Director James Mangold takes the reigns for the next installment of Marvel’s Wolverine franchise. Was he able to redeem from the previous flop of X-Men Origins Wolverine and put one of Marvel’s most recognizable characters in a solid solo film? Don’t call the academy just yet!
Our story opens to Wolverine, played again by Hugh Jackman in a Japanese prison camp in Nagasaki just before the second bomb goes off. One officer, played by Hal Yamanouchi, is letting all of the prisoners free, and he lets Logan go; however, the mutant senses the impending doom and utilizes the deep hole in the ground for protection from the blast. Cut to present day and Wolverine is living in a cave, presumably in his native Canada when he is discovered by Yukio, played by Rila Fukushima. She is ordered to take him back to Japan where he can say his final farewell to Yashida, the officer he saved at the beginning of the film. What continues is a plot that contains multiple sinister twists and turns that are actually very difficult to follow as well; it would be best served to see it in person.
What is surprising is how intelligent and complicated the story is. When someone is going to an action movie, even about comic book heroes, an intelligent plot is not something that is typical or anticipated. Having a feral creature with metal claws dodging explosions, taking bullets and fighting hundreds of ninjas doesn’t always afford for something as complicated as hostile takeovers, will hearings, and mafia involvement. However, all of those are present, as well as a third act twist that, although doesn’t come completely out of left field, will still leave a few in shock.
Ironically, by making this a Wolverine movie it complicated the movie and convoluted the storyline. With the events established in Origins, namely Wolverine losing his memory because of the adamantium bullet that hit him in the head and the statement made by Professor Xavier in the first X-Men movie – that Wolverine couldn’t remember anything other than the last 15 years – it completely invalidates a majority of the movie. It should be impossible for him to have memories of fighting in WW2 or any of his contact with Yashida. And if he were able to remember those days, then he should also be able to remember the fact that he can speak Japanese. Normally, one would have to analyze this movie and any potential continuity errors as an individual instead of the franchise, but since there are repeated and deliberate references to the other films in this one, the story as a whole and not just this film must be looked at. However, this story is actually very impressive. It just would have been better served with a completely original character and original story that didn’t have such an intricate connection between other films and characters.
This film might be one of the most well casted films of the last 5 years. As usual, Hugh Jackman completely kills it as Wolverine. However, all of the Japanese characters are actually played by predominantly Japanese and at the very least Asian actors and actresses. However, one that nearly steals the show is Viper, played by Svetlana Khodchenkova. Her ability to be sultry AND intelligent without making her sexuality the forefront of her character while keeping her threatening was multiple thin lines to walk, and she handled it perfectly.
Hardened fans of the comic series will be left wanting from this movie as it continues to be very divergent from the source material. However, anyone just looking for an entertaining film as a standalone, Wolverine is very satisfactory. It is an intelligent and entertaining action movie with a smart plot, interesting characters and a well-developed story that takes its time without dragging or letting itself hit any significant lulls. The cinematography for the fight scenes is expertly done, and the use of CGI is never abused or makes it seem as though we are just constantly staring at an intricate green screen.Wolverine won’t be palatable for everyone, but it is a far cry from a bad movie.
Two and a half stars out of four.
Wolverine opens nationwide July 26th, watch the trailer.