Movie Review: The Wolverine!
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova
Directed by: James Mangold
From the moment 2000’s X-Men was released in theaters, all my thirteen-year-old mind wanted was to see Wolverine fight some ninjas. Well, 13 years later I got my wish, and while The Wolverine has some minor problems, it can easily be placed in the “good” pile of X-Men films (of which there are very few to pick from).
Picking up after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine finds Logan (Hugh Jackman) living in the woods of the great white north. Haunted by visions of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), he’s made a vow to never pop his claws against another person again. Of course, that vow lasts all of about 5 minutes when he comes across a hunter whose poisoned arrow caused a bear to mutilate a bunch of innocent hunters. Luckily for the aforementioned hunter, Logan is stopped by Yukio (played by Rila Fukushima in her first movie role), who’s employer Yashida encountered Logan in Japan during World War 2. Logan saved his life during a bombing raid, and now on his deathbed, Yashida wants to make Logan an offer: cure Logan of his healing factor, and allow him to die as an old man. Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned, and Logan gets involved in a grand plot that has him protecting Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko from the Yakuza, while also trying to solve the mystery of why his healing factor isn’t working.
One of the main reasons why The Wolverine works is that it really is a standalone movie. There’s really no need at all to watch any of the previous X-Men films to understand what’s happening in The Wolverine, and there’s thankfully not a single shoehorned mutant to be found. Even though Jean Grey makes frequent appearances in dreams, the filmmakers do a really good job of getting the main point across of why she is haunting Logan.
Placing Logan in Japan makes for a great setting, and the cultural backdrop of Japan really plays into the whole “lone warrior” aspect of Wolverine. There are a lot of references to the classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Wolverine mini series that this movie is based off of in the movie, and director James Mangold has a lot of fun setting up some great action sequences in different locations. Mangold is a director with a very diverse set of genres under his belt, with films like Walk The Line and 3:10 To Yuma, and seeing him pull off some great action scenes in The Wolverine is a welcome surprise. Those who would be worried that they’ll just get the same fights but in different locations like in X-Men Origins will be happy to hear that that’s not the case this time around.
The cast for The Wolverine is another surprise as well. Hugh Jackman delivers as always, but I was extremely impressed with not only Fukushima, but Tao Okamoto’s performance as Mariko as well. As someone who’s not only read the original Wolverine storyline that this film is based on but who’s seen the cartoon adaptation, I felt she did a great job, especially since like Fukushima, this was her first big screen role as well. Rounding out the cast is Svetlana Khodchenova as the evil mutant Viper, and Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen, who has an awesome battle with Wolverine.
Probably my only real complaints with The Wolverine come from the film’s third act, which kind of stumbles. The final battle is a little lackluster (especially when you compare it to the fight scenes we’ve seen previously), and the reveal at the end might leave some longtime fans of the character yelling yet again that Fox can’t seem to properly adapt storylines and characters on the big screen. I felt there also could’ve been a better explanation behind the “how” of Viper’s master plan. I’ve also had a longtime problem with the X-Men movie franchise putting so much focus on the Jean Grey and Wolverine relationship, especially when that relationship was very much one sided in the comics. However, I’ve come to deal with it, as I can see why it was done from a movie-making standpoint (which boils down to: love triangles sell).
Despite these minor problems, I can safely say that The Wolverine returns the character from the crap pile he was in after X-Men Origins. The fight scenes are extremely awesome, with the sequence on the high-speed trains being the highlight. The film is surprisingly violent for a PG-13 film, so those of you thinking of bringing younger X-fans might want to think twice before carting them out to the cinemas. As it stands right now, The Wolverine is easily in my top 3 X-Men films, and is one of the top comic book films of the summer.
4 “SNIKTS!” out of 5
ALSO: You better believe that there’s an after credits sequence, and it rules so hard that I may go back and see it again just to see it again.