The Wolverine Film Review
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Hugh Jackman returns to the role that made him a star in The Wolverine, which washes away the bad taste left by X-Men Origins: Wolverine four years ago. The only reason I enjoyed that movie was because I enjoy Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Take him away from that movie and it's an unwatchable piece of crap, which proves just how great Jackman is as the adamantium clawed mutant. The Wolverine sends him on his most personal journey yet as he travels to Japan and attempts to wash away the demons of his past following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, where he killed the love of his life, Jean Grey. When he arrives, he becomes embroiled in a conflict within the Yashida family that pushes him to his limit after his healing factor is taken away by a mysterious mutant pulling the strings.
The film opens during the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki during World War 2. Wolverine is held in a POW camp and rescues an officer named Ichiro Yashida during the blast. The film returns to the not too distant future where Wolverine has become a recluse living in the Canadian mountains. He suffers from recurring nightmares of Jean Grey who constantly reminds him that he can't avoid hurting those he loves and as a result, he is destined to live alone, haunted by his memories forever. After a fight with some hunters, he is approached by a Japanese mutant named Yukio, who can see a person's death in the future. She tells him that Yashida is on the verge of death and wants to say goodbye to Wolverine and thank him one last time for saving his life. He reluctantly agrees and travels to Japan. There he meets Shingen Yashida, the elder Yashida's son and closet Yakuza crime boss, and Mariko, Shingen's daughter and new heir to the Yashida corporate empire. The elder Yashida wants to take Wolverine's healing ability and transfer it to himself so he can stay alive while giving Wolverine an opportunity to live and die as a normal person. Wolverine refuses and becomes embroiled in the Yashida family conflict when the Yakuza attempt to kidnap Mariko during the elder Yashida's funeral. Wolveirne discovers that he's not healing like before and sets off on a journey to discover the truth behind the Yashida family conflict and find out why his power's are leaving him. He embarks on a personal quest for redemption as he finds a reason to be the hero that he once was in Mariko.
The story for this film is what makes it such a success. It focuses squarely on Wolverine's journey to find some kind of peace after a lifetime of war and pain. He wants an out and finds one when the elder Yashida offers to take his immortality from him. The conflict rises out of the fact that after he refuses, the villains of the story try to take it from him by force, causing Wolverine to fight for his life once again. The film touches on interesting ideas surrounding immortality and guilt. Wolverine is broken after the death of Jean and it rules his life. He left the X-Men, he left civilization, and he left behind all of the good parts of himself behind because he feels so horrible about killing Jean. Despite the fact that he knew that he had to, he can't come to terms with it. Since his healing factor gives him prolonged life, he believes that he's stuck with that pain forever. During his meeting with the elder Yashida, he even tries to convince Wolverine to give him his power by saying that Wolverine can have the death he wants since he can no longer be the warrior that he once was. Yashida calls him a ronin, a samurai without a master. Since Wolverine left the X-Men, he pretty much became a warrior with no master and no purpose. The father figure he did have in Professor Xavier was killed (or so he thought) by the woman he loved. The two most important people in his life, post memory loss, were taken from him. He's left beaten, guilt-ridden, and alone. Jackman and the story successfully explore all of these emotions and ideas.
The action parts of the movie were also well done. None of the action was as epic as some in the other X-Men movies, but it fit the kind of movie they were making. The action was very intimate and featured many close quarter battles, such as the funeral attack, the train fight, Wolverine's fight with Shingen Yashida, and the climactic battle with the Silver Samurai. Speaking of the SIlver Samurai, he was done differently from what he was in the comics, but it worked within the context of the movie. Having the elder Yashida's life being prolonged by the robotic suit of armor styled after the legendary warrior kept it sort of true to the comic. In the film the suit still generates energy that powers up the blades, and Yashida uses the suit to steal Wolverine's mutant power which causes him to revert back into his younger self. In the comics, Shingen Yashida's illegitimate son is a mutant who uses the suit to amplify his powers. It's kind of an unnecessary change, but the change fit the film's story about immortality and how the elder Yashida became obsessed with Wolverine's power after their meeting in Nagasaki. He spent his life trying to obtain what Wolverine had. That obsession is what starts the internal conflict within the Yashida family.
The performances from the cast were also well done, Hiroyuki Sanada impresses again as Shingen, Tao Okamoto does well as Mariko, Haruhiko Yamanouchi does well as the elder Yashida, Svetlana Khodchenkova turns in a nice performance as the villainous Viper, and like I said before, Hugh Jackman delivers another great performance as the title character. Will Yun Lee does well as Harada (the SIlver Samurai in the comics) but knowing who his character is from the source material sort of takes away from who his character is in the movie, but it was still okay. James Mangold did a good job in the director's chair. He definitely channeled more of his 3:10 to Yuma style of movie over Knight and Day, which served this movie very well. This movie a very western kind of style, so Mangold's work with Yuma certainly served as some kind of template for how he made Wolverine.
As for the post credits scene, it was great to see those familiar faces back which sets up the next film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, in spectacular fashion. The future is definitely bright for Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men.