The 6th X-Men film (and 2nd of Wolverine’s solo adventures) follows the adamantium immortal to Japan as he visits a dying friend from the past.
After the events of 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand”, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is living off the land and searching for peace after a lifetime of blood. When Yukio (Rila Fukushima) finds him and tells him a Japanese friend from WWII is near death and wishes to say goodbye, Logan travels to Tokyo. Once there, Logan’s friend, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), offers to give him what no one else can: the release of death.
“The Wolverine” offers audiences the opportunity to see the impact of one mutant on a human environment unlike any previous X-Men film. To put it into perspective, there are less mutants (good or evil) in this film than there were on the original X-Men team (good guys only) in the 2000 film. Instead of sizzling spectacle, “The Wolverine” is a character study of Logan. It allows us to see the struggles he faces as an old man in a young man’s body. This is something I personally wanted much more of in his first solo film.
Originally intended to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma”) accepted the baton and created a film that satisfies the requirements for a summer blockbuster and gives the audience a little more to chew on than the average superhero film.
The special effects here are greatly improved from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” despite the fact that this film’s budget is significantly lower than its predecessor. This is what happens when you don’t pay Ryan Reynolds to film 2 scenes and then kill him offscreen. Instead of the worst CGI of the 21st century, we get a really cool train sequence.
Speaking of that train sequence, it is one of many signs in “The Wolverine” that make me want to classify it as a western. There are heavy references to Logan as a ronin (or “rogue samurai”) and the old samurai films are essentially the same as our westerns in the U.S. There is a lone warrior who has lived a hard life and sticks to a certain moral code, etc. Since I’m starving for more westerns to be made these days, it was an aspect of the film that I really enjoyed.
The first 2/3 of “The Wolverine” are very enjoyable but there are a few problems with its finale that left a bad taste in my mouth. First, the villain is both entirely predictable and completely underwhelming. Svetlana Khodchenkova (a name I will never properly pronounce) plays Viper, the film’s lone mutant villain, and while she gives a fair performance with the material she’s been provided, her character leaves a little to be desired out of a superhero villain. There is also another villain who is (I guess) supposed to be a surprise, but it’s been telegraphed the whole film.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you probably remember seeing the setup for a really cool fight between an army of ninjas. You might be disappointed in this scene, especially since the majority of them completely disappear with 15 minutes left in the movie.
Another small problem with the ending is the treatment of Silver Samurai. Often paired with Viper in the comics, I wasn’t thrilled with his characterization here and his CGI is the only bad scene of special effects in the film. (The latter is more annoying than the former.)
“The Wolverine” is a non-traditional superhero film with some meat to its characters and story. Although the final act doesn’t quite meet the bar raised by the rest of the film, it’s a good late addition to the summer blockbuster season.
By the way, remember to stay in your seat for the mid-credit scene you will be talking about as you leave the theater.