The most recent super hero movie, “The Wolverine,” which was released yesterday, July 26, 2013, picks up where “X-Men: The Last Stand” left off, with the semi-immortal mutant Logan (Hugh Jackman) struggling to deal with the loss of his love interest Jean Grey (Famke Jansenn). Logan has apparently spent a great deal of time keeping to himself in the Canadian wilderness and has abandoned his Wolverine alter-ego in an attempt to distance himself from the monster that killed Grey.
Things change rapidly when Logan is discovered by a mysterious pink-haired woman named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who informs him that her extremely wealthy employer Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), who Logan saved in WWII is on his deathbed and wishes to thank Logan for saving his life. Logan eventually agrees to Yukio’s request and flies to Tokyo to say goodbye to his old acquaintance. However, there is a lot more to Yashida and his life than Logan anticipated, and he is rapidly sucked into a complicated and dangerous struggle with some of the most powerful and terrifying members of Japanese society.
For the most part “The Wolverine” does a great job keeping the deep themes of the film from getting lost in the inevitable mindless action sequences. Unlike the disastrous previous attempt to create a Wolverine spin-off, this film cautiously avoids using too many mutants and keeps its cast list relatively short.
The main focus of the film is unquestionably on Logan’s personal, internal struggles. Following the current trend of humanizing super heroes, director James Mangold (“Girl,” “3:10 to Yuma,” and “Knight and Day”) works to depict Logan as a complicated, relatable man with superhuman abilities.
Unfortunately, at times the emotional themes fail to hit home – by the end of the film Logan’s struggles with his feelings for Jean feel somewhat stale, and he seems to lack chemistry with some of the other characters in the film, which makes the film seem a bit too overreaching.
Furthermore, the focus on the thematic elements of the movie results in a significant decrease in the amount of film time dedicated to action sequences. When the occasional action scenes take place they are frequently disappointing – Logan heals far too fast for the danger to feel real in most instances which makes it difficult for the audience to get immersed in the fights. There are a few great fight sequences, and Logan has some great lines, but it never feels quite like a superhero movie. It’s also worth noting that at times the product placement for Audi’s 2014 R8 V10 Spyder is a bit overwhelming. Although the car looks absolutely spectacular as it races through the winding roads of Japan’s mountainside, Logan is forgotten for a few moments while viewers watch the car glide over the road.
When Logan isn’t being driven around in the beautiful new Audi, he looks to be in the best shape of his career and he proves once again that he is Wolverine, the supporting cast is weak. The most prominent supporting cast member, Yukio, is a talented and well-rounded “sidekick” who holds her own on screen, but her character wasn’t developed well enough for Logan to have a powerful relationship with her – especially considering his strong connection with the X-Men. Furthermore, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) – Yashida’s grand-daughter – plays an archetypal damsel-in-distress role, but she lacks chemistry with Jackman, which at times makes it feel like she’s really not worth saving. The cast is littered with other side characters that aren’t quite strong enough to do much more than advance the story line.
Moreover, Svetlana Khodchenkova fails to play Viper in a believable fashion and is far better at being an attractive distraction than she is at acting her part. Her poor performance highlights many of the minor potholes in the story and ends up holding the entire film back.
Overall, “The Wolverine” can be praised for its thematic strength and its attempted development of Logan/Wolverine as a character, but it falls short in too many places to make it seem like Wolverine will be the next big superhero.
That being said, for those interested in viewing the film it is important to note that the 3D was done in post-conversion and does not add anything to the viewing experience. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, there is a scene after the credits that is an absolute must see. The scene takes place only a few minutes after the credits begin rolling, so the wait isn’t too strenuous and the scene is one of the best bonus scenes in recent memory.