I posted a X-Men Superhero Franchise review way back in August when I was going through the X-Men series. You can click the link right there to go view it. In it I remember touting that I was looking forward to a real Wolverine stand alone movie (this film). Also that X-Men: Days of Future Past, could be the best superhero film next year. But this is now, and with The Wolverine getting ready to make it's home release, I thought I'd give you all a little review of it. Ya know, to keep up with all the other X-Men reviews I've churned out. Hugh Jackman is back as the iconic Logan aka Wolverine. There's only one familiar character in this from the previous movies as The Wolverine set out to right the wrong that was the abysmal origins story. It think they righted the ship well enough.
We open The Wolverine with Logan (Hugh Jackman) being imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki in 1945. After being freed in the wake of the atomic bomb being dropped, he saved an officer name Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) from the blast. Present day, Logan is living the Yukon, tormented by hallucinations of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). He is found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a mutant who is able to foresee people's deaths. Yukio was sent by Yashida (now CEO of a technology corporation in Tokyo) to get Logan and bring him to him, so that he may repay his debt. When Logan arrives in Tokyo he meets Yashida's son, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Yashida, who is dying of cancer, proposes that he transfers Logan's healing abilities to himself, giving Logan the freedom to live life until a timely death. Logan refuses and prepares to leave the next day. That night however Yashida's physician, Dr. Green (Svetlana Khodchenkova), puts something into Logan's body. Logan dismisses this as a dream. The next morning Logan finds out that Yashida has passed away. At his funeral a group of Yakuza gangsters attempt to kidnap Mariko. Logan saves her and is shot, but his wounds aren't healing like normal. Logan begins a journey to not only protect Mariko, but also to find out who (and what) he's become and why Mariko is in grave danger.
Let me start by saying, this movie, location and sometimes story-wise, is all over the place. We got Logan's head games, the Yukon, 1940s Japan AND present day Japan. With all of this scenery in this film, it's less of a jumbled mess than you would think it to be. On the flip side of that it can be confusing what's going on at times. Also the flow feels weird, disjointed at times almost. The action sprinkled in is fine, but the main story around it, feels pieced together like a torn piece of paper. While it fits together in theory, when you're adapting a movie every detail, moment, line doesn't have to translate. Also characters feel rushed. You get good performances out of Hugh Jackman, Wolverine, and Tao Okamoto, Mariko. But everyone else feels like they're just around. Jean Grey is a plot device and doesn't really carry the film. Yukio was is an interesting character that feels like she just drops off the face of the earth from mid-film to the end. While Dr. Green turned out to be one of the enemies that barely has any screen time until the end. All while Yashida is a nice addition and character, that felt bland to me and was highly forgettable. This is a long movie and to have so much that is seemingly forgettable, really brings down the movie. Also, the overuse of Japan can hurt this at times. From the traditional scenes in old style homes/palaces, to the Pancinko building and the Love Hotel. It's feels like they crammed in Japan just because it was the setting. While some of the more traditional places are fine, the bells and whistles are unneeded. Some things like said Love Hotel, jack it up to the umpteenth degree, and at times leaves you with that "Why did they do this?" feeling.
This movie does improve on just about every aspect of it's predecessor. The action is fun throughout. Integrating ninja and samurai, are a little more inviting than the, "Look out, mutant attacks!", we've become used to with the X-Men franchise. The hand to hand combat is fun, Jackman is used well as Wolverine, as you'd expect. This isn't a R-rated film, but I like when a movie can feel brutal and real with fight scenes. The final battle, while clunky, is in a great location and delivers over the course of the battle. Like I said above the story can be confusing and jumpy, but it's a pretty good one. Again it deviates from the traditional X-Men like narrative. It really gives us a glimpse into what adaptions can look like when they use the comics in making a movie. This is excites me cause X-Men: Days of Future Past, is an adaptation and it gives me high hopes that is can be even better than this. I touched on this above, but they also did well for the character development on Logan/Wolverine. We've all gotten used to the gruff and tough, fight first ask questions later aspect. With this we get the softer side of Logan. Battling with his inner demons, and helping those in need selflessly. We finally get that much needed dimension to a character that sorely needed it. Another interesting character they introduced, and my or may not keep around going forward, was that of Mariko. Not a mutant, and not Jean Grey, she is the catalyst throughout the movie that helps Logan get past his issues. She's the pseudo love interest that never really feels like one, but never feels out of place as damsel in distress. They're the anchors of the movie and are played quite well by Jackman and Okamoto. This is a long movie, a little over two hours, so hunker down. At times it feels draggy, but if you can get through the bad, the second half is smooth sailing. The score and music are pretty solid as well, nothing distracting. With the more intimate or action filled sequences sounding fine. Finally, there's a pretty sick mid-credits scene that with get any fan pretty hype.
The Wolverine isn't everything that Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be. But, it does set any future stand alone Wolverine movie in a better place. The story is a little average, and the characters can be forgettable too. But this was a bounce back for Wolverine, and Hugh Jackman, in what looked to be an ailing series. Fun action and a couple of great performances add up to an interesting movie. This is not a power house in the superhero genre, or even within the X-Men franchise. What this does well is set up future movies while keeping one of the series biggest character fresh. Next up, X-Men: Days of Future Past. I'm ready for ya.