After the embarrassment that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Logan’s latest solo outing had a lot to make up for. In a determined effort to console the fans, James Mangold’s take on the most popular X-Man is based on the classic Chris Claremont penned limited series from 1982, which transports Wolverine to the exotic setting of Japan. This all sounds promising but after being burned by Origins, I was skeptical that this would turn out any better. Is Mangold’s take on Ol’ Canucklehead the definitive Wolverine film that everyone was hoping for?
Things start off well with an unusual prologue which delves into Wolverine’s infamously hazy past. Did you know Logan happened to be hanging out in Nagasaki circa 1945, just as the second atomic bomb ever used in warfare was launched against the Japanese?
While it was genuinely fascinating to see Logan’s healing abilities pushed to the max, the opening also introduces us to a soldier named Yashida, who becomes a pivotal character upon the audience’s return to the present. In return for saving his life, Yashida offers Wolverine the chance to regain his mortality and live a normal life. As so often happens, things go wrong for Logan in a big way and he ends up having to protect Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko while simultaneously battling both her pursuers and his own personal demons…
First off, I have to say that Hugh Jackman is as brilliant as ever in his sixth cinematic appearance as Wolverine. Even after all these years, Jackman still strives to convey different nuances in his performance that somehow keeps audiences interested. If not played right, Logan could come across as seriously unlikable but Jackman is and always will be the definitive Wolverine.
The Wolverine attempts to make Logan more relatable than ever by stripping him of his healing factor for the majority of the films running time. The reasoning behind this is sound; why would you always root for the guy who can never be beaten? It’s just too predictable so I commend the screenwriters for trying to make Logan come across as more human, but then what are we left with? A neutered Wolverine who doesn’t get enough opportunities to show us that he’s the best at what he does.
I also wasn’t overly keen on Famke Janssen’s appearance as Jean Grey’s…ghost? A hallucination? Whatever Jean was, her interactions with Logan felt contrived and unnecessary, although I’m sure most of the male audience weren’t complaining. You have to hand it to Marvel though. They’re doing a bloody good job of linking all their films together so the continuity develops further than it would in just the stand alone movies.
One Marvel tradition I was particularly excited to see was a fantastic after credits scene that contained a few surprise appearances from previous X-Men cast members. To reveal any more would spoil it, but what I will say is that the short two minute scene leads perfectly into the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past movie that I and the fans have been obsessing over ever since it was first announced.
It’s a sad state of affairs when the extra add on scene at the end creates more excitement than the rest of the entire film combined, but that’s what happened for me. Many reviews have gushed over the unusual Japanese setting and while yes, it does look great, I felt that it was under used for the most part, although I did enjoy a mad adrenaline fueled fight scene set on top of a bullet train. Those things are seriously fast.
The rest of the action was mundane for the most part and much of this was down to my lack of investment in the characters. Love interest Mariko didn’t really do a lot to warrant Logan’s affection and most of the couples pursuers appeared cartoonish in their faceless onslaught. Sexy femme fatale Viper had potential but she was defeated way too easily and the Silver Samurai was just a walking Transformers commercial that failed to engage me on every level.
The only supporting character who really stood out to me was Yukio, Logan’s self appointed bodyguard. Her ability to predict the deaths of others was intriguing and her fighting skills were badass, but none of this was shown in enough detail so I was ultimately left longing for more.
There were moments of brilliance in The Wolverine, including the historical prologue and a scene where Logan performs surgery on himself, but this overall lack of something special sums up my issues with The Wolverine as a whole. James Mangold did an ok job, combining the action sensibilities of his latest film with the internal drama of his earlier works, but Logan’s personal struggle should have been explored in far more depth.
Ultimately, The Wolverine is an enjoyable but formulaic film that improves upon its predecessor, but is still far from the definitive movie that the fan boys hoped for, The whole experience just left me sad that Darren Aronofsky dropped out of production when he did, as I feel the franchise needs someone like him to breathe new life into Logan’s character. Whatever happens though, Fox Studios just need to ensure that they keep Hugh Jackman in this role, as he was born to play Canada’s most famous mutant. If anyone else steps in, that’s when the franchise will really be in trouble. Nuff said.