I can remember thinking back in 2000 that the casting of Hugh Jackman as the Wolverine in the soon to be released X-Men was a horrible choice. The guy was mostly known as a stage actor to me back then. Show tunes and dance steps, how the hell could this guy be one of the most hard edged, angry yet lovable super heroes known in the Marvel universe? Shows you what I know, huh?
Much like Christian Bale’s Batman or Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark instead of being a flop, Jackman has owned and personified the role. By the time the X-Men Origins movie was set to come out in 2009, I was totally on board, all in on Jackman.
Then I saw that horrible dumpster-fire of a movie and figured that in any event if someone was allowed one stinker it was him. So when I saw the first trailer for The Wolverine and it had the quote “The Wolverine movie you/we deserve”. My immediate response was “Damn right I deserve that, I’m there after all it can’t be worse than that Origins crap“.
The movie takes place after the events of the third X-Men movie “Last Stand” where, in order to save humanity, Logan (The Wolverine) has to gut the love of his life Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) like a fish. The memory of her death still haunts him and he sees and talks to her in waking dreams throughout the movie. It is revealed that Logan has pledged to no longer be The Wolverine, living in the snowy mountains of what looks to be Alaska only to interact with people for the purpose of buying food and alcohol.
His vow is tested when he encounters hunters who inhumanely hunt a bear, but before he can go full-Wolverine on them a mysterious Japanese women with bright red hair named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) intervenes. She tells Logan that she is the granddaughter of a man that Logan rescued during World War Two when the United States dropped an atom bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki.
The man, Yashida a Japanese solider at the time wants to see Logan again and say goodbye to him since he is now at death’s door. Logan reluctantly agrees but when he meets Yashida he offers Logan the opportunity to end the pain associated with his immortality by becoming mortal. Ever since Logan rescued him Yashida has spent his life in researching the mutant phenomenon and claims he has discovered a way to remove Logan’s regenerative power. Logan thanks Yoshida and refuses, but while staying at his residence before his trip back home to the states Yoshida dies and then all hell breaks loose.
First off, I need to make it known that I know nothing about the source material for this movie. I understand that Logan’s escapades in Japan are part of his comic book cannon which I have NOT read. With that being said I LOVE the fact that this movie takes place in Japan and that it’s intertwined with Japanese culture. Although admittedly, it is all surface stuff I enjoyed the symbolism of The Wolverine as a Ronin, a wayward warrior without a master or a mission.
Hugh Jackman much like his alter ego looks like he hasn’t aged a day and has certainly not stopped working out between this and his last film. (He and Henry Cavil must have the same personal trainer?) The supporting cast is good as well, with the highlight being Rila Fukushima. The woman has a very creepy look about her and you can’t take your eyes off of her when she’s on screen.
Famke Janssen’s appearances as Jean Grey are great for the story, but also a pretty thinly veiled attempt to add some sex appeal to the movie (one of two attempts, I will discuss the second a little later) since she only appears to him in a slinky piece of lingerie. If it were my decision, she’d be naked (big surprise there, pffffft) but that’s just me.
Hal Yamanouchi was good and convincing as Yoshida but the movie’s ending makes it hard for me to really view him as a person now that I look back on it. There is one more character in this movie who actually plays a significant role in the story but I won’t spoil it for you and detail it. I’ll just say that this characters insertion in the movie was not at all necessary to me and I honestly think (sadly) that with such an Asian-heavy cast someone decided to put this character (along with Jean) in to diffuse that and add more non-Japanese eye candy to it. I hope that’s not the case but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it did.
The only other person in this movie of significance is Tao Okamoto who plays Mariko, Yashida’s other granddaughter and Logan’s love interest. Although I understand how she is necessary to the movie’s plot I’m not sure why she’s there for Logan other than to give Gene and himself something to talk about when he’s having his waking dreams.
The romance angle between Logan and Mariko feels forced and clunky, but does give us a scene the REALLY reminded me of Karate Kid 2, so bravo for that. This movie delivers with its action and watching Jackman rage out as The Wolverine continues to satisfy.
My only real knock with this movie to me, is the ending. Throughout the movie other than Logan we are only given hints of the fantastically mutant world this is set in so it’s climax which goes full-tilt in its comic/cartooniness seem a little jarring or out of place. Admittedly it’s a minor thing since the movie up to that point has done a good job of storytelling.
Overall, The Wolverine slashes it’s way past it’s minor flaws and does in fact give you the movie you deserve and have been waiting for. I can easily recommend it. I saw it in 3D and other than the scene shown in the trailer of Jackman flying into the camera, nothing much else make the extra money worth the purchase. Oh, and one more thing, wait for an enticing extra scene after the FIRST set of credits…