It’s been four years since the release of Gavin Hood’s ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, which is widely regarded as the worst X-Men movie and one of the worst superhero films made in the new millennium. But Hugh Jackman and James Mangold set out to make up for that sorry excuse for a film and do one of the most popular X-Men ever created justice with their new movie ‘The Wolverine’. Did they? I’d say so.
Based on the acclaimed comic book arc from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, the sixth installment of Fox’s X-Men franchise finds Logan completely alone and left only with his thoughts after the events of ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’. But while he’s in hiding, he’s tracked down by the mysterious Yukio and brought to Japan to say goodbye to a dying man from his past named Yashida, who offers to make Wolverine mortal by relieving him of his healing factor. After turning down the offer, Yashida passes away and a hit is put on his beloved granddaughter, Mariko. While protecting her, the X-Man finds that he is more vulnerable than ever in the Land of the Rising Sun as he battles ninjas, Yakuza, and the mutant Viper in order to save the girl.
The first thing that I’ll say about this movie is that Wolverine has most definitely been redeemed after his last solo effort. The cutthroat action with hints of humor is vintage Logan and this film managed to capture that perfectly. It might be my favorite live-action iteration of the character to date. Pair that performance from Jackman with one of the most iconic stories in Logan’s history and it was a winning combination.
The star of the film wasn’t the only one shining though. Rila Fukushima kicked major ass as Yukio. She and Wolverine were on the same level of physicality, so we saw a good deal of both of their fighting skills. However, her swordplay made for some rather enjoyable scenes, especially when Logan was busy dealing with his wounds that wouldn’t heal.
Also, as a fan of ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’, I have to give a call out to Brain Tee. While he wasn’t in too much of the movie (even though his character played a larger role in the comic), he does have an awesome encounter with Wolverine and Yukio. That scene is probably one of the funniest moments in the film.
But since I mentioned the comic, even though I tried my hardest not to compare it to the source material, there were a couple things that the film could have improved on. First, I was expecting a bit more mutant action. We got the littlest bit from Yukio, but most of that stuff came from Logan and Viper, who was an interesting choice to include in the film since she didn’t really have much to contribute.
That brings me to my next problem. There were a few too many characters. Like I said with Tee and his character Noburo Mori, he was barely in the movie. He could have been consolidated into Will Yun Lee’s Kenuichio Harada, the parkour ninja/archer who grew up with Mariko (and the name of the original Silver Samurai in the comic). He could have easily been a mutant as well, similar to his comic book counterpart, rather than throwing in Viper for the hell of it. Basically, all of the antagonists in the film could have been cut down and condensed. This would have changed up the final battle a little bit, but not so much that their ending would be completely different.
Despite my small problems with the mostly mediocre rogues gallery and my very different expectations for the Silver Samurai, I still enjoyed the action-packed comic book adaptation delivered by Mangold and company. ‘The Wolverine’ was a textbook summer blockbuster in terms of the big fight scenes, but it exceeded the typical stories that usually come out this time of the year. It also showed Wolverine as he should be: rough, gritty, and honorable. I’m not going to say that this is the Wolverine film that we deserved from the get go, but fans of the comics and fans of good action movies should be satisfied after walking out of this film.
And of course, stay until after the credits. I don’t want to say that this is the best part of the movie, but it’s definitely a pleasant surprise.