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July 26, 2013

FILM: 'The Wolverine': Logan's curse is our blessing

(Continued)

Yashida, it seems, wants to say more than goodbye and thank you to his old friend. He has summoned Logan to take advantage of his healing powers, whether the world-weary mutant is ready to relinquish them or not. That theme — that Logan's immortality is both a blessing and a curse, and that Logan might actually welcome death — has been explored before, especially in the "Origins" film. There, it was flogged to numbing effect. Here, it's a garnish that doesn't get in the way of the fun.

Fun, of course, is subjective.

It may be a bit of a cliche, but Yashida's family has both violent mob connections and a long history of association with ninjas, embodied by Harada (Will Yun Lee), a bodyguard who wields a bow and arrow like Legolas. When Yashida's granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is abducted by gunmen, Logan's nihilistic instincts are overridden by his heroic ones and he becomes the young woman's protector and lover. One of the film's great set pieces is a fight that takes place between Logan and a knife-carrying Japanese thug that's staged atop a speeding bullet train carrying Mariko. The choreography is terrific, if patently absurd, as they duck and flip in order to avoid getting slashed, or bashed in the head by passing signs.

Logan, meanwhile, after a fleeting encounter with Yashida's femme-fatale doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova), finds his recuperative abilities increasingly compromised.

Trust me, this is all a lot less complicated than it sounds.

Where "The Wolverine" delivers isn't in plot, but in its core dynamic, which places Logan in the familiar, if somewhat paternalistic, role of savior. That's a welcome change from "Origins," in which his primary motivation was ugly revenge. It's perhaps fitting that his character here, when we first encounter him in the woods, all bearded and long-haired, looks a bit like Jesus Christ. It's symbolism that's driven home by all the bullet wounds that he sustains, and which no longer instantaneously heal, leaving bloody stigmata. Could the theme of martyrdom be any more obvious?

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