The Wolverine. When mentioning a solo Wolverine movie, one can’t help but remember the atrocity that was X-Men: Origins Wolverine. Another argument could be made that all of the previous X-Men movies (with the exception of First Class) were in essence movies about Wolverine, but they just happened to have other mutants running around. With that said, this is a movie that very much should be focused on the title character and seemingly would have nowhere to go but up in terms of a movie in it of itself and paying respect to the character.
Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) finds himself lost. Some time has passed since the events of X3, and Wolverine has separated himself from the rest of the X-Men. Any sense of purpose he may once had seems to have been lost. Most ought to recall that in one of the last acts of X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine himself was forced to kill Jean Grey to stop her from eradicating everything. Naturally having to kill the woman that he loved haunts Wolverine to no end, giving him constant reminders / nightmares of Jean (Famke Janssen).
As seen in the trailers for The Wolverine, Logan wanders into a bar looking for trouble in the beginning of the film. Yet before Wolverine can really wreak havoc on some perpetrators, a woman named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) shows up and interrupts the madness – requesting that Wolverine accompany her to Japan. The purpose of the visit being to see Ichiro Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), a man whom Wolverine had previously saved some time ago during his youth. Yashida tells the Wolverine that he has “suffered long enough,” and claims to have found a way to take away Logan’s healing abilities so that he might age like a normal person – stopping his never-ending cycle of losing the ones he loves. The basis for the setting of the Japan is taken from comics, and is ideal for a standalone film.
The first Wolverine flick, Origins didn’t seem to have much in the way of characterization as there was action set piece after action set piece. Granted, in a Wolverine film, one would be very right in expecting action, but the characters didn’t really seem to have much built up. However, in The Wolverine you get a much clearer idea of the motivations of the members of Yashida family including, Ichiro’s son, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), and his granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Mariko is a character from the comics, and without getting too much into how she falls into the scheme of things, she gets enough of the limelight so it’s not just a waste… unlike the use of Gambit in the Origins movie or lack thereof and butchering of character on his part. The trailer also revealed that The Silver Samurai (one of Wolverine’s most notable nemesis) has a role in the film. The specifics of Silver Samurai’s origin are altered for the film, but the showdown is certainly entertaining. There is also the mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) who is very much the femme fatale who lives up to her name. There are enough slower moments to let the characters interact to garner investment, but the pacing seemed to be on one end or another. It may seem like too much of a nitpick, but there are plenty of movies that have a healthy balance between the interactions and the action sequences. There is a scene in particular in which you would think the fighting would go on longer, but it ends in a way I didn’t expect. In it’s own way it made sense to setup the next scene and in essence was making a statement. It can’t be helped that my inner child wanted Wolverine to put down that many more baddies since it seemed like the direction the scene was going to go.
Another common criticism of Origins, were aspects of the special effects. How did they fare in this movie? Definitely a marked improvement over the first Wolverine movie. Though, the first action set piece of the entire film had a bit of CGI that was sketchy, almost to the point of it being blatantly obvious. That’s with viewing The Wolverine one time. It’s an issue that could potentially snowball seeing as how one could assume the rest of the movie could have effects that are not up to par. I can safely say they are improved overall. On visual effects, the claws still look like they could use some tweaking in how they protrude from Wolverine’s hand as to retain authenticity and keep viewer’s suspension of disbelief intact. The claw visual effects were absolutely abysmal in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but even the first X-Men movie had some effects applied in a more reasonable fashion. It’s understandable that making Wolverine’s staple weapon believable looking is a challenge in it of itself. However, it’s been 13 years since the first movie, that should be ample time to get better at it.
All in All, The Wolverine, is a marked improvement over X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman portrays the character well with grimace on his face most of the time and a no-nonsense attitude. While we all know the movie was going to be PG-13 from the get-go, there is a good amount of violence, and a bit more blood than I was expecting. One could only hope for an unrated special director’s cut that lets loose with the detail of the altercations if you will. Too much to ask? I don’t think so. While Orgins was a steaming pile of dog crap, The Wolverine, lands itself in the realm of being GOOD, but not great. One last note: be sure to stay for the first parts of the credits, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
The Wolverine is a B-