Late to the party: ‘The Wolverine’ good mutant action

the_wolverine_2013

I didn’t expect to like “The Wolverine” as much as I did.

I grew up loving “The X-Men” and other Marvel comics, although I had mostly exited before Wolverine made his entrance. Of course, the “X-Men” movies put the antagonistic outsider front and center and made him a leading man and household name.

Of course, with the charismatic Hugh Jackman in the role, who could argue that approach?

After “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” though, I wasn’t sure I needed to see another Wolverine movie. Jackman redeemed the character with one line, however, in “X-Men: First Class.”

So with Jackman returning to the screen next summer, with much of the cast from the original “X-Men” trilogy as well as “First Class,” “The Wolverine” seemed like a natural intermediate chapter in the story.

Since the movie came out a couple of weeks ago – and I just got around to seeing it today thanks to vacation time and work demands – I’ll skip most of the plot recitation. Suffice it to say that Wolverine goes to Japan, accompanied by a winsome and deadly young mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) sent to fetch him by a man whom we see Logan saving at the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in World War II.

Logan gets an offer: If he’s tired of life – especially life alone – the young Japanese soldier he saved (now grown into Asian tech titan Yashida, played by Haruhiko Yamanouchi) promised he can make him a mortal man.

The rest of the movie finds Logan playing tag with an assortment of mutants and ninja warriors, in an effort to protect Yashia’s granddaughter, played by the lovely Tao Okamoto.

I think the movie benefits from being a fairly straightforward story punctuated by lots of cool action scenes. There’s not a lot of cross-cutting to other locations or storylines. Not even a lot of set-up for future movies (more on that later).

Random observations: I didn’t expect the end-credits scene, or “stinger,” to be so on-the-nose as far as its lead-in into “X-Men Days of Future Past.” (Spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet.) The scene takes place two years after the events of “The Wolverine,” and Logan is going through an airport, asking to be patted down rather than setting off ever metal detector in the place. Playing on a TV nearby is a commercial for Trask, the company that created the mutant-hunting robots the Sentinels in the comics and next summer’s movie. As Logan moves through the TSA checkpoint he realizes that coins and other metallic objects are moving around on the security tray. It’s Magneto (Ian McKellen) behind him in line. Wolverine pops his bone claws but Magneto tells him that “dark forces” are brewing and that he needs his help.

Why would I trust you? Logan asks, held in place by Magneto because of the remaining adamantium in his body. Magneto notes that he wouldn’t, but …. at that point, Patrick Stewart rolls up as Charles Xavier. Logan is startled to see Professor X alive. “You’re not the only one with gifts,” Xavier says.

Also about that end credits scene: Has anyone noticed that nobody is waiting until after the credits to play out their super-secret scene anymore? For most of the early Marvel movies, the scene (Nick Fury shows up in Tony Stark’s house, Agent Coulson finds Thor’s hammer in New Mexico) touting the coming of the next movie was after the credits. But beginning with “The Avengers” and the woeful version of DC’s “Green Lantern,” the scene has been partway into the end credits, usually right after the principal credits are done.

A couple of exceptions, of course: “Iron Man 3” and its love letter to the Stark/Banner bromance comes at the very end of the credits. And, as we know, “The Avengers” had two credits scenes.

Maybe filmmakers don’t have much faith that we’ve learned by now to stick around until after the last caterer, effects guy and music credit is listed.

Did anybody keep track of how many times Hugh Jackman gets knifed, sliced, skewered with swords and arrows and otherwise pierced in this movie? Surely that number is out there somewhere, Internet?

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