Another year of blockbuster comic book films, “The Wolverine,” released Jul. 26, follows “Iron Man 3” and “Man of Steel” to entertain mass audiences. “The Wolverine” does replace the bad taste in viewers’ mouths left from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” though it still doesn’t measure up to the “X-Men” films directed by Bryan Singer or “X-Men: First Class” from two years ago.
After the deaths of Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) in Brett Ratner’s atrocious “X-Men: The Last Stand,” Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) has returned to being a loner seeking peace in the north. Yukio (Rila Fukushima) seeks him out to reunite him with Yashida (Haruhiko “Hal” Yamanouchi), the man he saved during the bombing of Nagasaki. Yashida offers to give Logan a mortal life so that he may find peace, but twisted loyalties and schemes in the house of Yashida complicate matters. Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is in danger from the Yakuza, Yashida’s doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is cold-blooded, and Yashida’s son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) is crazy with obsession. Also, Mariko is engaged to politician Noburo (Brian Tee) but had a romance with Harada (Will Yun Lee), who is loyal to her grandfather and still loves Mariko.
The plot deals with loyalty and masters; Wolverine is called a ronin, or a samurai without a master, so he is the only one capable of taking an unbiased perspective on the connections between the other characters. He is solely motivated by protecting Mariko, proving he is not the monster he pretends to be. However, the plot and loyalties are all over the place, creating a far too complicated net of deception. Too much is going on in order to create an elaborate and surprising plot to weaken Wolverine, and viewers might get lost. A couple less characters and distractions would help the story tremendously (though it was cool for Viper to shed her skin, she adds nothing to the story).
Director James Mangold (Walk the Line) manages to create a film similar to a comic book storyline; one could imagine reading an “X-Men” comic following Logan on this mission in Japan. Like his “3:10 to Yuma,” Mangold is surprisingly skilled at merging his background in dramatic films with engaging action. Some sequences, including one on top of a train, inspire cheers.
Though there are references to a history with Jean Grey and a teaser scene in the credits leading to “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “The Wolverine” can be watched as a standalone film on the character. You learn what you need to understand the references.
Ultimately, “The Wolverine” grounds Logan by questioning his existence and relationships, but the overcomplicated plot diverges on too many tangents to build a strong foundation. The final confrontation is not as satisfying as the first half of the film. Overall, it’s a fun film, but I like it less and less the more I think about it.
Rating for “The Wolverine:” B-
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“The Wolverine” is playing at over a dozen theaters in Columbus, including Studio 35 and Grandview, but it’s not worth the 3-D. For showtimes, click here.