The Wolverine provides further evidence that X-Men: First Class was no fluke and that 20th Century Fox’s ownership of the X-Men franchise is indeed back on track after two semi-misfires (The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine). And, judging from the post credits bonus scene (or rather, in this case, mid-credits), there’s plenty more to look forward to in the still-to-come Days of Future Past.
Freed from the first solo film’s onerous task of having to tell Logan’s convoluted origin story, this sequel plumbs the popular anti-hero’s tortured psyche and emerges with introspective gold while also delivering the kind of ballistic, beserker action that fans expect of the character.
Loosely based on the landmark 4-part graphic novel by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine takes place in Japan, a setting that is not only true to the character’s comic book history but also provides a welcome change of scenery. The names of the key players are all the same as in the comic, but the resemblance is mostly superficial. What adapting Claremont’s Japan storyline has allowed the filmmakers to do is, first, provide a believable pretext for Logan to come out of his post-Jean Grey mourning, and, secondly, give him an excuse to face off against legions of yakuza and ninja (and, let’s face it, we’ve all been waiting to see that). Fortunately, the movie goes mercifully light on the fish-out-of-water, clueless-foreigner-in-Japan clichés that have already been overdone in too many other films.
As with Origins, The Wolverine lacks a compelling villain and doesn’t really do justice to either Viper (one of the sexiest villainesses in comics) or the Silver Samurai (in my book, one of the coolest Marvel characters). But that’s quite okay, as it’s clear early on that Logan’s true battle here lies with himself, and this is what makes the film work. We not only come to care about dear ol’ Wolvie again, but a clever plot device also creates a genuine sense of danger and suspense in the action scenes, something that was previously lacking with the character due to his near invulnerability.
Beautiful visual work by Iranian cinematographer Amir Mokri (also responsible for the washed out, “realistic” look in Man of Steel), and solid acting from the mostly Japanese cast round out this highly entertaining, and occasionally even moving, entry in the rejuvenated X-Men film series.
Rila Fukushima, a Japanese model with an idiosyncratic appearance and first-time actress, proves naysaying fans (who have called her “ugly”) wrong as she nails a delightfully badass yet also vulnerable rendition of Wolverine’s sidekick, Yukio, making the character far more interesting, in my opinion, than she was in the original Claremont-Miller comic. And Hugh Jackman’s performance here again proves he is tailor made for Wolverine just as much as Robert Downey, Jr., is for Iron Man. Even after five films (six, if you count the cameo in First Class), he shows no signs of tiring of the character. If anything, there is a sense of renewed urgency and commitment. It’s as if he’s saying to fans, “All right, I know you guys were kinda disappointed with the last two. Hope this one makes up for it.”
Thanks, Hugh. It does. [subscribe2]