The Wolverine starring Hugh Jackman (Logan / Wolverine) Tao Okamoto (Mariko Yashida) Rila Fukushima (Yukio) Will Yun Lee (Kenuichio Harada) Famke Janssen (Jean Grey) dir. James Mangold – 126 mins
Following up from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables, Swordfish, The Prestige) once more becomes Wolverine in his second solo outing (Jackman has previously played Logan in X-Men, X-2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class and the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past) in The Wolverine. Taking inspiration from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s Wolverine adventure set in Japan this particular story arc of Logan is often considered one of the most favourable and successful, thus many fans were hopeful of an accurate and exciting transfer to the big screen.
We find Wolverine living alone in the Canadian woods dealing with the end events of X-Men: The Last Stand (spoiler alert! – Wolverine was forced to kill Jean Grey (Janssen – Taken, Goldeneye, Hide and Seek) after she evolved into the Phoenix) After an angry confrontation with some local hunters Wolverine is sought out by Yukio (Fukushima) who represents an old friend of Logan’s who wants to say goodbye before he dies. Wolverine reluctantly agrees and is introduced to Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi – Push, The Way Back, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) who is much aged since their last meeting. Yashida offers Logan an opportunity to become vulnerable and to be able to die – something that Wolverine seems to be striving for. Logan rejects the offer and plans to leave, but once Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Okamoto) is targeted by the Yakuza (the Japanese mob) Wolverine dusts the adamantium claws off.
Many people may have been put off from seeing The Wolverine due to the poor reception met by X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was genuinely considered to have been overloaded with characters that were misused and drifted too far away from the comic book story. Thankfully this is not the same situation with The Wolverine. There are slight alterations from the Claremont / Miller collaboration, for example in the movie Yukio is portrayed as a mutant who has the ability to see people’s deaths. This was not true of her character in the comics as in these she was a ninja, but also human. The reason for the change is to create a plot twist, which is unfortunately rather predictable, but despite these alterations they still work within the piece as a whole. For the avid comic book readers there are certainly other characters’ names that will be familiar like Harada (Yun Lee – Hawaii Five-0,Total Recall (2012), Elektra) and Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova – Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy), but these are not the only references. Janssen reprises her role as Jean Grey playing a conscience to Wolverine in his dreams, a Mission: Impossible style train ride leads to Wolverine bringing out an iconic move (with his claws stretched out in front of him he launches himself like a missile) and the use of the term ‘Bub’ is also very classic Wolverine.
Unfortunately there are a few recurring things that perhaps would have been better being left out. Jackman’s cameo as Wolverine in X-Men: First Class was memorable for his one line of dialogue. Whether Mangold’s idea was to turn this into a catchphrase or not, but its recurrence in The Wolverine certainly suggests that’s the intention. Whether “Go fuck yourself” is appropriate for Wolverine or a line that will be applicable in future films is yet to be seen. Hopefully we won’t be forced to endure a John McClane (Bruce Willis – Pulp Fiction, R.E.D., Armageddon) censorship as was first witnessed in Die Hard 4.0 – Live Free or Die Hard (McClane’s iconic line “Yippee Ki Yay Mother Fucker” was changed to “Yippee Ki Yay” and then a huge explosion to prevent the swear word being used.) If this line continues then it would not be a surprise to hear Wolverine utter “Go F yourself” somewhere down the line.
The inclusion of the line and some of Logan’s other choice of words give Wolverine a more grown up feel to previous versions. There is an element of bloodlust to Wolverine on this particular outing, primarily because of Logan’s progress of trying to find himself and thus becomes more in tune with his animalistic side. We see Wolverine willing to kill without concern – particularly a scene involving a high rise building and a swimming pool – but despite this no matter how many times we see Logan’s adamantium blades slice through flesh and muscle we see no blood, no limb severing and no certainly no anguished death scenes. It seems that Mangold wanted to make something a bit more mature, but wanted to keep the age certificate as low as he could to attract the biggest possible audience.
One thing that hasn’t changed for Logan is the control women have over him. For a character that is supposedly wild and filled with anger he also has a lot of love for other people, particularly women. In X-Men: The Last Stand it was Jean Grey, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins – John Carter, The Number 23, The Lake House) originally held the torch of his affections and now in Japan Mariko has taken that role. The relationship between the two works well as it begins as Wolverine wanting to help an old friend, but develops through this. This change in dynamics is somewhat predictable and this is not the only thing. As mentioned earlier Yuriko’s character is slightly adapted from her comic book persona to create a plot twist, but this really does not come at a surprise when events play out. This is also somewhat true of the final confrontation, but that doesn’t mean that Logan’s journey is not an enjoyable one.
The setting works very well, particularly the way that the modern day Japanese setting still maintains the history and mythology of old Japanese customs. This particularly reflects in the scene where Wolverine tackles a well trained samurai in a traditional Japanese garden. The plot also has some nice symbolism with Wolverine finding a poisoned bear and being forced to put it out of its misery. Logan’s journey takes a very similar route with him being unlike his usual self for a majority of the movie.
Character = 8 – There is a reason that Hugh Jackman has reprised his role of Wolverine so often and this is because he is ideal in the role. Other characters work very well, despite their lack of acting background, but there are a few tweaks from the comics that will annoy a few.
Plot = 6 – Wolverine’s quest to find himself or death is different from previous iterations, but his struggle with post traumatic stress disorder is a questionable disorder for someone with Wolverine’s life experience and also is very similar to Iron Man 3 and Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jnr. – Sherlock Holmes, Zodiac, Tropic Thunder) struggle to cope following Avengers Assemble.
Script = 7.5 – Despite the inclusion of the ‘new catchphrase’ the dialogue is very much typical of Wolverine. There are strange moments when two Japanese characters speak together in their native tongue, but then another two talk in English it is a bit peculiar. Whether the Japanese translates correctly is not for me to say, but the dialogue fits in with the rest of the piece.
Visual = 7.5 – The fight scenes look very good with the train scene and funeral locations looking very impressive. Unfortunately with the lack of damage from the blades it is hard not to see it as anything more than a comic book movie.
The Wolverine is a welcome return from Hugh Jackman in his most identifiable role and it still seems to capture the essence of the Marvel comic book favourite. It is certainly more entertaining than Wolverine’s previous solo adventure and with a mid credit scene (which is somewhat predictable, but hugely exciting nevertheless) we can definitely expect to see more of the Wolverine in upcoming release X-Men: Days of Future Past. The Japanese setting puts Wolverine into a location that he is somewhat out of his depth and this adds new threats to the character, but because of this it may be difficult for viewers who are unfamiliar with Logan to get as much excitement as other comic book fans might.
Overall = 7 / 10