I wasn’t certain that Fox could bring Wolverine back after that dreadful stand-alone prequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While The Wolverine may not bring the character back up to its previous heights, it has two very strong things working in its favor – a solid director and some perfect action sequences.
James Mangold is one of the only directors that I can think of that has tackled so many different genres and had success with each of them. He has made a solid police drama (Copland), a heavy drama (Girl, Interrupted), a chick flick (Kate & Leopold), a brilliant psychological thriller (Identity), an Oscar-worthy bio-pic (Walk the Line), a fantastic western remake (3:10 to Yuma), a fun summer popcorn blockbuster (Knight and Day) and now a stylized comic book movie.
The Wolverine places Hugh Jackman and his iconic X-Men character in a vulnerable position. X-Men Origins: Wolverine gave a prequel backstory to Logan/Wolverine, but The Wolverine gives us a post-X-Men: The Last Stand Wolverine. I was hoping that the writers would have ignored the existence of The Last Stand, but one line references the death of Jean Grey in it. Following that tragedy, Logan is now a mess. He has sworn off violence – that is, until he’s placed in a position that provokes him to fight back.
The film opens with a great WWII flashback of Logan saving a young Japanese man’s life. In present day, we learn that the Japanese man lived to become a wealthy, successful and very powerful businessman in Tokyo. Now on his deathbed, he wants nothing more than to thank the enigmatic superhero that saved him so long ago. As a token of his gratitude, he offers to replay Logan by giving him a cure to his curse – mortality. Of course, once in Tokyo, Logan is forced into the middle of a plot involving the kidnapping of his Japanese friend’s granddaughter and has to break his new no-violence code.
With his mutant Adamantium claws showing, Logan once again turns into the Wolverine to save an innocent life. The initial action scenes in Tokyo are brilliant, some of the very best to come out of any action movie in the last few years. Although the trailers have made the effects of the train sequence look less than impressive, don’t judge it by those snippets. What appears cheesy in the trailers actually makes up my favorite scene in the entire movie. The train sequence is the type that makes any fan of action movies giddy with excitement and tension.
Following the train scene, there’s a long-lasting lull. Action and tension is nowhere to be found. Instead, we get some great character moments – nothing as strong as what was accomplished with X-Men: First Class, but it’s still a nice change of pace for the Wolverine character. What follows is full of ninjas and loads of stabbing. You’d think that this ending would serve as a great climax, but it somewhat falls apart. The action is less impressive than previous scenes and the big reveal is a bit of a stretch. This third-act flaw doesn’t ruin the film, but it definitely keeps it from greatness.
If you’ve liked the X-Men movies thus far, then you ought to enjoy The Wolverine – even if you despised X-Men Origins. And if you want a lead-in tease to next summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, then don’t get out of your seats when the credit start rolling.
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox