If you’re keeping track, The Wolverine marks the fifth time Hugh Jackman brings his vision of the adamantium-laced mutant to the big screen. Okay, technically sixth if you count his cameo in X-Men: First Class (2011) (and it should count, simply on the cool factor alone). Personally, I really like the first two X-Men movies. I didn’t hate the third but it was a big step down. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) was a mix of fun stuff that worked and other elements that just didn’t. So, where does The Wolverine fit in with all that has come before?
Considering this will be posted prior to most people seeing the movie, suffice to say there will be no spoilers here. However, let’s set up where The Wolverine is in the timeline. It does indeed occur after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Logan has become a recluse after the deaths of Jean Grey and Professor Xavier. The opening sequence is a flashback taking us to Nagasaki, Japan in 1945, on the day the atom bomb was dropped. Logan is a prisoner of war who saves the life of Ichiro Yashida (Ken Yamamura). Flash forward to modern day and Logan is plagued with nightmares of his long past and visions of Jean. Famke Janssen is back as Jean in a way that leaves you wondering whether she is simply a dream of Logan’s or is she somehow reaching out to him from beyond?
Logan is brought to Japan by Yukio (convincingly played by Rila Fukushima) at the bequest of a now older and near death Yashida (now played by Haruhiko Yamanouchi). Yashida offers Logan the gift of mortality. Logan has always wanted this but does he eagerly accept it or reject it in fear the offer has no chance of working? Logan has clearly stated he is no longer Wolverine. He is tired, alone and, apparently, ready for that mortality. We’re introduced to Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and her father Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), a crime boss with connections to her fiancé Noburo Mori (Brian Tee), a corrupt official. And, of course, no X-Men movie would be complete without at least one other mutant. Svetlana Khodchenkova plays Viper, a snakelike character whose toxins cause their fair share of trouble. Comic fans will also recognize the Silver Samurai, a giant robot made of adamantium.
The story is based on the classic Chris Claremont and Frank Miller 1982 limited series. Logan’s Japanese storylines are most fans’ favorites and the setting is refreshing from what we’ve seen in previous X-Men films. Director James Mangold has created a world that should please almost every fan out there. I say “almost” because some will say they wanted a darker vision of Wolverine. Granted, there does seem to be a small amount of blood for as much violence that’s present in the movie. Undoubtedly, we’ll get an unrated version on DVD and Blu-ray but even then, I wouldn’t be expecting to see a bloodfest to rival Django Unchained (2012). Frankly, it’s not needed. The story is what is most important here and it works.
It is a slower paced film without the non-stop destruction that leaves me weary in some other blockbusters. Don’t get me wrong, I love mass destruction as much as the next guy but I also enjoy a story and we get that here. At over two hours, it could have benefited from some editing to shave off about 10 minutes or so. Beyond that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, it’s a tad formulaic but it was a fun movie, just what you expect as the dog days of summer loom near. With a budget of $120 million and virtually no competition at the box office this weekend, expect this one to be a success.
This is the Wolverine movie everyone wanted and Hugh Jackman has never been better in the role. It continues the saga of Logan and plays a part in setting things up for what comes next. Make sure you stay through the credits because there is a cool sequence that had me geeking out. I avoided internet spoilers and glad that I did. Mark your calendars for May 23, 2014. X-Men: Days of Future Past is coming and may very well be the biggest mutant superhero movie yet! Meanwhile, I highly recommend The Wolverine.