Let’s just start with the fact that Hugh Jackman is always very good as everyone’s favorite mutant. The part of Wolverine would seem to be pretty easy to play: feel tortured, sound gruff, act feral. Maybe it is but Jackman manages to make the mundane look interesting. It is that ability that serves him extremely well in Weapon X’s second solo feature.
Based largely on the 1982 “Wolverine” series by Chris Claremont (the man responsible for most of the X-Men’s greatest storylines) and Frank Miller, Wolverine is recruited by a skilled mutant named Yukio, whose employer is a man he rescued seventy years prior, Master Yashida. Yashida is dying and hopes that, with the help of his “oncologist” that Logan’s healing factor can be transferred to him. While both men acknowledge that immortality is a curse, Logan refuses.
Yashida’s death leads to power struggle for his company, the largest in all of Asia. His granddaughter, Mariko is in line to inherit the reins which rankles her father, Shingen. The Yakuza tries to kidnap Mariko but Wolverine is there to thwart them, though he is severely wounded during the attack. An earlier encounter with Yashida’s doctor has left him vulnerable.
What really helps this movie is Logan’s willingness to defend Mariko despite not being his nearly unharmable self. The notion that he is a “samurai without a master” works. He is a man searching for meaning and redemption. He seems to find them, but at great cost.
This sequel is light years ahead of Wolverine Origins in terms of story and overall quality. The first movie was an exercise in how many cool characters can be wasted in one film. Cramming Blob, Sabretooth, Gambit, and Deadpool in one flick (also rarely sharing screen time) did everyone a disservice. The Wolverine has some of that too, though. The recurring theme of Logan’s guilt over killing Jean Grey in X-Men: Last Stand is understandable and crucial to the character. But Jean (again played by Famke Janssen) lying next to him in his nightmare state was greatly overused. A device that maybe should have been used twice at the most, instead appears five or six times. Her impact is marginalized as a result.
The use of Silver Samurai and Harada were different but clever but the addition of Viper made no sense at all. Her abilities (unique to the film) were cheesy and silly. She really had no business in the story as we really don’t get a clear sense as to what her motivations are. There is no mention of her HYDRA organization, so it stands to reason that it doesn’t exist, at least yet. She was unnecessary.
The movie as a whole trudges along and is mildly entertaining. There are fight scenes where it is hard to see what is really happening. The third act is very strong, however, as we see Wolverine in real and plausible jeopardy. The most satisfying part is that this is a definite continuation of the Bryan Singer films (and that one by [sigh] Brett Ratner) and director James Mangold does a good job of folding it in as well as having the post credit sequence to lead right into the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past. The first shoe on Fox’s answer to Marvel Studios’ film universe just dropped. Can’t wait to see the next step.