Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not read comics so I am unfamiliar with whether The Wolverine is true to the characters/storyline in Frank Miller and Chris Claremont’s comic mini-series, The Wolverine. That being said, I am a huge fan of superhero movies and although it has its faults, The Wolverine, directed by James Mangold (Walk The Line), is an entertaining continuation of Wolverine’s journey! For all of you Wolverine fans that were disappointed by X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I think you will be much more satisfied with this film. Not to mention, there is an AWESOME scene in the credits that will leave you salivating for the next film, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which is currently filming in Montreal.
The Wolverine is basically a standalone movie. You don’t need to see the other X-Men films to figure out what’s going on in this one. However, as a refresher, the metal-clawed Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is in the midst of an existential crisis after he had to kill the love of his life, Jean Grey (as seen in X-Men: The Last Stand). Because he is immortal, Wolverine has had to experience the death of everyone he has ever loved with no chance of seeing them again. This poses a serious problem for our hero, especially since Jean (Famke Janssen) has been haunting his dreams, begging him to find a way to join her in the after life.
This leads us to the main storyline of The Wolverine. The movie begins during WWII, with Wolverine in a Japanese POW camp during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Before the nuclear blast can reach the camp, Wolverine saves Yashida, one of his Japanese captors, by using his strength and regenerative powers to shield the soldier from the radiation.
Cut to seventy years later, following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine has left the X-Men and is living in solitude in the mountains. Despite the occasional trips into town, he lives away from humanity and is kept company by his haunting dreams of Jean and his friend the grizzly bear. After hunters shoot the grizzly and leave it to die a painful death (animal lovers beware of this scene), Wolverine ventures into town to seek a bit of revenge at the local bar. Here, he meets Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a young Japanese woman who has been looking for Wolverine for years. She informs him that Yashida, the man he once saved, is now a super rich mogul on his deathbed. His dying wish is to fly Wolverine to Japan to personally thank him for saving his life years ago.
Of course, there are always ulterior motives and Wolverine quickly realizes Yashida’s true intentions. Yashida wants to transfer Wolverine’s power of regeneration to himself so he can live forever. Although Wolverine realizes giving up his immortality is what he has been yearning for, he decides to keep his power. That is, until Yashida’s deadly oncologist, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), gets involved and, unbeknownst to Wolverine, tampers with his regenerative powers.
Meanwhile, Wolverine discovers Yashida has a beautiful granddaughter named Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who is set to inherit Yashida’s entire fortune. Like in any action movie set in Japan, of course there are shady people (who have an army of ninjas) that want to kill Mariko for her impending wealth so Wolverine takes it upon himself to protect her. However, with the degradation of his regenerative powers, Wolverine must face the fear of death for the first time in his life. Will he be able to protect Mariko without his immortality or will he finally succumb to death?
There are some actors that are born to play certain roles. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is one of them. I cannot imagine anyone playing this role as well as him. Jackman embodies Wolverine in every way possible, especially physically. His ability to bring strength, heart, humor, and badassness (is that a word?) to this character is the main reason I enjoyed The Wolverine. Jackman enables us to see the complexities of Wolverine, as well as the source of his rage (his immortality may be more of a curse than a gift). If it wasn’t for Les Miserables, I think I could be convinced that Hugh Jackman is Wolverine in real life.
While I was entertained by the film, especially the awesome bullet train scene, I also have a couple criticisms. My first (and main) criticism is the lack of mutants especially in regards to my girl, Jean Grey. Although Jean is “dead”, I was hoping she would be in this film for more than three minutes. Not to mention, besides Wolverine, the only other mutants in the film were Viper and Yukio. What is an X-Men movie without the mutants? My second criticism is that the “villain” was a bit irrelevant to the plot. Though I love Viper (I am a sucker for badass females), her character has a minimal influence on the trajectory of the storyline. Yes, she manipulates Wolverine’s regenerative powers, but that’s about it. Wolverine doesn’t even really fight her!
The Wolverine is certainly a gigantic step up from its predecessor. It is one of the best popcorn action films so far this summer, with an awesome main character and some fantastic fight scenes. However, the main reason you should see this film is the teaser scene for X-Men: Days of Future Past that Marvel has placed in the credits. It is so awesome, it almost up-stages the preceding film! Bottom line: although you can skip the 3D experience (it didn’t add much to the film) definitely don’t miss seeing The Wolverine this weekend.
My Review: B-