Perhaps the most striking thing about “The Wolverine” is how Fox committed to a film that features a largely Asian cast, which much of the film subtitled. That’s a fascinating decision that goes completely against the thought process that we see studios utilize much of the time.
I’d say that both Yukio and Mariko benefit from the adaptation process, emerging as more interesting characters in the film than they were on the page. It helps that Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto are playing the parts, and they both seem like they saw this as a huge opportunity.
It makes perfect sense to me that Fukushima is a model, because she’s one of those people who is just plain interesting on-camera. I joked about her resemblance to Christina Ricci in my review of “The Wolverine,” but like Ricci, she seems to be about 87% eyes. In our chat, we talked about her crash course in swordsmanship, and the fact that she looks as proficient as she does in the film is just a nice reminder of how much illusion is involved in movies.
I think Hiroyuki Sanada is smart casting by James Mangold, because he brings a whole wealth of work to the table. Movies like “The Twilight Samurai” have made him iconic as both an actor and an action star, and he was the first Japanese performer to appear onstage as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company. I think Shingen has the least fully-formed part in the film, and part of the problem is that I don’t think the connective material is in the film. I get what I think he was supposed to do in the film, but there are places where it seems like they just cut out the pieces that would have connected the dots.
Like Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto is making her feature debut in “The Wolverine,” and her character has to change the most over the course of the film. As much as this is Logan’s journey with Hugh Jackman front and center, but Mariko is the one who moves from reluctant girl to determined woman, with Logan playing a key role in her transformation.
Mangold took some chances with his casting, and I think it paid off handsomely for him. I hope to see Fukushima and Okamoto in more films in the future, and if you’re a fan of Sanada’s work, you’ll also see him later this year in “47 Ronin.”
“The Wolverine” opens everywhere tomorrow.