The “X-Men” film franchise is a puzzling one. It’s hard to imagine why a series based on such a popular comic book hasn’t been more successful, say on the level of Marvel’s other heroes, like Spider-man and the Avengers. Moreover, it’s strange that no one has been able to make a compelling film based on any of these very compelling characters, particularly Logan, aka the Wolverine. But despite a not-so-well-received prequel to the other “X-Men” films following Wolverine exclusively, they decided to have another go at it, this time with director James Mangold.
Simply titled “The Wolverine”—which was apparently just different enough from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” to work—this film further confuses the X-Men timeline by being set after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand”, which was released a whopping seven years ago. Fortunately, you only need to be able to recall a couple details from that movie to understand what’s going on in this one, namely that Logan (again played by Hugh Jackman) has left the X-Men and is now a recluse, haunted by dreams of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), a fellow mutant whom he loved but was forced to kill.
Then, he is tracked down by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a young Asian woman who is extremely gifted with a blade—and, as it so happens, is also a mutant with the ability to see how a person will die. She has been searching for the Wolverine for over a year on the wishes of wealthy Japanese industrialist Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi). Logan saved Yashida from the bombing of Nagasaki in World War II (for those of you who aren’t up on your X-Men trivia, Logan is immortal and can heal his wounds instantly), and Yashida, who now old and dying, wants to thank him and say good-bye. Logan reluctantly goes, but it turns out that Yashida has something else to offer him: mortality. Logan quickly realizes that there is something strange going on in this family, particularly regarding Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), whose life is being threatened by the mob. And while Logan may not want to get involved, he soon does.
This film is far superior to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”; that much can be said. It’s neat to have it set in Japan against such beautiful landscapes both in the country and city; one of the film’s coolest action scenes is set on top of a Tokyo bullet train speeding along at 300 miles an hour. Rather than battling other mutants (although the evil Viper, played by Svetlana Khodchenkova, does play a significant role in this film), Logan uses his claws to fight ninjas and Samurai warriors—also pretty neat. The film can also be applauded for its strong female Asian characters, something that seems to be sort of a trend this movie season; both Yukio and Mariko are characters with enough depth to carry their roles in the film.
Unfortunately, the same can’t really be said for Logan. Jackman is brilliant in the part, as always. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role who could embody the physical and emotional traits of the character so well. But the script in this film, like many of the other “X-Men” movies, doesn’t do the character justice. One second, he’s a loner, determined to look out only for himself. The next second, he’s determined to protect Mariko. Part of Logan’s struggle with himself is that he wants to be alone, but can’t resist dealing out justice where justice is due; still, it seems a bit against character that he would throw himself into the Yashida family’s affairs so readily.
The script suffers from some other story problems too, namely some confusion as to what many of the characters’ ulterior motives are; some of them don’t even seem to fit into the overall story at all, and their presence is nothing short of a puzzle.
“The Wolverine” is entertaining summer fare, with some great action sequences that are fun to watch, but it’s nothing memorable, like many of its predecessors in the franchise. Do look for the after-credits scene though, which features some good cameos and promises a more epic film in the future. At least, we can only hope.
Runtime: 126 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre
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