DIRECTED BY: James Mangold
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Hal Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee and Famke Janssen
In modern day Japan, Wolverine is out of his depth in an unknown world as he faces his ultimate nemesis 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, emerging more powerful than we have ever seen him before.
Okay let’s get the elephant out of the room real quick and let me tell you ladies and gentlemen you can rest easy, for this is not any level of badness near X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which pretty much should be wiped from the memory books. It never happened okay. It doesn’t exist. What was that? Okay moving on …
So The Wolverine takes place on the X-Men timeline after the events of X-Men: Last Stand where the X-Men have disbanded and Logan (A particularly ripped Hugh Jackman) is on his lonesome living in the hills in Canada. Logan has literally shut down and removed himself from humanity as he suffers the burden of Jean Grey’s death by his own hands (well, claws if you want to get technical about it) and is haunted by her in his dreams and begins to being an animal more than a man. The Logan we know and love starts to reappear shortly after he finds a bear poisoned by a hunter’s arrow and just left to die, Logan follows his own code of honor and get some payback with arrow in hand (literally). From here we are introduced to Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who has come to collect Logan and take him to Japan to meet with Yashida (a man whom he saved from the nuclear blast in Nagasaki 70 years ago, in a well shot/sequenced opening scene) as he is dying. Reluctantly Logan goes to Tokyo to meet Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) to pay his respects. Well he goes to pay his respects but Yashida has something else in mind. Yashida has spent years building up his empire of technology for this particular moment to arrive and tells Logan he can make him mortal and take his life-taking mutation away and transfer to himself.
Here is a guy who has already been given a second chance when Logan saved him at Nagaski and believe he can return the favour of giving Logan a normal life…and cheat death again. Permanently. One man who should die who desperately wants to live and one man who believes he should die but feels no one should carry his burden (“Trust me, bub, you don’t want what I got”).
From here on out things begin to get messy. After a…moment with the Yashida’s oncologist (Svetlana Khodchenkova) Logan soon discovers that his healing powers are gone and that he must protect Yashida’s grand-daughter Mariko from the Yakuza, some crazy ninja’s and Mariko’s father Shingen.
To say I liked this film would be an understatement in itself. The more I think about it, in terms of comic films, I enjoyed it more than say Man of Steel this year. The tone of the film was darker than what I was expecting in some places (considering it’s a 12A rating here) and if rumors are true (unrated version on DVD/Blu Ray), I can tell in certain scenes where the R-rated shit is going to happen. I enjoyed the look of Tokyo very much in this film. It didn’t go heavy on the neon-light, heavy rain setting like Black Rain and it was more character driven than what I was expecting aswell as there is mainly from what I recall only four main set pieces in the film. The whole funeral setting/set piece was extremely well shot and told alot in the short space of time what was going on. Logan is clawing through villains left and right trying to get to Mariko, Yukio is kicking ass anything coming her way and Harada (who I’ll get to in a bit) is hawk-eyeing any villains that go near Mariko and Logan. From then we get to the main highlight set piece which is the bullet train scene. Logan takes on four Yakuza suits in and outside the train to protect Mariko. From here we see Logan use his brains along with his brawn. During a lengthy fight on the roof of the train with one Yakuza guy, he out fakes a jump so that the other guy jumps at the wrong moment and then claws his way through the last guy standing. The third set piece is the Shingen/Logan face off and then the final set piece of Logan and the Silver Samurai.
Okay to have a go with the things I didn’t like, primarily the two set pieces listed in that last line. Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), got to be honest, bit of a dick. I suppose you needed that dick father figure there that believes he is going to reap the rewards from Yashida and when he figures out Mariko is the chosen one as it were, shit indeed hits the fan. Personally that whole Shingen/Logan set piece, I get it but I would’ve preferred for it to remain on the Shingen/Yukio angle which had been building throughout the film and bring it home that way. As for everything else that came before and building to this moment the Silver Samurai showdown was…kind of a letdown. It wasn’t terrible, there is a moment when the game gets changed and instantly raises the stakes, but overall it’s not going to be the all out action face off you were probably hoping to expect from the shots in the trailer. I wouldn’t consider calling the Logan/Ninja’s part a set piece just before the Silver Samurai as no sooner does it start that it ends. It is a great, disturbing, visual image of Logan with the several arrows attached onto him before he goes down from Harada’s arrow. Which brings me to Harada who was….literally changing sides every five seconds. He’s with Yashida, then with Shingen, then with Viper….didn’t really care overall for him in the film. Viper is actually the oncologist and, for me, her only purpose was just to be in the film to take away Logan’s healing abilities. I mean, that’s what she was mainly there for and this may sound crazy, was it me or did she appear like she was dubbed a few times in this film?
Within them flaws, they are just tiny flaws (believe it or not). There isn’t one of them flaws where I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s ruined the film for me’, because that kind of flaw doesn’t exist here for me. On the good things, Hugh Jackman is simply just Wolverine. The man should continue rocking them sideys and claws for the next ten years for all I care, hell twenty. The day that Jackman hangs them claws up will be a tough pill to swallow, the guy simply nails it and adds an emotional depth to Logan that didn’t get the chance to shine in previous X-Men flicks. I really enjoyed Tao Okamoto as Mariko in this, alot more so than I was expecting to do. Rila was good as warrior Yukio, who happens to have physic visions of people’s deaths. Odd that in a universe that heavily featured mutants, there’s very little of them on show here. I like that. One bit I did enjoy was Logan chucking a guy off a balcony to the point I was almost about to cheer….then realised he only landed in the pool way down below. Yukio asks him how he knew the pool was there, Logan walks away replying he didn’t. I can imagine in the unrated version that the pool doesn’t exist (and in my own mind version aswell the pool is gone, Logan just sent him flying).
It’s the best Wolverine film there is because it’s the only Wolverine film there is. Got it. Good. As the standalone film from the X-Men that it is, it really adds more depth to Logan the man in a great setting, fantastic female characters in Mariko and Yukio. Good set pieces, some great lines from Logan (Wolverine should be allowed to say ‘Fuck’ at least once in any film from now on he appears in) and a great tease in the mid credits to wet your appetite to lead into X-Men: Days of Futures Past. It may have started the year low in my expectation list of the comic films to come out but Mangold has crafted a solid gem of a film here, understood the character and tone that the fans would appreciate and delivered. Dare I say it, The Wolverine may be the summer winner that no one saw coming. 7/10 7/10