“The Wolverine” has the special honor of being technically the sequel to two hated films in the X-Men universe, “”X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” With that in mind, the lack of marketing up until the last few months and the unsure vibe I was getting from the trailers, I didn’t know what to expect from Logan’s foray into Japan.
Adapted from one of the most loved story-lines involving Wolverine, the film sees Logan go to Japan to say goodbye to someone from his past, not realizing the danger awaiting him. Between the Yakuza gang hunting down a Japanese heiress, his own new found vulnerability and fighting his demons involving the deceased Jean Grey, Logan has to find a new strength inside himself.
Where superhero films are expected to go big, James Mangold went brilliantly small. By confining Logan to Japan and letting him stand on his own rather than as a team, Mangold gives Logan the biggest character progression than in the last five movies combined. Being as close to mortal as he’s ever been and finding a new purpose in life in the heiress Mariko, Wolverine is able to move past his guilt and realize that eternity is worth it when there is something worth living for.
Fans of the Silver Samurai may be surprised by this take on the character. Where many films in this genre lay the villain out plainly before the hero, here that is not the case. The Silver Samurai isn’t so much a villain as a victim of his situation, and the inclusion of Viper is still frankly puzzling to the entire chain of events.
The effects here are just as crazy as one would expect, the wildest being the fight atop a speeding bullet train. Wolverine and agents of the Yakuza fly around the top of the train as it weaves through Tokyo, with Wolverine dispatching them utilizing the trains speed rather than a claw through the gut.
The film leaves the hero in an interesting place. His healing power restored, he is still damaged by his time in Japan, although I can see that being rectified in 2014’s “Days of Future Past,” which is tied in neatly via a mid-credit scene that will blow your mind. Expect a post discussing this as well.
I’m also giving ‘The Wolverine” an A. It takes the expectation of the genre and tips it on the head with a character-focused approach that rewards the viewer at the end. The movie is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action, some sexuality and language.