There was once a theory that comic book based movies couldn’t be successful. The comic fandom would provide polarized reactions to such films, and those unfamiliar with the characters would most likely turn a cold shoulder to the fantastical plot lines. Movies like Iron Man, Thor, and The Avengers have shown time and time again that Marvel properties can be enjoyed by both comic book fans and general movie audiences alike. The Wolverine, directed by James Mangold and starring Hugh Jackman, proves that Marvel has pulled off yet another box office success.
Jackman has found a comfortable place in his role as the angst-ridden, animalistic Logan. Where Jackman’s charisma may not have been enough to make 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine memorable, the combination of great acting, a satisfactory plot, and some impressive action sequences in The Wolverine will help audiences forgive the character’s first lackluster solo adventure.
The movie is based off of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s 1982 comic book arc that placed Wolverine in Japan to get some perspective on his past. The movie pays clear homage to these two giants of comic book writing, while bringing its own unique elements to the table. Both stories revolve around an existential conundrum that plagues Wolverine – where the comic books had to establish a fresh problem for a character to work through, the screenwriters opt to tie this story to Wolverine’s pain and self-doubt about killing Jean Grey in X-Men: Last Stand. The connections to the original comic don’t end there. As Wolverine struggles with his own emotions, he finds himself enamored with Mariko Yashida, the granddaughter of an old acquaintance, who is expertly portrayed by Tao Okamoto.
The central focal point in the movie revolves around the movie’s villain, Viper, taking Logan’s healing power away. This angle signifies the biggest and most unique divergence from the comic book world. Viper, who is only used toward the end of the movie, seems like a wholly unnecessary character, which is a small disappointment. In the few on-screen moments Viper receives, she seems as if she would be way more essential than she ends up being. The plot could have been moved forward just as well by employing Shingen Yashida, Mariko’s father, as the villain that he truly seems to be.
For fans that enjoyed the first three X-Men movies and are anticipating the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the reintroduction of the original X-Men storyline creates a small thrill. It also helps Wolverine to become a character that the audience can connect with emotionally. Throughout The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman portrays sensitivity and vulnerability in a character that is widely seen as the toughest mutant around. As Wolverine struggles with his past and any possible future happiness he might have with Mariko, the fear of death makes him seem exposed and relatable. The sexual tension between Logan and Mariko, as well as the unwanted role as protector that Logan takes on, creates satisfying character development and drama throughout the movie.
The action sequences throughout the movie are well done and, at times, surprisingly fresh. There are tons of ninjas for Wolverine to hack and slash through. There is an action sequence on top of a speeding bullet train that, while appearing overdone in the movie’s trailer, will take the audiences breath away with its stunning choreography. The final fight scene is also well choreographed, provides enjoyable resolutions to all the plot threads, and leaves the audience feeling a little off-balance with outcomes. Together, these scenes help the movie resonate with fans of action, drama, and comic books all at once.
There are a couple minor elements that may seem a little troubling to an unfamiliar audience. The movie is rated PG-13, but there are a few bits of dialogue that reach towards a line that is slightly more mature than audiences have seen in previous X-Men Movies. While fans of Wolverine will feel like the character is finally getting a true portrayal of the character’s bad-tempered attitude, others may feel like the language is an unnecessary component. Similarly, the action in the final scene is much darker than anything from any of Wolverine’s previous cinematic chapters. As Wolverine battles towards the climax, it becomes clear that a fear of death and his desire to be loved are both weaknesses. That combination is exploited at the end of the movie, and may create an uneasiness in parents and younger viewers.
If one can appreciate the brief moments of adult language and the intensity of the action for the unique character development that they create, audiences should be able to overlook the forced development of a secondary villain into a major role. Taken as a whole, Jackman and Okamoto’s acting, alongside the stimulating action sequences, make this a must see movie for all fans of great action movies.
Take a look at the trailer below and let us know your thoughts on The Wolverine in the comments below!