Starring : Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Brian Tee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Famke Janssen
Director : James Mangold
Release Date : 26 Jul 2013
With a menacing Snikt!, Wolverine is back to being the best at what he does, in Japan.
WITH all the attention on The Avengers and its individual superhero films lately, Marvel’s other major superteam, the X-Men, seemed to have been pretty much forgotten. That’s about to change though, with next year’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past set to bring together the largest group of mutants seen on screen, and The Wolverine giving our favourite adamantium-clawed mutant his best solo outing so far.
After the bloated, convoluted mess that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the director for The Wolverine, James Mangold, has wisely chosen to dig into Wolverine’s long-storied comic history and base his plot on Frank Miller’s acclaimed run on the first ever Wolverine solo series back in 1982.
For a comic book fan of Wolverine, this is was great news indeed, especially since Miller’s Japanese-influenced story went a long way towards developing the character beyond the berserker killer he was known for before.
As befitting its source material, the focus here is very much on developing the character further – more specifically, trying to move him on from events in X-Men: The Last Stand, and setting him up for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (now THAT is going to be one heck of a mutant slugfest).
After a beautifully shot opening sequence in which a pre-adamantium-infused Logan saves a Japanese soldier’s life during the Nagasaki bombing, we see our wild-haired hero bumming it out in the wilderness with only his shaggy beard and grizzly bears for company, still haunted by the traumatic events of The Last Stand (to be fair, most of us were quite traumatised after watching that movie too) where he was forced to kill the love of his life, Jean Grey.
Along comes the katana-wielding Yukio (the Japanese-doll-like Rila Fukushima), who convinces him to come to Japan to say goodbye to the soldier he saved, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), who is now on his deathbed.
There, the now super-rich Yashida offers Logan a “cure” to his “curse”, which will allow him to transfer his immortality to another person, thus allowing him to finally live a normal life. Naturally, Logan turns him down faster than you can say “Bub”, but as he prepares to leave Japan, an encounter with Yashida’s pretty granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and a subsequent assassination attempt on her forces him to stay in the country.
Since his introduction in 1974 on the pages of The Incredible Hulk #181, Wolverine has gone on to become one of THE great icons of comics, being a member of not just the X-Men, but the Avengers as well. However, not much was known of the character up until 2001’s Wolverine: Origin series, which was forced partly because the X-Men movies were moving to the point where if Marvel did not put down his origin on paper first, Hollywood would probably have beaten them to it.
On hindsight, they probably shouldn’t have worried too much about it. X-Men Origins: Wolverine may have told his origin story and how he got many of his trademark characteristics, but by the end of it, we still hardly knew Logan at all (heck, we found out more about him in the first two X-Men movies than we did in his own origin movie).
The Wolverine, however, makes up for this by giving Logan a lot more depth, just as Miller did way back in 1982.
The X-Men have always been one of the most dysfunctional superhero teams around (even more so than the Avengers), and Wolverine is probably the most messed up of them all, thanks to his immortality and everything he’s had to live through. This movie manages to capture at least SOME of that inner turmoil, while giving the otherwise invincible mutant a conundrum to deal with – what if he DIDN’T have his healing factor? Granted, this part of the story isn’t dealt with deeply enough for my liking (if he’s mortal now, shouldn’t he be DEAD from all those bullets in his chest?), but it gives the movie an intriguing twist, nonetheless.
Unfortunately, this also means this may not be the all-out mutant slugfest that casual moviegoers might be hoping for. Yes, Logan does his fair share of slicing, dicing, stabbing and disembowelling (that fight on a Tokyo bullet train was especially great), but this is very much a character-driven story compared to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which seemed more concerned with throwing in as many mutants as possible instead of actually trying to make a proper movie.
Of the new characters, primary mutant villain Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is suitably snaky, but the brightest spark here is Yukio, who flits merrily between kimono-wearing dutifulness and katana-wielding bada$$-ness while managing to establish a decent rapport with Wolverine. Less convincing is Logan’s romance with Mariko, which lurches unconvincingly from love hotel awkwardness to rural village cosiness without giving much thought as to WHY they would fall in love with each other.
If you are a Wolverine or an X-Men comic book fan, you’ll probably love this, but if you’re just looking for a mindless, non-stop, action-packed mutant brawl... wait for X-Men: Days Of Future Past instead.
Oh, speaking of which, do make sure you stay for the extra mid-credits scene at the end of the film. If you are an X-Men fan in general, you definitely won’t want to miss it.