Try as he may, Hugh Jackman can’t escape the role that first propelled him to stardom. Jackman has appeared as the character of Logan/Wolverine in all six of the X-Men films (he only had a cameo in X-Men First Class) and he’s poised to play a major role in next summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, as well. However, it’s this film and this particular story, based on the popular 1982 limited series from written by Chris Claremont, with art by Frank Miller and Joe Rubinstein, which Jackman has wanted to make since he did research on the character for the very first X-Men film. This adaptation should please any fan of Wolverine, and its worldwide success this summer almost guarantees that a sequel will be made.
The Wolverine opens during the final days of World War II. At a Japanese POW camp, Logan is imprisoned in a deep well with a hatch. The camp is located near Nagasaki and as a B-29 bomber approaches, we all know what’s about to happen. Logan saves Yashida, a kind-hearted officer, from the rolling destruction of the atomic bomb and gives the man a second chance on life.
From there, the story jumps ahead to the 21st Century, picking up after the events in X-Men: The Last Stand. Logan is in mourning over the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen — who appears throughout The Wolverine), the powerful telekinetic mutant who nearly brought down the human race. Although he loved her, Logan had to kill Jean in order to preserve life as we know it. Now he’s living as a hermit in the Yukon, avoiding run-ins with society except to buy supplies and bring renegade hunters to justice.
Logan is sought out by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a Japanese mutant with precognitive powers who’s also a deadly assassin. She informs Logan that Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) is old and dying old man and he wishes to say goodbye to the man who once saved his life. Reluctantly, Logan agrees to accompany her to Japan to grant Yashida his last wish. The moment he steps off the plane, Logan gets sucked into a conspiracy to murder Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who is set to inherit his vast business empire soon after her grandfather passes.
Fans of the comic book Wolverine will recognize Mariko as the love of Logan’s life, a woman he almost marries. This film never fully establishes the emotional connection Logan and Mariko have in the comics. Instead, she acts as someone who helps Logan let go of Jean Grey and remain in the world of the living. Yeah, she’s basically his rebound.
As the action picks up, Logan suffers the loss of his mutant healing power, must face off against the mutant villain, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), and has an epic final battle with the Silver Samurai.
There are many reasons to enjoy The Wolverine. Jackman is great, once again. When he decides it’s time to stop being the world’s favorite mutant, some poor actor is going to have large shoes to fill. Fukushima is a nice addition to the large cast of actors in these X-Men films. Playing the perfect sidekick to Jackman’s tough guy, she’s tough, funny, and can handle a choreographed fight scene with the best of them. If another Wolverine film gets made (I hear one is already in the works), I hope that she’s along for the ride.
Director James Mangold does an excellent job handling the action, while leaving room for romance and intrigue to blossom. I especially appreciated that he incorporated much of the Japanese culture and used subtitles for great lengths of the film. It’s always annoying when a film takes place in a foreign land and for some reason the only language spoken is English. The Wolverine isn’t perfect. It’s biggest offense is that it drags in some spots, but that may be because this is the extended cut of the film. Nevertheless, The Wolverine is a fine addition to the X-Men film universe. It’s probably the third best of the six films and gets me excited for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. The Wolverine has an epilogue set two years in the future that acts as a prologue to that upcoming movie.
The Blu-ray release of The Wolverine is not out until December 3. However, this extended cut of the film is currently available to purchase as a digital download through iTunes and Amazon. If you’re looking for good action/adventure escapism during the long holiday weekend, this may be the film for you.