Hugh Jackman’s back for the 6th time(!) to play Marvel’s most most popular X-Man, and this time it’s a standalone venture to Japan away from the main ensemble of the X-Men. But is Japan a culture shock for Logan? Or does the city of Tokyo welcome The Wolverine with open arms? Well yes, and no.
For folks not in the know, since 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, we’ve had two prequel X-Men films since then (X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class), but The Wolverine is the first that takes place sometime after the events of X3. A film that takes place after the events of a movie that released seven years ago may seem like an extremely long time, but the good news here is that The Wolverine is, essentially, a standalone film, that even newcomers to the series should be able to jump right into and enjoy. The only real tie back to previous films is – spoiler – the reoccurrence of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) through dream sequences.
Loosely based on the 1982 limited series comic book ‘Wolverine’ by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine sees Logan visit an old acquaintance, Yashida, in Japan – whom he’d once saved from a near-death experience during a war some years prior – to grant him a dying wish. Without going into too much spoiler-ish detail, Logan finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and finds himself target enemy no. 1 before he can even get his get claws out.
The Wolverine may not be the biggest budget X-Men movie to date, but it is the most visually impressive. Partly to do with the visceral beauty and culture of Japan, and fully to do with director James Mangold’s brilliantly captured action sequences. From James Bond to the Bourne trilogy, we’ve all seen high-octane rooftop chase scenes and larger than life action set-pieces, but the action in Wolverine manages to be both fast and frantic, but yet also manages to feel so grounded and not out of the realm of danger or possibility. A heart-racing train scene is the most memorable of sequences, and is as every bit of fun as it is exhilarating.
Hugh Jackman is psychically ripped – even more so than before – this time around as Wolverine, though it’s not only his hulking structure and physique that stands out on screen, it’s a memorable performance due to the different side we see of Wolverine. He’s at his most vulnerable; his healing powers and immortality have been taken away from him, and it’s the first time in Logan’s life that he is is reduced to a man; a vulnerable man with a target on his back. And there’s a Viper ready to strike.
Svetlana Khodchenkova plays new mutant and main adversary Viper, and is every bit as sexy and seductive as she is cruel and deadly in the role. We don’t get a whole lot of screen time with her in the two hours running time, especially if you want to compare her to, say, a DC movie villain like Bane or Zod, which may disappoint fans of the baddies out there. However, her motives are made clear and her characteristic traits are fleshed out well enough. Although Viper doesn’t get her hands dirty until the end, it’s her ninjas and expert archer, Harada, who do most of the fighting throughout and take part in the aforementioned great action scenes.
Luckily for Logan, he’s not alone, though, as newfound friend and love interest Yukiko (Rila Fukushima) and Mariko (Tao Okamoto) – the granddaughter’s of Yashida – are on-hand to help. Both ladies are great in their respective roles and we get enough downtime with them both to get to know them, but they’re tied to one unfortunate problem I found with the film: the slightly convoluted family tree of Yashida’s family. Male figures – father, fiancée, ex-lover – pop in and out of the movie with a grudge held against Yukiko and Mariko, though in the end it becomes a B-storyline and makes it hard to remember who’s who exactly with the main thread of the story taking place at the same time.
Unfortunately The Wolverine’s biggest disappoint is its very final act, which plays out like a bad videogame boss battle would. Yes, for whatever reason a huge steel machine is pitted against Wolverine to conclude, to as expected results. The generic battle is a real shame, too, as it’s the only real major slip-up to an otherwise anything but generic X-Men movie. A great ensemble of women, fresh new foes and, once again, a great outing from Hugh Jackman make The Wolverine a must-see movie and the surprise comic book movie hit of the summer.