Copyright © 2013 by 20th Century Fox
Set to events after X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine / Logan (Hugh Jackman) has left the X-Men team and is residing in Canada where he is constantly haunted by the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Because of the great loss, the emptiness he is feeling is taking a toll on him emotionally. During his time as a soldier in World War 2 when he was held captive in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki, he rescued an officer named Yashida (Ken Yamamura) and protected him from the atomic bomb blast that took place. Back to the present, he gets word from Yukio (Rila Fukushima) that Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) is dying of cancer and wants Logan to follow her back to Japan upon Yashida’s request to repay his life debt. Upon arrival, he is embroiled with the Japanese mob, samurais and ninjas while still in conflict with his inner demons.
After the lackluster direction of X-Men Origins, a lot has been riding on for its follow-up to turn the tide and restore movie goers’ confidence, casual and avid alike about our favourite clawed hero. It is a step towards the right direction when Darren Aronofsky (director of Black Swan) was approached to helm the sequel and Christopher McQuarrie, who had written the acclaimed ‘The Usual Suspects’ had been in charge with the script. It could very well turn out to be brooding and gritty, not unlike ‘Requiem for a Dream’ or ‘The Black Swan, but alas, the final product, while has been adjusted to James Mangold’s more mainstream sensibilities does not lose sight of its original vision. Even with a script re-write from Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, the emotional turmoil and void that our protagonist is going through are very much present in the film.
While the essence of the movie is retained, has the world weary Logan stepped out of his cave and searches for inner peace in the Land of the Rising Sun enough to make ‘The Wolverine’ the comeback everyone is hoping it to be? It definitely is a resounding ‘yes’. It is without a doubt right now that Jackman owns the role. After his stint at Les Miserables last year that earned him his first Oscar nomination, Jackman continues with this winning streak and takes us on an emotional journey not seen in the past movies. It is through the exploration of having to live forever with no purpose as your loved ones are taken away one lifetime after another provides a vulnerable facet to Wolverine.
He is ably supported by a cast predominantly Asian with endearing performances from Fukushima and Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida. From their renditions, it does not seem that they are novices to the film industry. Although only meant to provide continuity from Last Stand, it is always welcoming to see a fellow X-Man (or Woman) thrown into the mix. Having Janssen back as Jean adds the necessary dimension needed for the audience to feel Logan’s pain, loss and detachment from the rest of the world. Her strategically placed scenes also act as a threat to Logan’s blossoming relationship with Mariko.
For some who may find this character driven piece a little too slow, it does make up for it with some well choreographed action. It is a prerequisite in all comic book adaptations these days. While Origins was bombarded with one loud action piece after another, ‘The Wolverine’ only unfolds its fights and chases after sufficient time has been spent on dramatic exposition. The highlights begin with the attempted kidnapping of Mariko at the funeral, which stretches to a fight between Wolverine and the Yakuza clan on top of a bullet train and a drawn out swordplay involving Yukio and Shingen
Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanada) whilst Logan attempts to rid off a robotic parasite joined to his heart.
There have been criticisms about the third act faltering into typical comic book fare and revelations at the end were none too surprising but to the naysayers, this is the most personal and intimate tale in the franchise as it can ever be, thanks to efficient storytelling from Mangold. Whether the change of pacing, setting and direction can inspire bigger returns in the overall box office remains to be seen as a few key markets have yet to open ‘The Wolverine’. While Logan is not certain where he intends to go after all the kerfuffle in Japan, it is safe to say that our spiritual journey with him has been most satisfying and we can only hope for the film makers to keep pushing the envelope should there be a continuation to his adventures.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language