Logan (Hugh Jackman) is living in the Canadian wilderness, drinking heavily and trying to deal with his killing of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Jean often visits Logan in his dreams which turn into nightmares as he kills her over and over again. While in a nearby town at a local bar, Logan is approached by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) on behalf of her employer, Ichiro Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). Logan saved Yashida’s life at a prisoner of war camp near Nagasaki in World War II when the atomic bomb was dropped. Now, Yashida is dying of cancer and wants to thank Logan for saving him. Yukio, who is a mutant that can see the deaths of other people before they happen, escorts Logan on a private jet to Tokyo. Yashida has built up a massive electronics company and is filthy rich. So much so that he has to have many bodyguards armed with machine guns guarding his estate, protecting it from attack by the Yakuza, Japan’s version of the Mafia. Yashida is very weak and his doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova) tells Logan he may only visit for five minutes. Yashida tells Logan he can make him mortal, giving him a chance at a normal life with a normal death sometime in the future. Logan doesn’t accept the offer, upsetting Yashida. Later, Logan sees Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) talking with her father, Shingen Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanada). Their discussion becomes heated and Shingen slaps Mariko. She runs towards a low wall that looks out over the ocean, apparently trying to kill herself, but Logan stops her. Logan spends the night, planning to fly back to Canada the next morning. Logan is awakened from a dream about Jean that turned into the doctor kissing him, to see Yashida being wheeled somberly through his home as he has died. The next day at the funeral, Mariko is abducted by Yakuza gunmen disguised as Buddhist monks. Logan intervenes but is shot. Normally this would barely slow him down but this time is different. He’s not healing like before. He’s still able to continue the chase and is aided by an archer from the rooftops named Kenuichio Harada (Will Yun Lee), a Yashida bodyguard and a former lover of Mariko. Logan is shot and stabbed a couple more times before they are able to escape on a bullet train. There are assassins on the train as well and Logan engages them as well. More stabbings take place but Logan dispatches with these attackers as well. After checking into a cheap motel, Mariko tells Logan her grandfather has left his entire estate to her, bypassing her father and making her a target for assassination. The question is who is giving the orders to kill Mariko? Also, why isn’t Logan healing like before and can he protect Mariko in his weakened state?
“The Wolverine” is a vast improvement over “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” yet it still suffers from some weak story points and too much screen time spent to make Logan a relatable character and not just a superhero. I appreciate the effort but some of the scenes feel rather clumsy and others are just filler.
Hugh Jackman wears the Wolverine character like an old suit after five films and a cameo in a sixth. He snarls and growls and yells and howls like a pro once again. Jackman fills the screen with not only his muscular frame but also his personality which at times is sullen and brooding and other times angry and violent. It’s the sullen and brooding part that tends to get a bit tedious as the film goes on. Logan is dealing with the guilt of killing Jean Grey in “X-Men: The Last Stand.” She visits him in dreams and hallucinations and often acts as his counselor, helping him make decisions and seeing situations for what they are. She’s either helping or making him feel guiltier and encouraging him to die and join her in the afterlife. The repetition of this theme becomes tiresome after the fifth or sixth time it’s talked about. This inner struggle is used to show how Logan is always set apart from the rest of humanity due to his being immortal and his other mutant abilities. This has been the main theme of every “X-Men” movie from the very start. Can’t they just focus on these reluctant superheroes saving the world from some kind of huge threat?
While the story has some issues, the action certainly doesn’t. The fight on top of the bullet train is dazzling. Other action scenes also look fantastic. Even the battle with the CG Silver Samurai is impressive. The choreography of these fights, along with the sword play from Rila Fukushima as Yukio and other characters, is astounding. How they are able to move so precisely and fluidly without cutting each other’s limbs off or punching each other in the face boggles the mind. The efforts of the stunt people and the fight choreographers pays off in a big way with huge action set pieces as well as smaller scenes where a bit of violence is necessary to make a point or gain information. The excellence of the action and the iffyness of the story make “The Wolverine” a film with a split personality: The action is tight and lively while some story segments are dull and unnecessary.
“The Wolverine” is rated PG-13 for language, intense sci-fi action, some sexuality and violence. I’m not sure what they are calling “sci-fi action.” Perhaps they are referring to the Silver Samurai fight but that is just a fight between two characters in my opinion. There is a great deal of violence in the film with characters being shot with guns and bows and arrows, along with sword fights and stabbings. While there is some blood there is no gore. The sexuality is brief and consists of all the scenes with Jean Grey, a brief scene of a Japanese official with two scantily clad prostitutes, and a brief scene between Logan and Mariko. There is no nudity other than a bare-chested Logan. Foul language is scattered and relatively mild.
Hang around during the closing credits for a bonus scene that sets up “X-Men First Class: Days of Future Past.” That film promises to be a time trippy mind bender featuring casts from both the original “X-Men” trilogy along with the “…First Class” crew. It should be a film chock full of characters and one of the X-Men’s biggest villains: the Sentinels. Wolverine will be there as well. Perhaps that story will be more about the X-Men fighting a serious threat instead of dealing with lots of guilt. That would be a nice change. “The Wolverine” does a pretty good job of being an entertaining action picture but it occasionally gets bogged down in its efforts at humanizing a character that has metal claws coming out of his hands and is immortal. Filmmakers need to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and just get it to roll in the right direction.
“The Wolverine” gets four guitars out of five.
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