The Wolverine isn’t really a superhero movie, nor is it an “origin story.” It’s mostly a drama about a grumpy but extremely ripped guy (who also has claws and is immortal) with some impressive action scenes thrown in. Oh, and ninjas!
Who’s in it: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Rila Fukushima (Yukio), Tao Okamoto (Mariko), Will Yun Lee as (Kenuichio Harada), Svetlana Khodchenkova (Viper), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey)
What’s it about: This conversation with my husband sums it up:
Him: “What movie did you see tonight?”
Me: “The Wolverine.”
Him: “I thought they already made a movie about him.”
Me: “Yeah, that one was about how he became the Wolverine. This one was just about him running around being the Wolverine, you know, doing Wolverine stuff.”
OK, I’m being facetious (though I did really say that to my husband) — there is a plot and it’s actually quite intriguing for about 85% of the movie. Here’s the deal: during World War II, the Wolverine saved a Japanese soldier named Yashido, and now that same guy is about to die and sends this pink-haired sword-wielding chick to summon Logan to Japan. There, Logan gets the opportunity to save his friend once again in return for giving up his superpowers and immortality. He also finds out that Yashida has become the most powerful businessman in the country and fears his beloved granddaughter Mariko is a target of the yazuka (the Japanese mob). Will Logan help Yashida and his family?
What’s good: First off, there are a bunch of honest-to-god ninjas in this movie, and it is pretty hard to go wrong with ninjas. So there’s that.
Secondly, there is a fight sequence on top of a bullet train that is cool as hell. And if you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time you know that I am hard to please when it comes to action scenes.
But perhaps most importantly, The Wolverine draws you in because director James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted; Walk the Line) and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Mark Bomback and Scott Frank chose to focus on Logan’s internal struggle to come to terms with the fact that while there are many things that suck about being immortal and having an adamantium skeleton and claws, you can’t defeat a ton of bad guys and/or save very many people who need help if you can easily die from a bullet wound like everyone else.
Sure, there are lives at stake and villains and all of that, but overall, The Wolverine tells a pretty intimate story about a guy we’ve come to care for over the years, despite his ridiculous mutton chops and general cantankery. (I know that’s not a word.) There aren’t any OMG THE WORLD IS GOING TO END, WOLVERINE MUST SAVE US ALL! moments like you’ve seen in pretty much every other superhero movie I can think of over the past several years. And that’s fine by me.
What could’ve been better: I would’ve appreciated a bit faster pacing; this movie did not need to be over two hours long. (I feel like I’m saying that a lot these days.) One thing Mangold could’ve easily cut were a few of the ten trillion “Jean dreams” that Logan was constantly having. There were so many it got to be comical. We get it, Logan is haunted. On a related note, why was Jean always in a skimpy nightie in these sequences? Is that really Logan’s vision of the afterlife? Actually, maybe it is EVERY GUY’S vision of the afterlife.
My two other issues: this is yet another movie that you don’t need to see in 3D, and that also takes the easy way out with an uninspired and generic battle at the end.
The bottom line: If you’re an X-Men fan, my bet is you’ll be satisfied with The Wolverine but may wish it was less of a drama and more of an action/adventure or out-and-out superhero flick. You actually may end up most excited by the short end-credits scene! But if, like me, you could take or leave the X-Men and are tired of superhero movies overall, you may be pleasantly surprised by how “normal” The Wolverine is.
Remind yourself how it all began: reserve a copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine tonight!