Can Wolverine slice and dice his way back into your heart?
Those who may be hesitant to see The Wolverine because they feel scorned by Logan’s previous outing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine can breathe a sigh of relief because this is one badass summer flick. While Origins plays into the background of the character and was pretty much a prequel to any X-Men film made to that point, The Wolverine is actually a sequel of sorts to X-Men: The Last Stand (the third film in the original X-Men trilogy) and uses an important element from that series to help strengthen this film and the character of Logan overall.
There’s no specific timeline given as to when the film picks up after The Last Stand (though it’s likely at least a year later); all that’s clear is that Logan (played once again by Hugh Jackman) has taken himself out of the X-Men and has been living in the Canadian wilderness on the outskirts of society for some time. He struggles with nightmares of his past that usually somehow involve Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) talking to him from beyond the grave. For those who may not be entirely familiar with the old trilogy, Jean Grey was possessed by a dark force called the Phoenix, and Logan had to kill her before she caused the death of millions. The thing is, he also loved her, and because of those feelings he vowed never to harm another person, which is why we find him now living alone in the mountains.
The Wolverine has a darker, much more real and gritty ambiance to it than Origins did. This works to the character’s strengths and allows Logan to brood and struggle with what he believes he deserves out of life without it ever feeling like a “poor me” story. It’s clear early on that while being invincible would be an awesome trait to have in most scenarios, it also comes at a cost so steep that it can drive even the most noble of men to the edge.
Also adding a fresh layer to the film is the setting, as it moves to Japan about 20 minutes in after Logan is tracked down by a mysterious woman named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and told that an old friend of his is dying, and wishes to say goodbye to him in person. Now Logan being in Japan is something that comic book fans of his have wanted to see for some time, and after the teaser at the end of Origins that saw Wolverine drinking in a bar in Japan, people got excited. Now that teaser was just that, as the decision to place The Wolverine after the X-Men trilogy in the film universe rendered that scene moot; however, fans will likely still be happy with what’s been done here.
While not an exact replica of the books, fans of the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller 1982 comic arc that saw Wolverine head to Japan will recognize quite a bit here paid in homage to the story. Of course, the comic world is massive, and characters are introduced all the time, so screenwriters Mark Bomback and Scott Frank have found ways to introduce a great deal of friends and foes from Wolverine’s comic history in Japan and make them fit in the film universe as well. Granted, some fans will never be happy with how certain characters are portrayed on film and there’s no doubt some will be upset with certain changes made here as well.
Those who haven’t read the comic books need not worry, as everything comes together quite nicely here in terms of why things are happening, and just how exactly it all fits into the ongoing Wolverine film saga. One of the main characters taken from the comics is Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who is Logan’s first love. Here, she plays the granddaughter to Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), the dying man who summoned Logan to Japan in the first place. There is a romantic aspect to The Wolverine involving Mariko and her growing relationship with Logan, and while the passion between Jackman and Okamoto doesn’t exactly ignite the screen, the two have great chemistry together which really helps drive the story and characters forward.
The main villain this time around is a woman by the name of Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), and while she’s not a particularly strong villain on her own, in the overall story she plays her part well – even if certain aspects about what she does and how she does it are never fully explained. Again changes were made here for the film, as in the comics Viper isn’t a mutant. In the film, however, she spews poison and has quite a few other tricks up her sleeve.
Director James Mangold (Knight and Day, Walk the Line) took the reins of this film from Darren Aronofsky after he backed out due to personal reasons, and he’s done a solid job of bringing the character of Wolverine back to his roots quite nicely. The film has some choppy, fast-paced, quickly edited fight scenes that may frustrate some, but it’s clear that it’s done to keep the violence down as much as possible for the rating to stay out of R territory. That said, it’s still quite a violent film, and unlike many of the X-Men films, where Wolverine opted out of slicing and dicing his foes, here he punctures henchmen and ninja alike without restriction. And while it’d be easy to go crazy with blood in an R-rated version of the film, it’s completely unnecessary, as it’s just as awesome to watch Wolverine let loose here without it.
There’s a great pacing to the film, which isn’t afraid to slow down and let its characters share personal moments together. The Wolverine has a solid mix of action, drama, and romance that all blend really well together; and while it’s funny at times, this is one of the more serious comic book films to come from FOX since they started back in 2000 with the first X-Men. Though make no mistake, the action is what will bring in the audiences and they shouldn’t be disappointed. While I would’ve enjoyed more Wolverine Vs. ninjas, what we do get is a lot of fun – especially when it involves Logan and an assassin dueling it out on the top of a bullet train.
I’ll quickly mention the 3D for those that are interested, and say that it’s definitely not something that needs to be sought out to enjoy the film. While it’s done well, and doesn’t detract from the movie in any way, it really doesn’t add much of anything either. In short, The Wolverine would be just as enjoyable in 2D as it is in 3D.
The Wolverine is a great installment for fans that have been following the X-Men franchise over the past 13 years, as it not only places Logan in a darker, much more emotionally driven scenario that fits his character nicely, it also comes off as a nice sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand without over-complicating itself with elements of that trilogy. Also, if you stay into the credits for about a minute, you’ll be treated to what will likely be used as a bridge to next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and trust me, you don’t want to miss that bub.
Director: James Mangold Writers: Mark Bomback and Scott Frank Notable Cast: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Tao Okamoto, Hal Yamanouchi, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Rila Fukushima
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.