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Jackman digs into 'The Wolverine'

Published August 07. 2013 05:03PM

"The Wolverine" goes deep into the psyche of Logan, aka Wolverine, the Marvel Comics superhero, thanks to an intense performance by Hugh Jackman, reprising his role as the title character, and thoughtful and compelling direction by James Mangold.

"Wolverine" extends the "X-Men" movie franchise, which began with "X-Men" (2000), continued with "X2" (2003), "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006), "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009), "X-Men: First Class" (2011) and returns with filming underway for "X-Men: Days of Future Past (due 2014).

In "The Wolverine," the second movie to focus on Logan and sixth in the "X-Men" movie franchise, a man rescued by Wolverine during the World War II atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, is on his death bed and wants to say his farewell.

Wolverine finds himself in the midst of a family feud to determine a successor to Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), the man Wolverine had saved and who now is elderly and near death. Faster than you can say "sibling rivalry," Wolverine is drawn into the fray. There are multiple sides to take, with lots of martial muscle on each.

One of the movie's more intriguing characters is Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who implants a device in Wolverine that strips him of his superpowers, especially that of wound-healing. Wolverine has more than good clotting time. He's a living, breathing one-person instant trauma unit.

The film is well-paced, with a plotline that is mysterious, five huge martial arts fight sequences and fascinating scenes depicting Japan locales.

Jackman as Logan, aka Wolverine, make the character believable. After all, three shiny steel spikes jutting from a person's knuckles is preposterous, super hero or not.

Jackman's brooding brow, scowl and low-register voice help us to willingly suspend our disbelief. His magnificent chest and pecs help, too.

At first Jackman's long hair is very Logan the lumberjack. Later, his haircut is downright wolf-like, while his beard makes him look resemble Logan's brother Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber).

Famke Janssen (Jean Grey-Phoenix) is seen in several Wolverine dream sequences.

Khodchenkova ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy") is a knockout literally as the long-legged, long-tongues Viper.

The casting is refreshing, with many excellent Asian actors in lead roles.

Tao Okamoto (Mariko), a European runway model in her feature film debut, is luminous as the Wolverine's love interest, and provides a calming presence.

Rila Fukushima (Yukio) has is humorously impish, yet phenomenal when she springs into action in the martial arts conflicts. It appears Wolverine may have a new sidekick.

Hal Yamanouchi ("The Way Back"), Hiroyuki Sanada ("Rush Hour 3"), Brian Tee "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"), Will Yun Yee ("Total Recall") are among the fine Asian actors in the cast.

Mangold ("3:10 To Yuma," "Walk The Line," "Girl, Interrupted," "Cop Land") is one of America's strongest film-makers who seems to be able to master most any genre. With "The Wolverine" Mangold has made a comic book superhero movie with its feet firmly planted in Asian martial arts movies.

The screenplay by Mark Bomback ("Total Recall," "Unstoppable," "Live Free or Die Hard") and Scott Frank ("Marley & Me," "Minority Report," "Get Shorty") has a good mix of character development, plot and is heavy on the action. The action is more one-on one, rather than involving huge explosions as in most superhero genre movies.

For this review, "The Wolverine" was seen in 3D.

My son, Elias, who saw the film and likes the "X-Men" the series, didn't think there was anything up there on the screen to justify the 3D format.

I agree. I would add that the 3D format makes "Wolverine" appear darker, made the martial arts scenes more difficult to follow and gives the appearance of flat two-dimensional cut-outs to some of the actors in some scenes.

Also, quite a bit of the Japanese dialogue is in English subtitles. There is no reason whatsoever to see subtitles in 3D.

That said, "The Wolverine" is one of the better comic book-to-screen adaptations and should please "X-Men" fans.

"The Wolverine," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13) for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language; Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy; Run time: Two hours, six minutes; Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Stay after the top of the "Wolverine" end credits roll for a teaser scene, possibly for "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (previewed at last month's Comic Con International in San Diego). Wolverine goes through airport security screening when Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who trained the X-Men and his nemesis Eric Lensherr-Magneto (Ian McKellen), who leads the Brotherhood, appear. Here's hoping Ororo Munroe-Storm (Halle Berry), Marie-Rogue (Anna Paquin), Raven Darkholme-Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Kitty Pryde-Shadowcat (Ellen Page) and Scott Summers-Cyclops (James Marsden) return.

Box Office, Aug. 2: "2 Guns" was No. 1, opening with $27.3 million, pushing "The Wolverine" to No. 2, $21.7 million, $95 million, two weeks; and keeping "The Smurfs 2" opening at No. 3, $18.2 weekend, $27.7 million since opening July 31;

4. "The Conjuring," $13.6 million, $108.5 million, three weeks; 5. "Despicable Me 2," $10.3 million; $326.6 million, five weeks; 6. "Grown Ups 2," $8.1 million, $116.4 million, four weeks; 7. "Turbo," $6.4 million, $69.5 million, three weeks; 8. "Red 2," $5.6 million, $45.1 million, three weeks; 9. "The Heat," $4.7 million, $149.5 million, six weeks; 10. "Pacific Rim," $4.5 million, $92.6 million, four weeks;

Unreel: Aug. 9:

"Elysium," No MPAA Rating as of deadline: Director Neill Blomkamp ("District 9") directs Matt Damon and Jodie Foster in a sci-fi thriller set in the year 2154 when the elite live on a space station called Elysium above the mayhem on earth below.

"Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," PG: The second in the fantasy trilogy based on Rick Riordan's novels finds the son of Poseidon on a quest for the mythical Golden Fleece.. Logan Lerman and Alexandra Daddario star.

"Planes," PG: It's "Cars" with wings in the Disney-Pixar animated family comedy with character voices by Val Kilmer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, Priyanka Chopra, Larry the Cable Guy, Cedric the Entertainer, Sinbad, Gabriel Iglesias, Teri Hatcher, Dane Cook, Anthony Edwards and Stacy Keach. Yes. there are a lot of planes in this race. But who's "com-plane-ing"?

"We're the Millers," R: A marijuana drug dealer creates a fake family to bring a big shipmen from Mexico to the United States. This screenplay was obviously written before the U.S. Congress-approved stepped-up border security. Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, Jason Sudeikis and Ed Helms star in the comedy.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com and the Times-News web site, Email Paul Willistein:

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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