Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Hiroyuki Sanada.
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie, Scott Frank, Mark Bomback
Running Time: 126 mins
Release date: 25th July 2013
After crashing with an almighty smash after the last time he appeared in a film (not including his brief-blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo in X-Men: First Class) the film makers of The Wolverine must have been quaking in their boots. Will one of Marvel’s most popular characters ever manage to carry a movie again after X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Well Hugh Jackman (playing him for a sixth time) and director James Mangold think they can. Have they succeeded? Well, just. But only just.
1945 Japan and Logan – The Wolverine – is languishing in a well-like prison when the Americans drop the Fat Boy, the Atomic bomb, signalling the end of World War II. In the process, Logan saves the life of Yashida. Years later, Logan is living as a hermit in the mountains of Canada, having dreams about the love he lost and vowing never to kill again when he is stopped from breaking that promise by red-haired Martial Arts expert, Yukio, who takes him off to Japan to meet the man he saved. On his death bed, Yashida, now a hugely successful businessman, wants to give Logan a gift; removing his ability to heal and thus stopping him from being immortal. Logan, uncertain of this, refuses but soon finds out that sinister doctor and fellow mutant, Viper, has done just that, while Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko, is being chased down by the yakuza and ninjas and Logan is the only one who can keep her alive. Only thing is, who is going to help him stay alive?
This is a much darker and more straight-faced superhero film and it is a marked improvement on the mess of Wolverine’s previous outing. Gone are the less-impressive mutants, Wolverine here has to battle ninjas, a worthy adversary indeed for the metal-clawed one. Mangold also uses the backdrop of Japan quite brilliantly, giving the film a visual flair and an edge that hasn’t been seen in a superhero film before. He also has made women an vital and important part of the story. Logan is certainly a ladies man and here he is surrounded by them. From his slightly psychotic dreams of a fellow mutant, to his own personal bodyguard in Yukio, to the deadly poisonous Viper and finally the woman he must protect, Mariko, Logan couldn’t have thought he would be pushed and pulled by the fairer sex.
The set pieces are impressive. An extended shoot-out at a funeral is well handled, as is Logan’s battle with hundreds of Ninjas against a snowy backdrop. The most impressive of all is a fight sequence on the roof of the 300mph Bullet Train. A tense and exciting sequence that shows what you can do with 3D when handled properly.
Where the film falls down is the rather generic final act which seems like the writers had run out of ideas and headed straight for the hero versus something invincible to battle checklist. It’s a pity because up till then the film had added a new dimension to the Wolverine universe and was heading towards a 4 star film. It tries to add a twist but it’s one you can see coming a mile off. The villainess, Viper, played by blonde-haired, Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova, is incredibly weak. Coming on like Poison Ivy from Batman And Robin, Wolverine needed a stronger foe to face and she isn’t it.
Jackman has become Wolverine. It’s hard to see anyone else stepping into his shoes as he has brought so much to the character. He’s even announced recently that he wants to continue, which is a huge sigh of relief for those who like him as the hard-as-nails mutant and fans of Jackman taking off his shirt will love this film as it’s hard to remember when he isn’t shirtless.
So the memory of Origins can be wiped and we can move on (and stay for the credits for an most exciting extra scene that had me almost wetting myself). While it’s not the best in the whole X-Men series and not the best summer blockbuster of the year, it will please fans that The Wolverine is back. I just hope that next time round, he’s given a foe he can really sink his teeth into.