The Wolverine

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This was a guest review submitted by William Derbyshire. Thanks William! You can submit your own reviews to SquidFlicks here.

A decade or so and five X-Men movies on, you would have thought by now that Hugh Jackman would have left the role of Wolverine and handed the adamantium claws over to another actor like James Bond’s tuxedo was given to George Lazenby, and then to Roger Moore, in the wake of Sean Connery. Surely, there would be another part for Jackman to sink his teeth, and a new Wolvie film for that new actor to sink his claws, into.

But there is only one man for this acting job and that is Jackman. Seriously, no-one else can play him, even in 2008’s prequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine when a younger star would have circumstantially been needed to portray him in his early days. That, however, was his last outing and it misfired thanks to a tedious plot, a dull villain and a lacklustre climax which left me quaking for the action spectacle that it should have been.  But it’s clearly evident in The Wolverine that director James Mangold injects this movie with that much-needed boost and thrill that was lacking in X-Men Origins, but the storyline still suffers from ridiculous twists and the action being cut short when it’s about to get exciting.

The Wolverine kicks off to a good start: Logan being held in a Japanese POW camp in 1945 and surviving the Nagasaki atomic bombing (a cool thing about being a mutant). Then, we move to the present day – he’s also immortal – after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, which is odd as people would have wanted to forget Last Stand as it left a bad taste in their mouths. Poor Wolvie’s living in the sticks, suffering from visions of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the mutant chick he had to bump off at the end of LS, and making friends with bears doing their business in the woods. Ten more minutes into the film and just when he’s started a brawl in a bar, hot Japanese assassin Yukio (Rila Fukushima) makes her entrance…only it feels forced.  She’s sexually attractive and you would want to date her, but the scene builds up tension only to be briefly interrupted by her and you wish she was introduced later on.  It’s not long before Beastie Boy gets an invite over to Japan to visit dying corporate boss Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi ) who craves Logan’s healing abilities but he’s not the only one who’s after them.

The stunning cinematography in Japan is on a par with Skyfall’s and the action excels, even if most of it is on a cartoonish level. The fight on top of a bullet train shown in the film’s trailers, however, lacks the wow-factor of the train battle sequence in Spider-Man 2, looks amateurish and is needlessly shorter in comparison. But if that leaves us movie-goers deprived of adrenaline, I can tell you now that Mangold definitely delivers a final showdown that’s miles better than before. If only he saved the plot from moving towards silly Michael Bay-esque territory and left an unnecessary, mind-baffling scene half-way through the end credits with two characters who we thought died, along with Jean Grey, reappearing as cameos, where it should have been – on the cutting room floor – that The Wolverine is sadly not entirely the movie we wanted Origins to be, but you would certainly be lacking common sense to pick it over this. Trust me; this film seriously improves on it.

Jackman is still on terrific form and definitely hasn’t shown signs of growing tired of playing Wolverine, even in his sixth film as the hairy mutant.  He knows what makes the character tick and gets his hot-tempered personality and burly, muscular physical appearance spot-on like he’s got Wolvie’s DNA inside him.  Fukushima does her best playing an ultimately one-dimensional character but hey, she’s sexy, so what does that matter? Well, the relationship between her and her shaggy boyfriend doesn’t quite sizzle. Scenes of dialogue in superhero films are fine but do they have to drag on? Less talky, more slash-y next time, perhaps? If Fukushima doesn’t attract the males, there’s also the steamy Tao Okamoto, given a stronger role as Yashida’s granddaughter Marika and Svetlana Khodchenkova, deliciously malicious as Dr. Green, aka Viper. For all the gals, there’s Will Yun Lee as Kenuichio Harada, head of the Black Ninja Clan, even if he’s given little to do.

For all The Wolverine is worth, you’ll still get a kick out of it and it’ll probably be like Origins never existed, but the most perfect solo movie outing for Jackman’s fiery mutant is still yet to be made.  But rest assured, with a seventh film in the works, it may still happen.

Man of Steel

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Now, I am not a Superman fanatic – I’ve seen a lot of the movies and cartoons growing up, but I never really followed his story quite like I did Batman or Spiderman.

Regardless, I knew that there was a great story of origin, and when I heard that Christopher Nolan was going to produce this film, I knew it would be awesome on the scale of his recently completed Dark Knight trilogy.

After watching the midnight premiere and getting home around 3:15 AM, (thanks to no less than 30 minutes of pre-movie trailers…) I know enough to say that Man of Steel is a movie that finally gets a lot of Superman right after many failed previous attempts.

I particularly appreciated the amount of information that the film gives the audience about Kal-El’s origins on Krypton. The audience gets to meet Jor-El, Zod, and the dying world they live on, as well as the gift that Jor-El gives to Kal as he sends him off into deep space. In addition to that, there are flashback scenes that show Kal (now Clark) growing up with his ‘parents’ in Smallville, Kansas. He has to learn to control his powers and not reveal his true form to anyone, although that becomes difficult when his childhood is rife with disasters.

As he matures, he becomes a nomad – working dead end jobs and saving people from nearby disasters, finding it difficult to blend in with society as a result. He is a guardian angel of sorts. As he works his way around the pacific seaboard, he ends up as a cargo carrier in Antarctica and eventually tracks down an exploratory ship from Krypton and accidentally sets a homing beacon off to attract an old enemy – General Zod, so-called savior of the Krypton race.

Solid performances by the cast, incredible visuals, and a powerful score by none other than the insanely talented Hans Zimmer make Man of Steel a well rounded, action packed summer blockbuster.

While there are definitely shortcomings that comic fans can point out (I myself am not well-versed on the subject) I think that one of the biggest shortcomings of the film comes from the fact that so much was crammed into this movie that I don’t know where the story can continue from here. One of the most iconic adversaries and longest plot lines in the Superman universe that I can think of was unceremoniously dispatched. Another sore spot can come from the fact that this movie pulls in plot devices from all over the subject of Superman – including Smallville and many of the cartoons.

It’s a film that’s palatable for the public, but falls short in some areas that I can’t quite put a finger on. I know the comic fans aren’t as happy with the whole thing, but I think the problem I have just comes down to the fact that I still find The Dark Knight to be the greatest superhero film to this day. Good try, good effort, and worth a watch!

4/5 Reels
Gold Squid Rating