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Frank Miller and Chris Claremont’s 1982 Japanese story arc is one of the most famous and celebrated in comic book history. It has finally been the cinematic treatment, amidst a loose adaptation and watches out the taste of Wolverine’s first solo outing.
After the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan (Hugh Jackman) has living alone in the Canadian wilderness and suffering from recurring dreams about Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and guilt about her death. As Logan challenges a group of illegal hunters in a bar, he is found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a woman recruited to bring The Wolverine to Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), a dying Japanese industrialist he saved when he was a Prisoner of War outside Nagasaki.
In Japan, Yashida gives Logan an offer to take his healing factor and make Wolverine mortal. But even though Wolverine refuses his powers are taken from him anyway and he is thrown into a family industrial struggle involving the Yakuza, a clan of ninjas, a corrupt Japanese government minister and a mysterious biochemist mutant known as The Viper (Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova who performs with a flawless American accent). As Wolverine protects Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), from all these factions, he also begins to see what it can be like to live a normal life.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine had many problems, misjudged humor, awful special effects, subpar action, awful writing and introducing characters just for the sake of fan service. The Wolverine does rectify many of these problems and director James Mangold had much more free reign then Gavin Hood had.
Mangold knew what made the best X-Men movies work, so he focuses on character development and more brooding drama and it is complemented by an excellent performance from Jackman. Jackman gives us the Wolverine of old, a character who is haunted, suffering from nightmares and guilt, looking for a reason to give his life meaning as well as giving us the gruff wit we know and love from Wolverine. The Wolverine is a much darker movie, more akin to X-Men and X2 which it needed to be. Yet the movie still has a massive injection of fun which you would expect from a movie featuring mutants, samurais and ninjas.
While The Wolverine has an expected PG-13 rating, Mangold does push it to the limit. We see Wolverine sliding his way through Yakuza thugs, having his flesh scorched off by the nuclear blast and our hero having to operate on himself. There is solid action throughout the movie and the more cheesy elements has been removed in The Wolverine, with the only misjudged sequence being the Bullet Train fight sequence, as it comes off a little goofy. Comedy has also been cut, with The Wolverine having two overtly comic sequences and Wolverine having a few comic remarks, but they are actually inkeeping with the character.
As an adaptation of the Japanese miniseries, The Wolverine had to take liberties to make it work with the movie series’ continuity (though continuity is now very screwed up in the X-Men series). Yukio is no longer the ambiguous assassin with a danger complex and her color are nailed on the mast, Mariko and Logan having no prior relationship, Mariko’s father (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a combination of her father and husband in the comic and the Viper has no role in the original comic are just some of the changes that were made. But these are changes that are easy to look past, even though on a personal standpoint it would have been nice to see more of the parallels between Wolverine and Yukio. The changes to the Silver Samurai will be a bit harder to swallow for comic book fans and it is when the movie loses it way a little with its action climax.
The Wolverine had a number of villains and it does result in problems. The first one is the movie does not know who to make the main villain before settling on Viper, who does have a commanding presence on screen. The other is due to the number of factions in play, which makes many of the characters a bit underdeveloped. One character that suffered this was Will Yun Lee’s Harada, the head of the ninja who did have an interesting character who was loyal to Mariko.
The Wolverine does have some script problems and the final act is a more generic affair, but its clear that Mangold and Jackman do have a good understanding of the character and they put the cinematic version of Wolverine in good standing.
And on a final note, the post credit scene is a must see: it is one of best and most tantalizing in a long time.