Sunday, August 4, 2013

Capey's Review Double: The Wolverine and The World's End

Expectations are an interesting thing. Go into something with high expectations and even a film that's really good can be a disappointment. On the other side of the coin go into a film with low expectations and something that's really quite average can feel like it was great.

With The Wolverine and The World's End I went in with two very different expectations.

My expectations for The Wolverine were quite low. The character is coming off a bad run of films with the horrible X-Men 3 and the even worse Wolverine Origins. In fact, it's been ten years since Logan had appeared in a good film (X2). These low expectations led to even less hype in the lead up to it's release. I was counting the days til Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel (heck, even Pacific Rim) but Wolverine just suddenly came up on me.

On the flipside my expectations for The World's End were sky high. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are massive favourites of mine. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are two movies I could (and do) watch several times a year. Had a bad day? Watch Hot Fuzz. Can't think of anything else to watch? Throw Shaun on. Even away from Pegg/Frost director Edgar Wright gave us the  amazing Scott Pilgrim (another perennial favourite of mine).

So, how did the films turn out? Were my expectations met or challenged? Hit the jump and find out in my double review!

The Wolverine picks up after the events of X-Men 3, with Wolvy cutting himself off from society while grieving the death of (spoiler!) Jean Grey. She is literally haunting his dreams as lives the hobo life up in a cave in the mountains. Being a direct follow on to X3 is an interesting choice with how bad the film was and how much Fox try to distance themselves from it. Logan is a wounded bear (a metaphor that is literally throw in our face). After being tracked down by japanese mutant precog (and very ninja-like) Yukio, Logan is off to Japan to meet a dying man whose life he once saved in World War II.

This first act and the next one after are a very different, restrained execution of a super hero film. I'd describe it as Japanese Noire with Wolverine being the patsy drawn into a mystery by a beautiful woman and being pursued as a result. There isn't an endless stream of mutants with flashy powers, which seems to be the trend in the X-Men films. Beyond Logan himself we only have two other mutants in the whole film. Easily a record for the franchise. The result is a very well paced, deliberate film with ample time spent getting into Logan's tortured soul.

That isn't to say there aren't some fantastic action scenes in this one. The opening scene with Logan saving a man's life as the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb goes off is sensational. As the film goes we get a brilliantly executed scene with the Yakuza that culminates on the roof of a bullet train (and is very inventive). There's a fantastic battle with ninjas in a snowy Japanese mountain town that has some gorgeous cinematography and imagery.

The final act is the only thing that lets the film down as it devolves into standard superhero fare as Logan battles a giant robot. It's a damn shame as it spend the first two thirds trying (and succeeding) in being different from your standard comic book flick. In this respect it reminded me of the first Iron Man which also had 2/3's of a fun, different superhero film only to end up with our hero fighting a giant silver robot.

Taking a page out of Marvel Studio's playbook the film has a terrific stinger half way through the credits that sets up the next X-Men film, Days of Future Past. It may be one of my most favourite post credits scenes yet. Expectations for DoFP are soaring.

Hugh Jackman really nails it this time. His Logan is world weary and battle-worn, full of guilt and regrets. He finally feels like the character he was in the comics for so long. Physically Jackman is a freakin' beast as always. Just wow. Intimidating, feral and ferocious in every way.

Despite a disappointing final act, The Wolverine exceeded my every expectation. In fact, it's right up there for my favourite comic book film of the year, especially as Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel didn't meet their very high expectations. I expected the worst and was very pleasantly surprised. Go see it on the big screen first chance you get.

The World's End centres around Simon Pegg as Gary King, a hedonistic alcoholic and former drug addict. Wanting to complete the epic Golden Mile, a 12 pub crawl he and his friends failed as teenagers, he tracks down his estranged friends to return to their hometown and finish what they started all those years ago. While his friends have moved on and grown up, Gary is very much the same impulsive, immature person he was 20 years ago. As his friends begrudgedly tag along for the crawl, they start to notice that all is not what it seems in their sleepy, old home town.

The third and final act in the "Blood and Cornetto Trilogy"reunites Pegg, Frost and Wright for one last comedy genre film. After wading through horror in Shaun and Action Films in Fuzz, World's End caps it off with a science fiction romp. While the one liners and sci-fi references come thick and fast, World's End is at it's core a look at the nature of friendship and coming to terms with your past.

While all the key elements are there, this is a far darker and grown up film than it's predecessors. World's End tackles darker elements like alcoholism, bullying and mental illness. Wright's crazy action scenes and frenetic pace don't kick in until about half way through, preferring to spend time with the characters and let their conflicts bubble to the surface. Once Nick Frost finally takes a drink again, straps on some stools and goes to town on a pub full of alien/robot invaders, all bets are off and it's a hilarious ride until the climax.

The verbal gags come thick and fast, almost requiring a second viewing to take them all in. Much like a real pub crawl, the gang get looser and more animated as the film goes and the pints flow. What starts as sober sniping and funny insults devolves into drunken shenanigans that are instantly memorable and quotable.

The core of the film is the relationship between Pegg and Frost's characters and of course they completely nail it. Unlike the lovable idiot he plays in Shaun and Fuzz, Frost's Andy is intelligent, assertive and no one's second fiddle. Pegg's Gary starts off a reprehensible punk rock loser who gradually endears himself to you as the film goes on. His journey is the film's journey. That isn't to say the rest of the pub crawl gang aren't great too. Martin Freeman is as great as always and Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine steal the show frequently as they go. The whole group are coming to terms with and tackling issues from their youth with long lost loves, childhood bullies, traumas and broken friendships finding closure. Sure there's glowing aliens and robots, but that's just a vehicle to push on the development of the characters.

My expectations were sky high and the World's End completely nailed it for me in every respect. Fans of the series will love every minute as it caps off the trilogy in spectacular fashion. It's a little darker, restrained and mature than its predecessors, but it's got the same heart.

Two movies with different expectations going in, but both turned out to be great films with the Wolverine greatly exceeding expectations and World's End meeting them. Great to see in a blockbuster season full of movies that didn't quite meet the lofty levels they should of.

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