After Wolverine’s last solo outing was such a disaster, I don’t think anyone expected The Wolverine to be any better. Well, it’s far from perfect, but it is much, much better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and even though it kind of fell apart in its final act, it’s an enjoyable action flick that plays out almost exactly like a solo spin-off should.
Some time after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan is living like a hermit in the mountains of the Yukon. Haunted by dreams of Jean Grey, who he was forced to kill at the end of The Last Stand, Logan lives a tormented life, without anything to keep him going. He really is a shell of a man, and in a way it’s kind of refreshing to see the immortal Wolverine act so mortal.
However, when he is located by Yukio, a mutant with the ability to foresee people’s deaths, he is given the chance to travel back to Japan with her in order to say goodbye to a man he saved from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. With no reason to refuse, Logan takes Yukio up on her offer, and leaves behind his hermit life to travel to Japan.
Based on the beloved 1982 comic by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine’s story is not nearly as grand as those of the other X-Men films, and rather than attempting to save the world from some sort of evil, Logan is tasked with simply protecting the daughter and heir to a wealthy Japanese family while dealing with his own demons and inner mortality along the way.
It’s a great idea for a solo movie, and it delivers on the promise of the premise, for the most part. The Wolverine feels like a much more subdued X-Men movie, and while there’s plenty of exciting action set-pieces, this isn’t a movie about a threat to the world, but instead the first real threat to Logan’s life.
It’s refreshing to see a movie not focus so heavily on extravagant violence, but instead on the inner-conflict of a man who can live forever, yet still live for nothing. Hugh Jackman is great as Logan, as always, and not only is he in his best physical shape, but he once again demonstrates his natural skill at portraying the character that he’s become so famously known for.
While there’s a myriad of supporting characters, this is Jackman’s show through-and-through, which is probably a good thing, as the rest of the cast fall a bit flat with few exceptions. One of The Wolverine’s flaws is that it lacks a true villain. Sure, there’s a ton bad guys for Wolverine to slice his way through, but without a sole antagonist the villains come across as either horribly shallow or just completely unnecessary.
Such as Svetlana Khodchenkova (don’t ask me how to pronounce that), who plays a mysterious doctor with frightening mutant abilities. Even though her costume design is great, and Khodchenkova plays the role well enough, the character could’ve been cut from the movie entirely and you wouldn’t have missed her one bit. Which is something that can sadly be said for pretty much all the villains.
The two leading ladies, however, fare much better. The aforementioned Yukio (Rila Fukushima) has some real chemistry with Logan on-screen, and with a truly fascinating backstory and knack for awesome fight scenes, it’s too bad she wasn’t given even more screen-time, as I loved almost every scene she was in.
Mariko (Tao Okamoto) the girl Logan dedicates himself to protecting, gets even more screen-time than Yukio but isn’t quite as interesting. While she’s both beautiful and intriguing in her own way, she’s resigned to more of a love-interest for Logan and once again, it’s too bad she wasn’t used to her full potential, as she could’ve been even better than she was.
But once again, this is a movie about the Wolverine, and in that way, it succeeds. As I said before, this movie gives us a glimpse of who, or what, Logan would be if he was faced with mortality, and the results are pretty great. This is a man who’s haunted by his very existence, and seeing him reclaim himself throughout the movie is really something.
This is still an action movie however, and thankfully it delivers on that front as well. Seeing Wolverine fight ninjas and Yakuza with his claws is awesome, and there are some really stand-out set-pieces here that are just fun to watch, especially since Wolverine’s claws look the best they’ve ever been. However, a part of me does wish we would have the chance to see Wolverine really go berserk with his claws.
To be honest, I was really enjoying this movie almost all the way through. The action was evenly paced, Wolverine’s characterization was great and his chemistry with the two leading ladies was really fun. However, as things neared the climax, it all started to fall apart. Instead of sticking with the more subtle nature of the rest of the movie, the climax throws so much at you that is just becomes silly.
In fact, the climax is so ridiculously over-the-top that you’d almost think it’s for a different movie. It’s so explosive and larger than life that it very nearly throws all the good that came before right out the window. And this is where my biggest complaint lies: The Wolverine just didn’t know how to end itself.
It’s a real shame too, because I was enjoying the movie so much up until the ending, and while it didn’t ruin the experience for me, I did walk away with a slightly sour taste in my mouth. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a movie end so poorly, especially one that seemed to have been doing so many things right.
Thankfully, however, the after-credits scene was so perfectly put together that for just a moment I forgot entirely about the hokey climax. Fox finally got themselves together here, and I highly recommend you stay through the first half of the credits so you can see a very special Easter egg that actually teases X-Men: Days of Future Past! Trust me, the five-minute scene is almost better than the entire movie.
All things considered, The Wolverine is a fun movie that demonstrates the proper way to create a spin-off movie, and then nearly ruin it with a lame ending. It’s not the Wolverine movie we’ve always wanted, but it is better than X-Men Origins ever could’ve been, and that, at the very least, means it’s worth a watch.
Just set your expectations accordingly, because there’s a lot to love here if you’re willing to look past the flaws.