Why couldn’t we have sent Aquaman to Japan instead?

Following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine (Logan) travels to modern day Japan, and after reconnecting with a past acquaintance, gets caught up in a war that could change him forever. Finding himself no longer immortal, he must contend with Samurai, a new mutant or two, and even his own inner demons in his toughest battle yet. Let’s face it — the only real requirement that had to be met was to be better than 2009’s disappointing Origins. But, even Wolverine’s seconds-long cameo in X-Men: First Class outshone anything in that film.

This movie attempts to give us a darker, more involved storyline, and pile on the character development that we know a character like Wolverine requires. But, seeing that this is a summer action movie about a man with claws, who is prone to fits of uncontrollable rage, does it provide enough opportunities for Wolvie to shred bad guys to pieces (in a strictly PG-13 fashion)?

The Wolverine
James Mangold
Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee
Release Date
25 July, 2013
Influx Grade: B

As for the storyline, the creators were wise to call upon the 1982 comic series Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. The Japanese setting provides a very interesting new backdrop for Wolverine to find himself. The cultural elements all feel quite authentic as the creators did their homework (a presumption I am forced to make, because I did not do mine). There is even a pretty clever Akira Kurosawa reference that will be fun for viewers to spot. Additionally, Jackman and the writers, more so than previous outings, are able to make us get inside the head of a man who must constantly deal with the fact that, due to his immortality, everyone he will ever know will die before he does. Cleverly, they play with this notion as Logan finds himself, for a time, stripped of said immortality. When he fights, the danger is now physical, not just emotional. Fortunately, amid the soul-searching, Jackman is able to remind us that he’s also quite adept at delivering a good one-liner, providing some needed levity.

The action that we do get, is worth the wait. In particular, there is a massive fight scene on the roof of a bullet train, that makes the similar scene in The Lone Ranger look like a mere skirmish. It’s rather thrilling, with some spectacular stunt work, and a few bits of humor thrown in for good measure. Another well done set piece finds The Wolverine continuing this summer’s tradition of fighting robots, started by Pacific Rim and Iron Man 3 (yep, I know Iron Man isn’t about robots, but at face value, it has a similar feel).

Another interesting and ambitious task that director James Mangold and his writers (Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, with touch-up work by Christopher McQuarrie) take on is the continuity of how this film fits into the X-Men universe. While it could have been completely ignored, especially considering that this serves as a stand-alone story, there are some rather clever efforts made to create ties to the other films. Considering how wild this franchise has been (Origins and The Wolverine are bookends to the original trilogy and First Class ignores many of the events of the third film altogether), the touches that they put in to bring the various endings together are admirable, if not entirely successful.

A bit of a letdown comes in the form of the character of Viper, a mutant played by Svetlana Khodchenkova and one of the villains of the piece. There’s nothing wrong with her performance itself, but it feels a bit too over-the-top and cartoony for the tone that the rest of the movie works hard to establish. She would have been right at home in Origins, however.

Jason’s Final Thoughts

Less a true summer blockbuster than a character study, with some amazing set pieces, The Wolverine is a movie that is a bit at odds with itself. The first 2/3 moves between two wildly different tones, and the final act goes into a silly, but still exciting, direction with its “final-boss” battle. Overall, however, this is Hugh Jackman’s best take on the character and we’re given some much needed character development, and some over-the-top action, to boot.

Review by Jason Howard, special to Influx Magazine

Follow Jason on twitter @Jason_Influx

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