Director: James Mangold
Writers: Mark Bomback (screenplay), Scott Frank(screenplay)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Tao Okamoto
I was pretty confident back in 2012 that they would finally nail a perfect portrayal of arguably the most famous of the X-Men after the disaster that was the Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) with James Mangold in the Directorial Chair this time was a good sign and the fact that this movie wouldn’t over emphasise and indulge in the X-Men Universe and have Logan fighting in Japan against Samurai Warriors excited us as filmgoers alike.
“The Wolverine” was released in between “First Class” and “Days of Future Past” at a time the jury was out on more X-Men films. Thankfully “First Class” was a success and a small amount of faith was restored that possibly aided the release of this stand alone.
When Logan (The Wolverine) is summoned to Japan by an old Japanese acquaintance named Yashida he saved during World War II, he is embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons.
I’m not sure where this instalment fits into the sequence of events. I can only assume this is many years after X-Men: The Last Stand as Logan is still haunted by the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who appears in his dreams and visions. Logan is now sleeping rough in the wild and only appears into civilisation when he requires supplies. This is when we as the audience learn that he is being watched by Yukio played by Rila Fukushima (Star of the TV series “Arrow”) closely and finally intervenes when Logan confronts a hunter in the local bar who illegally used poison darts to take down a grizzly bear earlier that night.
Fukushima as Yukio shows her abilities very early on in the story and acts as the master of ceremonies throughout the movie and has a ability to vision when a person will face their death. Yukio explains that Yashida who is now an old man would like to thank Logan personally for saving his life all those years ago and has a sword that he has been holding for him for all this time. This sets up the rest of the movie and where it is going. Someone as stubborn as the character Logan easily accepts this invitation which surprised me as the last response “The Wolverine” gave to someone who invited him to join them was the brief cameo in “First Class” where he told Professor X and Magneto where to go (in a more direct and obscene manner you can imagine)
Nevertheless the journey over to Japan by private jet allows Yukio to explain and fill in Logan on what Yashida has been doing since his days as a soldier and his business. These scenes are always necessary for the audience to understand where a character we know nothing about in their first 5 minutes explained quickly and never bog us down with too much exposition.
Finally Logan meets Yashida and learns he is gravely ill and we the audience begin to suspect that Logan isn’t just over in Japan to accept gratitude and a sword for his troubles. Yashida has a proposition for “The Wolverine” that he may or may not have a choice in. It is during this part of the movie we learn that Yashida has a son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) who he is disappointed in and a granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) he is proud of and decides to leave everything to which angers his son Shingen.
It is at the point apart from the opening where most of the characters really are just introducing themselves and going through the motions. In fact it isn’t until (spoiler alert) the passing of Yashida that things begin to kick off. Mariko is being pursued, Logan is trying to follow her and protect her and it’s during the bullet train sequences things begin to hot up. Particularly Logan’s fighting sequences with the movies henchmen on top of the speeding train that I found the best part of the movie. This is full credit to the director of photography Ross Emery and just as important the film editing by Michael McCusker. The special effects team must have spent a lot of time working on this sequence as although in reality it will be green screened it isn’t distracting and feels like they are up there fighting at high speeds. Also the logistical aspects of the fighting choreography has to be taken into account and be congratulated.
There are also what can only be said to be future echoes in what we the audience and fans of “The Wolverine” have to accept and expect in Logan (2017) that the character can be vulnerable and is beginning to slow down and age. In this movie it is through being infected (although it appeared to be a dream sequence that turns out to be real) by “Viper” a poisonous mutant played by Svetlana Khodchenkova that Logan is slowly dying and is taking longer than usual to heal from his injuries. It is surprisingly to see first time around a Wolverine that is suffering. Logan must find away to recover from the poison and I won’t spoil how this happens but I will say Yukio has a rather graphic vision of this.
The final third of the movie reveals a few twists and turns and the end fighting sequences are in classic x-men fashion. Overall “The Wolverine” is a decent movie. It is certainly better than 2009 origins story in structure, storytelling and acting. It was refreshing to take the “fish out of water” approach with the character and Jackman never lets you down with his delivering wit and his devotion to the character. They perhaps could have left out the Jean Grey parts of the film as they only reminded us of “The Last Stand” and at this point we never knew what “Days of Future Past” had in store for us. I would recommend this to anyone who hasn’t seen it if you enjoy action films and although it is a slow start to the movie it soon picks up and is explosive. Hang around for the mid end credit scene set 2 years after the events of this movie. They are Wow…just Wow.