After the severe disappointment of 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I was tepid about another stand alone film. This isn’t a fault on the character of Hugh Jackman in any way. They just got that film terribly wrong. We know that great origin stories with X-Men are still possible after the surprisingly strong X-Men: First Class, so there was some hope that they would get things right here. While it’s not the best X-Men film to date, it’s a worthy addition to the X-Men catalog, and a Wolverine fans that the fans deserve.
The Wolverine picks up after time has passed since the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Logan lives alone in the mountains in the Yukon, haunted by hallucinations of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who he of course had to kill in The Last Stand. We catch up with Logan who is now tormented by these events and the loss of his loved one.
But the film itself starts off with a pretty amazing sequence that takes place in Logan’s past. We are brought back to 1945 and see Logan held in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki during World War 2. It’s here we see Logan help save an officer during the bombing. It’s shot in epic fashion and left me on the edge of my seat. This event along with the catch-up with Logan set the tone for the film which is surprisingly dark and very human. Director James Mangold doesn’t shy away from this, and this allows for a more serious movie, not leaving room for the silly cheese that we saw in Origins. This is because Mangold based this film heavily off the Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s Wolverine comic. The reliance to this comic allows for the film to stay true to the character, and it shows.
Logan’s exile in interrupted when Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a mutant with the ability to see future events, comes and tells Logan that the man who he helped during the bombing, is looking for him. She convinces him to travel all the way to Tokyo to talk to this man which turns into a journey that Logan cannot escape. He meets this mans family which includes his granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada).
Events force Logan’s hand to help, although he finds himself in predicaments that leave him vulnerable to pain and injury for the first time, and he doesn’t know why. Still, he sticks to his gut and decides to help out Mariko who is in possible danger from Yakuza gangsters who are at war with her family.
This is where the film gets a bit messy. You are introduced to many Japanese characters whose names and roles you will get confused and mixed up, not because they’re foreign, but because the film throws so many at them and fails to distinguish them apart. I found myself second guessing myself on their roles and influences, and think both the script and direction could have made this much clearer because it leaves clout on the film which was going pretty strong until this.
What Mangold does get right is dealing with Wolverine’s internal struggle. The tone is rather dark for a comic book film, but Mangold gets it right and it works. Of course, a large part of this is due to Hugh Jackman’s tremendous work as Wolverine. I can’t imagine anyone else inhabiting this role. Jackman truly does become Wolverine, and he gives everything that he has to his performance. We see him go through an internal struggle like never before and it’s starting to affect him. We see him question mortality and whether or not he wants to stay fighting on earth or to join Jean Grey on the other side.
The Wolverine isn’t all dark though. We are treated to a plethora of action scenes, some of them which will leave you breathless. As mentioned earlier the opening sequence is a terribly excited open that leaves you no room to ease into the film. But the real winner is a fight sequence that takes place on top of a speeding bullet train traveling nearly 300 m.p.h. It’s as insanely awesome as it sounds, and is something that will leave you in awe.
The film’s final sequence is a bit long and surely has its faults, but everything is tied up in solid fashion leaving me satisfied by the end. The Wolverine accomplishes its goal; it creates a worthy standalone film that gives us a closer look at the beloved character and should both satisfy the hardcore fans and entertain casual movie-goers. I applaud it for sticking to its guns and giving us a dark and emotional tone that only adds to the depth and mystique of Wolverine, while also giving us plenty of riveting action sequences.
Be sure to stay during the credits as there is a bonus scene that you don’t want to miss.