Based on the celebrated comic book arc, this epic action-adventure takes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the most iconic character of the X-Men universe, to modern day Japan. Out of his depth in an unknown world, he will face a host of unexpected and deadly opponents in a life-or-death battle that will leave him forever changed. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality.
Hugh Jackman returns (for the sixth time) as Wolverine and considering his last few outings (with the exception of his awesome cameo in X-Men: First Class) haven’t been that well received, James Mangold’s The Wolverine (inspired by a Wolverine arc written by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller) has a lot riding on it. So, after years of seeing Logan as a world saving anti-hero, this film gives us a more personal look at the man behind the Wolverine, and is all the better for it.
The story begins with Logan being held in a Japanese POW camp and helping one of his former captors survive a nuclear blast. We are then transported to the present day and a dishevelled and ragged Logan is living wild and keeping himself away from civilization (probably because he couldn’t take any more jokes about how bad X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins were… sorry, couldn’t resist). The film takes place after the events of The Last Stand and Logan has forsaken his ‘Wolverine’ side because he still struggles with the fact that he had to kill Jean Grey and has chosen to live like a reclusive hermit for fear that his darker urges will end up hurting more people.
Haunted by the loss of the woman he loved – and this is helped along greatly by getting Famke Janssen to return, not as Jean Grey, but as a manifestation of Logan’s guilt… (this distinction sounds quite pretentious but you kind of have to realise that she’s not actually Jean Grey or you’ll spend the entire movie wondering why she is so very cruel to Logan).
Logan is a man adrift. With no X-mansion to call home and constantly worried that his darker side will once again get the better of him, you really get the feeling that Wolverine has reached the point where he may welcome a death that, thanks to his healing abilities, might never come.
After nearly going berserk on a group of hunters who kill his neighbour, a brown bear (this is slightly less ridiculous than it sounds), he is stopped by the adorable but very badass mutant, Yukio (Rila Fukushima). She tells Logan that the soldier, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), who he saved many years ago is dying and he would like to see Logan one more time. Yashida is now a rich old man who will do anything to stave off death, even ask Logan to give up his healing factor so Yashido can live and Logan can finally die. After turning down the offer, Logan is forced to become the Wolverine once more when he gets involved in a family feud over who should inherit Yashido’s wealth, finds himself protecting and finding a new purpose to live in the form of Yashido’s grand daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and having to go up against the Yakuza, ninjas and a venom producing mutant, Viper, who gives Mystique a run for her money in the evil woman stakes.
The acting in the movie is good all round (and I applaud the decision to fill out most of the major roles with international actors and even having quite a few instances of Japanese people who shockingly, speak Japanese every so often).
There’s not much to say about Hugh Jackman, he’s as good as you’ll be expecting. The man has truly made Logan/Wolverine his own. From the look, to the deadpan humour, right down to the sheer physicality. It’s going to be tough to replace him when he gets too old for the role… though from his physique in this movie, I still think he has a good few movies in him yet. Rila Fukushima’s Yukio is fun to watch and manages to just about stay on the right side of being a fun, rather than annoying, sidekick. Tao Okamoto is good as Mariko, a traditionally Japanese woman who has an inner strength that slowly becomes more and more apparent as the movie progresses. Svetlana Khodchenkova gives her all as Viper but unfortunately, there isn’t much to give once she has established that she is a nasty piece of work… though she is really good at being a nasty piece of work.