As much as I absolutely adore the X-Men characters, particularly Wolverine, I was skeptical when I heard director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma; Girl, Interrupted; Walk the Line) was making another movie called The Wolverine. We die-hard Logan fans already got to enjoy X-Men Origins: The Wolverine back in 2009; isn’t it wrong to beat a dead wolverine?
But Mangold’s most recent production features all the qualities of a great action summer blockbuster with enough loyalty to the sideburn-wearing, motorcycle-riding mutant we know and love to keep devoted followers satisfied.
The movie opens with Logan (Hugh Jackman) breaking the bubble of another one of his hermit phases in order to defend the honor of a wrongfully hunted grizzly bear in a memorable bar fight. Of course, his brief interaction with society exposes him to Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who has been looking for him for over a year. Her employer, Yashida (Hai Yamanouchi) remembers Logan from World War II when Logan helped him survive the Nagasaki bombings. He wants to see Logan before cancer claims his life. So, as much as he hates flying, Logan boards a 15-hour flight to Tokyo.
X-Men fans know that Wolverine possesses the power of rapid regeneration in addition to anadamantium skeleton to make him virtually indestructible. Throughout the movie, Logan struggles with his immortality: Jean Grey (Famke Johnson) haunts his dreams and continually begs him to stay with her. Yashida proposes a method of transferring his immortality from one to another, but Logan refuses. That night, the audience meets Yashida’s cunning mutant doctor, Viper, as she robs Logan of his regenerative ability just as Yashida dies and the Japanese mob makes another attempt on the life of Mariko Yashida (Tao Okamoto). Ever the defender of justice, mortal Logan decides to protectMariko as her family’s complicated drama untangles itself. The Wolverine must ask himself whether he wants to keep his identity as a hero, even now that his life has become all too fragile.
Mangold clearly researched what goes into making the best action films. Though I’m no samurai buff, I definitely appreciated all of the sweet ninja fight scenes with two-handed swords. Everyone knows that superhero movies need at least one fight on top of a moving vehicle, and the high-speed train sequence in The Wolverine doesn’t disappoint. Though it’s a little hard to watch knowing that Logan is now vulnerable — your heart goes out to the guy taking bullets that won’t heal — it’s still highly entertaining for those who don’t know the extensive Wolverine history.
For audience members there for the love of X-Men, the few other mutants satisfy comic-book cravings: Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) has serpentine abilities that protect her from all poisons and give her the ability to inject her own toxins into others. Yukio foresees others’ deaths in her dreams. Though the scope of the movie does not hinge on mutant-human relations, there are several clever one-line references to previous X-Men movies.
For all of its strength as an action flick, The Wolverine stumbles when it tries to be anything more than that. The love story between Logan and one lucky protagonist failed to strike a chord of relevancy and should have been left out. Additionally, it was not lost on me that the villain, Viper, just so happens to be a sexy blonde woman adorned in a metallic green patent leather hip-hugging catsuit who spits poison and is “immune to men.” Really, patriarchy? We get it: that girl is poison. Are you done now? But in my opinion, the number of shirtless and/or tight white tank scenes with Jackman make up for these minor nuisances.
The trailer doesn’t do this film justice: The Wolverine brings much more than a fantastic body to the big screen. Whether you read the comic books as a kid (like yours truly) or just want to enjoy a summer blockbuster, this movie entertains all audiences. The only thing that could make The Wolverine franchise even better is if Hugh Jackman’s character starts appearing in other genres. My fingers are crossed for an updated Les Mis, but this time with Wolverine instead of Jean Valjean.