Taking from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s comic arc of the same name, The Wolverine is set after the traumatic events of X-Men: The Last Stand, following Logan (Hugh Jackman) whose past come back to haunt him. A Japanese soldier who he saved from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) invites him to Tokyo so that he can share his parting gift of mortality, when his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is caught up in a Yakuza plot.
As the sixth film in the X-Men franchise, I’m sure many were wondering if it was really necessary to have another solo Wolverine film, especially after the travesty that was Origins, and how close it came to killing off the series altogether. But surprisingly, The Wolverine is quite decent. Jackman, as always, delivers as the titular character, but this time around he adds a new level of emotional depth to the role, since Wolverine has become a directionless soldier, trying to forget his past, or as one of the characters call him: “a Ronin, a samurai without a master”. It’s clear that he’s fed up of being immortal and outliving everyone he loves, a point which is hit home by the recurring hallucinations of Jean Grey (Famke Jannsen), who still plagues his nightmares after her demise in the third film. And despite being a clichéd technique, it serves its purpose, and Jannsen serves as the embodiment of Logan’s guilt. Another aspect that the director, James Mangold, examined was Wolverine’s immortality, and by inhibiting this, his character is made more vulnerable and stripped to the bare bones (at one point quite literally).
One of the major flaws of the first Wolverine film was the severe mismanagement of supporting characters, and to a smaller extent, the problem remains. This is especially evident in the antagonists of the film, since both Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) and the Silver Samurai weren’t particularly memorable, and their motivations were a little sketchy. They just felt as if they were there so that Wolverine could have some kind of threat. The other minor character that suffers is Mariko, since she isn’t really developed apart from a half-hearted romance sub-plot that never really comes into fruition. However, one character that really surprised me was Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a precognitive mutant assassin that takes Logan to Japan. Her backstory was layered, without it getting in the way, and she had some decent martial arts sequences that added to the setting. In fact, Yukio is one character that I wouldn’t mind coming back, as there is still a decent amount of potential left for her.
The action scenes were quite grounded, apart from the climax of the film, which descended into the ‘suspension of disbelief’ territory. Yet by reducing his healing capabilities, it was refreshing to see Wolverine taking on ninjas and Yakuza members with the potential of him not walking away than unscathed. This was a nice contrast to the huge clash of indestructible characters that we have grown accustomed to in comic book films of late. One particular highlight was a scene on top of a bullet train, which was better than I thought it was going to be. Unfortunately, it is let down by a mediocre and forgettable plot that is used simply to engineer these situations.
The Wolverine was a film that nobody asked for, but I’m not upset that we got it. It furthered the development of Hugh Jackman’s character, but the intense focus on him impacts the secondary characters. The plot is a little lacking, held together by some good action sequences. After five major film appearances and a cameo, people have started wondering if he is outgrowing the role, but with a central role in the upcoming Days of Future Past, and a third solo film on its way, Jackman’s Wolverine is here to stay, for a while longer anyway.
Thank you Matt for contributing this review for my X-Men Blogathon, this has been most fun!