Hugh Jackman is back with the latest in the X-Men franchise and the second of his stand alone films. Surely it has to be better the abysmal X-Men Origins: Wolverine? As it really can’t get much worse.
The Wolverine starts with our hero isolated and alone with only his dreams about his dead love Jean for company. Then he is approached by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a mutant girl who can forsee people’s deaths. Logan once saved her employer Yashida’s life many years ago and wants to thank him on his death bed. Once in Japan Logan finds that Yashida wants to do more than thank him as he offers to take away Logan’s immortality and live a normal life. Things get more complicated when mysterious men try to kidnap Yahida’s grandaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and her and Logan end up on the run.
First things first. Yes this movie is so much better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The story is base on the comic mini series Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller and the change of location to Japan helps rejuvinate the Wolverine. Logan is placed in a country where he relearns about respect and honour and finds his purpose again.
The Wolverine is more of a personal stand alone story. There is some references to Jean Grey and other parts of the X-Men franchise but rather than the mutant overload in Origins, Wolverine himself is the main focus of this story and doesn’t get overwhelmed by a mix of new characters.
Some audiences may want a bit less brooding and personal discovery and more action but I think this film does a good balance. There is a great chase scene through Japan’s streets and nail biting sequence on top of a train. It helps that this film feels like there is something at stake here. Logan has been made vulnerable due to Viper’s meddling so there is a sense of threat that hasn’t been there before, every wound he gets will slow him down which could have fatal consequences.
The supporting characters also feel like they have more of a purpose this time around. Rather than shoehorning in lots of characters from the X-Men comics the film is more selective. The female characters in this film are great. Mariko initally comes off rather passive and dull but she improves as the film continues and even kicks some ass as well. She also makes a good counterpoint to Logan. She is reserved and calm where Logan is full of anger and passion. She serves as a reminder that there are other things to live for in this world and of the good Logan can still do. Even better is Yukio, who manages to be a badass and be the fun sidekick to Logan’s surly hero. She also brings an emotional edge as her power is to forsee other people’s deaths.
Svetlana Khodchenkova as Villianess Viper is campy and fun, with a bit of a grusome body hrror when she starts peeling off her own skin. Although I liked Will Yun Lee as Kenuichio Harada, an old friend of Mariko and deadly with an arrow I felt he was underused and his character not explored enough.
Considering it is so much better than Origins it would be easy to forget the film’s downsides but they can’t be forgotten. First off it’s eays to figure out who the villians are. The main twists of the film can also be worked out pretty quickly. Although the film’s climatic scenes are good they also go a bit over the top and jar a bit with the rest of the film.
However while it may not reach the heights of Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel, it is still a fun blockbuster with a great performance by Jackman. Japan seems to suit the Wolverine well so lets hope he manages to make more visits back East.
Rating 3.5/5-A vast improvement on Origins, which is all I could have hoped for.