Movie Review: "The Wolverine"
Rating: PG-13 (sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language)
Length: 126 minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2013
Directed by: James Mangold
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
Logan (Hugh Jackman) is an X-Men mutant who is dealing with the emotional fallout of former flame Jean Grey's (Famke Janssen) death at the end of "X-Men: The Last Stand." This is just one of many demons for Logan, who has claws made out of indestructible adamantium that spring forth from his hand to turn him into the fighting machine known as "The Wolverine." One of the other demons he is haunted by is his immortality, which has forced him to live a long life with several big regrets. His mutated body can heal itself, forcing him to mourn Jean and all his other losses for eternity.
One day Logan is visited by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who claims to work for Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), a man Logan saved from killing himself during World War II. Yashida is on his deathbed but wishes to reward Logan for saving his life by giving him an antidote for the mutated gene inside him that heals his wounds. This would essentially make Logan mortal, so it doesn't take him long to agree to go to Japan with Yukio to take the antidote.
Once in Japan, Logan quickly gets bogged down in family drama after Yashida dies and leaves his considerable fortune to daughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Mariko is a young beauty who doesn't see Logan as a mutant but rather as a fascinating man whom she quickly falls for. Logan feels the same way about her, but before he can concentrate on romance, several ninjas and members of the Yakuza come after Mariko to try to steal her new fortune. To make matters worse, fellow mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) shows up, spitting poison and taking names. With his animal instincts and regenerative power now gone, Logan must fight as a mortal or get back his powers in order to save both Mariko's and his lives.
One of the most exciting things about the Wolverine, other than his claws, is the fact that he can heal himself. When that is taken away from him and he suddenly becomes mortal, the intrigue factor of "The Wolverine" is turned up a couple of notches. Though previous X-Men movies have focused on the desire of some mutants to be normal, none of their desires was quite as strong as that of Logan, who seems to trudge from day to day under the heavy weight of several lifetimes. Many comic book characters, such as Batman, seem to labor under a cloud of angst in superhero movies these days, but none of them has lived nearly as long or had to make nearly as many tough choices as Logan has. "The Wolverine" reintroduces the audience to the more human side of Logan, giving him almost as much screen time as the Wolverine in order to develop his character and let viewers see why he is so willing to give up his mortality.
The film is based on a famous Wolverine arc in the Marvel comic books that dates back to 1982. The arc was written by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, who wished to take Logan out of his usual surroundings and into somewhere foreign. The arc was a resounding success, as fans of the X-Man applauded the character building and mythology that was erected during this famous storyline. Screenwriters Mark Bomback and Scott Frank stayed mostly faithful to the storyline, which will please comic book purists who prefer for the movies not to stray too far from the original comic stories. Director James Mangold does a great job of framing Logan in his new surroundings and putting the beauty of Japan in the backdrop.
This is Jackman's sixth outing as the rebellious Logan/Wolverine, so audiences might have cut him some slack if he seemed a little fatigued in the role. Thankfully, Jackman actually looks reenergized, as if he is ready to tackle the part again in next year's "X-Men: Days of Future Past." Before he becomes a part of an ensemble again, it is nice to see Wolverine by himself, since his is arguably the most intriguing of all the X-Men. This particular storyline, the Japanese setting, and a refreshed Jackman combine to make "The Wolverine" a standout in a summer full of superhero and fantasy films. It may not have as many one-liners as "Iron Man 3" or the anticipation of "Man of Steel," but it has a lot of other things going for it. It is a perfect blend of action, mythology, and character building that breathes new life into the franchise and sets the stage for a new X-Men movie.