The Wolverine Review
The Wolverine Rages
Ever since the original X-Men film, Wolverine has been the shining light of the franchise. Wolverine has long had a glorious history in the comics and his big screen presence has grown to be equally effective. Hugh Jackman returns to the role of Logan for yet another outing as the animalistic mutant.
Taking place following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine positions itself as a new launching point for future X-Men films and Wolverine adventures. But does it slash the memories of the last Wolverine solo outing or does it stab fans through the heart once again?
Journey to Japan
The film opens with Wolverine living as a recluse in the mountains. He has detached himself from society and is dealing with the grief of taking the life of his true love, Jean Grey. By following X-Men: The Last Stand, the movie is free to take Wolverine on a journey without having to fit into previous material like X-Men Origins: Wolverine did. Logan is tracked down by Yukio, who requests Logan's presence in Japan to meet her employer, Yashida. Yashida is a man whom Logan saved during World War II and he wants to repay the favor to Logan.
Upon Logan's meeting with Yashida, he is told that his immortality can be cured. Initially skeptical, Logan refuses to grant Yashida's dying wish of transferring his powers to him. That night, Yashida dies and the future of his multi-billion dollar corporation is in limbo. Yashida's granddaughter, Mariko, quickly captures the interest of Logan. She is set to be the heir-apparant to the Yashida company, but her own father, Shingen, doesn't take kindly to this revelation.
Logan quickly decides to protect Mariko from harm as constant attacks are made on her life. And Yashida's doctor is not exactly who she is believed to be. As the Viper, she is out to make her goals fulfilled and Logan's mutant powers are the key to unlocking her master plan. Logan and Mariko's time together serves to reveal the man behind the monster in Logan. He is much more than the killing machine he believes himself to be. It is her presence that releases the human side of Wolverine and shows that there is still so much more to life.
Throughout much of the film, Logan has visions of Jean Grey trying to convince him that he doesn't have to live forever and he can let go. These scenes serve to express the inner workings of Logan's mind and the struggle he undergoing inside. They do feel somewhat out of place at times and perhaps there are too many, but they still effectively relay the message they are going for.
Wolverine is put into positions we have never seen him in throughout the film and we watch a wounded and vulnerable Wolverine for the first time. It is exciting to watch Logan actually evolve as a human, rather than just an animal. His character grows as the film progresses and is the most true Wolverine depiction we have seen on film.
The Best He Is At What He Does
What would be a Wolverine film without action? The film has several extended action sequences that put to shame anything else we've seen Wolverine do. The fight on board the bullet train is edge of your seat fun. Wolverine is stretched to his physical limits when he must face-off with a group of thugs at the funeral for Yashida. The action is intense and in your face. Wolverine and Yukio both have moments to really shine as the action ramps up.
Yukio actually has quite an exciting showdown with Viper that shows the woman in the X-Men universe can be just as lethal as the men. We even get to see Mariko display her skills with a blade and her fast hands in several moments.
But this is a Wolverine movie and in following with the classic Japanese saga from the comics, there is one fight every X-fan has been wanting to see: Wolverine vs the Silver Samurai. The fight is intense and brutal. Wolverine and Silver Samurai engage in a battle that can only be described as vicious. They slam each other into walls and down scaffolding. The Silver Samurai is much larger this time than in the comics and his adamantium suit allow the battle to take place on equal footing. This battle is the culmination of all the fighting that has led to this climax.
Hugh Jackman Continues to Deliver
Hugh Jackman is once again spot on as Wolverine. His portrayal of this character has quickly become a defining showing. You can tell he is enjoying playing this character and that Wolverine is more than just another role to him. His dedication to looking the part is never truer than in this film. Jackman looks to be in the best shape of his life.
Rila Fukushima gives a spirited performance as Yukio. Her character is a full of soul and depth behind her eyes. She makes for the perfect companion to the cold, Logan. Tao Okamoto also works great opposite Wolverine as Mariko. Her presence is that of a vulnerable, yet stern woman. She needs the protection of Logan but won't admit it. Her delivery is more than good enough to express the way these characters need each other.
Finally, Svetlana Khodchenkova is beautifully seductive and dangerous as Viper. Her screen time is filled with her manipulative demeanor. Viper doesn't fool around and her cold delivery allows you to hate her.
Successes and Failures
Where The Wolverine succeeds in leaps in bounds is the lack of other mutants. The film only feature a handful of mutants. This is where that last solo Wolverine film failed. They tried to cram too many mutants in and we forgot who the movie was about. This film, however, does not repeat history. The focus is solely on Logan and his journey.
The film also does a great job of allowing us to step outside the X-Men universe and see how Wolverine exists on his own. You never really miss the other X-Men, the script keeps you wrapped up in this contained story in Japan.
When the film goes off the rails is when it tries to relate too much to Wolverine's past. The flashbacks with Jean feel too forced at times and they tend to relay the same information over and over. Logan's scenes with Mariko when they discuss Jean also feel out of place. While it's great to set this after X-Men: The Last Stand, the issues with going back to it time and time again makes you remember that awful film exists.
The only other drawback is the film moves a little too quickly. The film has a two hour runtime, but it never seems to have a moment where you get to just relax with these characters. You get one, maybe two scenes with Logan being human, and then we are back to Wolverine mode. Thankfully, Wolverine shines when his threatening attitude comes out. He his a vulgar beast that spews degrading jokes and off color comments.
I did think it interesting we don't see Wolverine smoking his trademark cigar. I guess he kicked the habit.
The film lays the groundwork for Wolverine's future very nicely. All X-films to come after this that may feature Wolverine have a new character model to play with. Logan has evolved, much like his DNA. The Wolverine is the film we have wanted for a very long time. The character is handled with care and given the time to shine like he deserves. The future of Logan can continue to shine as he sets out his next adventure.
As a note, I'd recommend sticking around during the credits as we get a wonderful set-up for the next X-Men adventure, Days of Future Past.