Wolverine has always been a favorite character among X-Men comic fans and movie fans alike. His brash attitude, rough demeanor, and depressing backstory make him a very loveable badass. You tend to feel sorry for him because of everything that’s happened to him, and it just feels good when he exacts justice on someone who deserves it. The attention that the Wolverine character receives lead Twentieth Century Fox to believe that fans needed two spinoff movies for him. The first of which, the origin story of the animalistic hero, is widely accepted to have been an unmitigated disaster. The second spin-off, “The Wolverine,” seems to be more of an apology for the first movie than an actual necessary step in the X-Men franchise.
I’d like to start off by saying that I enjoy superhero movies. I prefer them over most other movie genres. I actually didn’t completely hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine; I just had a lot of problems with how the movie was executed. It had a lot of unused potential. I felt that The Wolverine had some of the same problems as it’s predecessor, but to a much lesser extent.
The story started off on an interesting note. We find Logan living in the woods, alone. With his unkempt appearance and long hair and beard, it’s made obvious that he’s cut himself off from society. Through a series of dream-conversations with the late Jean Grey, we understand that he feels he has no purpose in his life anymore – the curse of an immortal. He has also sworn to never kill again. This is made the underlying theme of the movie; Logan finding his reason to continue on.
So. Now we get down to the nitty-gritty. I suppose I should say that I am a Marvel comic junkie, and I have read the story arc this movie was based off of. For the movie, I think they took the major plot points, ran them through a shredder, and then had a team of people who have never read an X-Men comic try to re-assemble them into an understandable movie. Surprisingly, it kinda worked. Well, to an extent.
One of the more interesting plot devices was the fact that (spoiler alert) for a good part of the movie, Wolverine had no regenerative powers. He took a lot of bullets, stab wounds, and blunt-force damage, but didn’t heal. This was a good way to explore Wolverine’s mortality. At one point (at the urging of Jean via shock-induced daydream), Logan gave up and was willing to let himself die. The disappointing part about the ability loss was that when he got his ability back, he went right back to fighting like nothing happened. No emotional closure, he just jumped back into the thick of it. His ability loss wasn’t mentioned much after that.
The story was introduced and ran it’s course fairly smoothly. It was a story that you could follow, and didn’t have any noticeable plot holes. However, it was fairly predictable. Such is the case with Wolverine; he always wins. No bullet can stop him, no knife wound or arrow can slow him down for long. You knew he was going to fall in love with the female lead, and you knew he was going to get his regenerative powers back by the end of the movie. It was also fairly simple to determine who the main villain was pretty early.
There were a few things that I didn’t feel the director put enough into establishing. For example, two of the characters, Yukio and Mariko, are supposed to be childhood best friends. We see them share a brief hug, and Yukio explains to Logan that they were friends since they were young. That’s it. They almost never talk again for the rest of the movie, and have no private interactions.
I also very much disliked that they felt the need to include Jean Grey in the movie for the exposition. To be clear, I hated Famke Janssen as Jean Grey in the X-Men movies. I don’t think she portrayed the character well at all, and didn’t even look like she fit the part. While it could be argued that the part she played in the plot of The Wolverine was important for Wolverine’s character development, I think it would have been better if it had been done a different way.
The rest of the cast was excellent. Hugh Jackman delivered another fantastic performance as Logan, and Rila Fukushima did a great job as Yukio. Svetlana Khodchenkova, more of an unknown actress, was very eerie and compelling as the venomous villianess Viper. The characters were portrayed very well, and they were are fairly believable with their roles.
The action was satisfactory. Wolverine fought a whole bunch of ninjas. Many different times. The fight choreography was excellent, and didn’t seem completely unrealistic. There were a few things that didn’t seem realistic at all, however. Try this one on for size: bullet train fight scene. Apparently, a normal fight on top of a train wasn’t enough…it had to be on a bullet train. Granted, it added an interesting fighting dynamic where if Wolverine jumped up, he got carried towards the back of the train a hundred feet or so due to wind resistance. But it was just too ridiculous. Also, the last fight scene, the battle with the adamantium-crafted Silver Samurai, was very messy and hard to follow. There were two or three isolated sets of people fighting each other on multiple levels of the same facility. It was difficult to keep track of what was happening.
Overall, the movie was fairly well done. I did enjoy it, regardless of the amount of whining about it that I did above. It was one of the better movies in the X-Men franchise. But I think my wife put it best when she referred to the movie as “Wolverine Goes to Japan.” The whole point of the movie seemed to be so we could see a popular character fighting ninjas. But the “X-Men: Days of Future Past” teaser during the credits made it all worth it.
Seriously, I would go see it again just for that.