Comparing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” to “The Wolverine” is like comparing apples to oranges. They are both about Marvel’s burly and animalistic Wolverine, but they could not be any more different. Origins seemed to explore a bit of Wolvie’s past under the framework of the prior X-Men movies (i.e. familiar characters, settings, and themes), but unfortunately it didn’t hit home like the prior X-Men films. The writing fell flat, because 20th Century Fox took odd twists and turns with fan favorites like Gambit and Deadpool and then never expanded on them in future films like they promised. Instead of bridging Wolverine’s backstory to the acclaimed X-Men trilogy, Fox ended up widening the gap.
However, “The Wolverine,” takes an entirely different approach to the eponymous character. Audiences get to see the Adamantium and claws stripped away in a more emotionally driven film. Wolverine is facing an existential crisis. Following the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand” filmgoers get to see the Wolverine battle is own mortality, or rather near-immortality, during a series of dream sequences centering-around Jean Grey, which is reprised by award-winning Dutch actor, Famke Janssen. This creates a great underlying plot, and immediately sets “The Wolverine” apart from the other X-Men films.
Surprisingly enough, “The Wolverine” closely follows the original comic book volume of Wolverine, Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s four-part miniseries, that set the tone and standard for Wolverine and his story arcs. Even though the film is set after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” instead of “X-Men Origins,” “The Wolverine” accurately showcases the events of the 1982 comic book series. Slight changes have been made to modernize and fit the screenplay into the continuity of the X-Men franchise but on the whole I was incredibly surprised by the amount of source material represented in the movie.
Following the conclusion of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” in which Jean Grey (aka the Phoenix) is killed by Wolverine in order to stop her from committing genocide, Wolverine once again takes to the Canadian Rockies. Living as an animal, Logan only ever comes down from the mountains to garnish what little supplies that he needs. After a particularly unjust hunting party pulls Wolverine from his introspection and a mysterious Japanese woman shows up to escort Logan to her adoptive grandfather, the films gains traction. The remainder of “The Wolverine” takes place in Japan with an almost all Japanese cast, and focuses on Wolverine’s relationship to a (now) elderly Japanese man who Logan saved during the closing days of World War II after the atomic drop over Nagasaki.
Rivals emerge and mutants aid both sides, but at its heart “The Wolverine” is primarily focused on Wolverine. It discusses his mental state after killing Jean, his own mortality as he confronts an old acquaintance, and ultimately his place in an ever shifting world. Hugh Jackman portrays the character perfectly. He is, for lack of a better phrase, the only actor that could ever play Wolverine. He is the best he is at what he does.
Aside from the phenomenal adaptation and Jackman’s performance, the action sequences are tight and the revelations are legitimately surprising. There are only a handful of lines that came off forced or cheesy, but they can be forgiven considering the overall quality of the film. The pacing is so smooth and cyclical, that I personally had difficulties telling where the climax of the film landed; this left me without a frame of reference. Usually I can tell when the conclusion is eminent, but this time around I had difficulties nailing it down. I think that this is a byproduct of closely adapting a mini-series into a film. It felt more like a series of mini-climaxes akin to the conclusion of four separate issues culminating in the finale of a series. Regardless, the flow was appropriate and I never felt that the film hung in exposition or action for too long. It had great balance.
This is a solid superhero film that pays homage to its source material better than most and keeps with the character’s integrity after nearly fifteen years. Cheers to Hugh Jackman and the whole crew for “The Wolverine.” “The Wolverine” garnishes four-out-of-five stars.
Also, do not forget to stick around for the after the credits scene. It ties wonderfully into “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which is slated to release May of 2014. Its got surprises a plenty and if it doesn’t get you excited for the next X-Men film then I’m not sure what would.