticism should it slip into stereotyping. In the Marvel universe, Japan really is a country populated almost entirely by ninjas, samurai, Yakuza and geisha girls. The Wolverine is based on a 1982 limited series run by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, and sees X-Men character Logan battling crime boss Shingen Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanada) and the Silver Samurai (Will Yun Lee), a fearsome warrior with an electrified suit of armour.

Unlike its predecessor, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the story is set after the events of 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, with Wolverine alone and vulnerable following the superhero ensemble's disintegration. Earlier trailers have shown him losing his self-healing power as part of what appears to be a devious conspiracy.

The new featurette helpfully explains how the adamantium-clawed superhero ends up in Japan in the first place. Riffing on Logan's advanced age and apparent inability to ever get any older, it is revealed that the mutant saved the life of Yashida during the second world war. Lost and alone after the breakup of the X-Men in Brett Ratner's execrable The Last Stand, Wolverine takes up an invitation to travel to Japan. There he is offered a change to achieve mortality, though it appears the "gift" comes with a price: vulnerability. That's not to say Wolverine is totally incapable of defending himself: winning fights tends to be a lot easier when your bones are reinforced with the hardest (fictional) substance known to man and you have retractable blades protruding from your knuckles.

The Wolverine, which also stars Tao Okamoto as Yashida's daughter, and Svetlana Khodchenkova as the enigmatic Viper, marks Jackman's sixth turn as Logan, if you include his cameo in X-Men: First Class. Once again there's no doubting that the 44-year-old Australian has got himself into preposterous shape and is the only actor one can imagine in the role, but will Mangold finally deliver the standalone Wolverine movie that fans of the character have been waiting for? Another promising film-maker, Tsotsi's Gavin Hood, failed with the disappointing Origins four years ago.

This new film does look more encouraging. A Logan with his back against the wall, weak and surrounded by enemies in a strange land is a recipe for the kind of cruel chaos that we've been waiting a long time to see him dole out. The Wolverine won't be hamstrung by an over-abundance of irritating mini-mutants (as the X-Men films can be), leaving Mangold to focus on the grim task at hand. There are signs here that the antihero element of the character may shift to the front as never before on the big screen, with Jackman himself describing the new Wolverine as a "monster". I'm told Famke Jannsen's Jean Grey will have a cameo from beyond the grave.

As for the Japanese elements, Logan fits the traditional "lone wolf" or ronin archetype perfectly: he may be out of his comfort zone, but thematically he's in the right place. "There are so many areas of that Japanese story, I love the idea of this kind of anarchic character, the outsider, being in this world," Jackman told MTV in 2009 during the project's inception. "I can see it aesthetically, too - full of honour and tradition and customs and someone who's really anti-all of that, and trying to negotiate his way."

The Wolverine is due in Australian cinemas on 25 July, and in the UK and US a day later. Provided Logan doesn't wind up drowning his existential sorrows in a karaoke bar while nibbling on wasabi and knocking back sake I'm prepared to give this one the benefit of the doubt. Are you holding out hope that we might finally be about to get a decent Wolverine movie? Or is Jackman heading the same way asConnery in that dreadful Japanese fisherman's "disguise"?

Theresa Montierros Film Review The Heat

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Posted: Monday July 29, 2013, 7:57 pm
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