Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Tao Okamoto
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 Minutes
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(This review features spoilers for X-Men: The Last Stand).
Since X2: X-Men United, fans of the series have been clamoring for a stand alone Wolverine film. The action scenes and the dive into Logan’s dark past made X2 one of the most exciting comic book films yet. After a disappointing trilogy ender, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was released and became a total critical flop. The film was a letdown on almost every level and seemingly killed the franchise, until X-Men: First Class, but that film had nothing to do with our favorite feral immortal. Unwilling to give up on the beloved hero, Hugh Jackman teamed up with director James Mangold in a last ditch effort to save the franchise and thankfully, this film saved the original X-Men series from certain doom.
Picking up several years after X-Men: The Last Stand, this film begins with Logan hiding out in a cave in Canada. Plagued by nightmares of his lost love, Jean Grey, Logan has vowed to himself to never harm anyone again and has effectively hung up his claws. A chance encounter with a poisoned bear leads Logan to a group of hunters in a nearby bar. Taking vengeance on the hunters he begins to resemble his old self again. As he brutalizes one of the unlucky fools, a young Japanese woman wielding a katana named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) appears and bids Logan to join her to Tokyo, where her employer, a Japanese soldier that Logan saved from the atomic blast that destroyed Nagasaki, wishes to thank him. Reluctantly, Logan agrees and finds himself meeting the family of Mr. Ichiro Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), the wealthiest family in the country.
Things seem tense, but Logan can’t quite put his finger on what the problem is. Finally, Logan is introduced to Yashida, who gives him an offer to remove his healing abilities and effectively end his immortality in return for saving Yashida from the blast and subsequent radiation. Logan refuses the offer, and prepares to leave Japan. In the middle of the night, Mr. Yashida finally succumbs to old age, and out of respect Logan attends his funeral. In the middle of the funeral Yakuza suddenly attack, and Wolverine is forced to protect the gang’s target, Yashida’s grand daughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Sustaining several injuries during their escape, Logan begins to realize that his healing ability has become weakened. Now, no longer able to take infinite amounts of punishment, Logan struggles to protect Mariko and find the truth about what happened to him.
Let it be said that that action in this movie is amazing. Fans of Wolverine’s bloody exploits will no doubt be pleased when he whips his claws out and goes berserk on the bad guys. The CG isn’t overdone, and is delicately applied where it needs to be and because of this we get a much more visceral action film, with intense sequences that get the adrenaline pumping. Granted, not every fight is an epic battle between Logan and 300 spartans, but that’s okay, as each fight effectively raises the stakes from the previous fight and still keeps things nice and personal. Logan himself is really put through the wringer in this film, and the amount of pain he’s subjected to stays true to the atmosphere of the Wolverine and X-Men comics.
Hugh Jackman is the true shining point of this film, and he gives us good reason to remember why he was our favorite part of the X-Men trilogy. This man was born to be Wolverine, and his physical and emotional performances are perfect. Besides being built like a tank, this is a character that has lived for centuries, often alone, and usually in severe pain, be it physical or emotional. This is a strong factor in Jackman’s portrayal of the character and he doesn’t come off like a 80’s action hero who just spouts out one liners in a vague attempt to seem cool to audiences. Instead, he is still every inch the ultimate badass, but when he remains silent and reflects on his miseries, you understand that he was not always a feral beast, and that any heart and soul he had was hardened to stone from hundreds of years of struggle.
There are certainly flaws in this film. The last act suffers from some issues with predictability, and some of the performances can become a little stiff, but overall, this is finally the big summer movie we’ve all wanted. With astoundingly well directed action scenes, a strong sense of character, and the rebirth of the most beloved X-Men character ever, The Wolverine usurps Star Trek: Into Darkness as the must see blockbuster of the year, and effectively re-establishes the strength of the X-Men within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. WHEN you see it, don’t forget to stay for the after credits scene that is the best out of any Marvel movie and will leave you salivating for more X-Men action.