The Wolverine
The Clawed Ronin is Back

Including his brief cameo in 2011’s X-Men: First Class, this year’s The Wolverine marks Hugh Jackman’s sixth time playing fan-favorite Wolverine, the most any one actor has played a superhero character.  After the disappointing attempt at an origin story that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009, The Wolverine moves things forward and tackles one of the character’s more beloved storylines from the comics.  The results are mixed, but it does prove to be entertaining.

Picking up sometime after 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, the movie opens with our animalistic hero hiding out in the wilderness.  Logan is haunted by dreams of his former love Jean Grey, whom he had to put down in the previous movie.  She wants him to join her in the afterlife and he would like to, but his body’s gift of regeneration keeps him trapped in an immortal life.  An opportunity presents itself, however, when he is invited to Japan by an aging man whose life he once saved during the bombing of Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

James Mangold, director of The WolverineBelieving that he has just come so the old man can say his goodbyes, Logan soon learns that the doomed man wants him to save his life one more time.  The man believes there is a way for Logan to transfer his ability, making the man immortal while becoming mortal himself.  Despite his wish to be with Jean Grey, Logan refuses.  After the Yakuza attack the man’s funeral, Logan finds himself on the run with his beautiful granddaughter.  He believes he is protecting her, but is it her that the Yakuza is really after?  And what about the old man’s venomous—literally—doctor?  Could she have done something to Logan that keeps his body from healing itself?

It may not be saying much, but The Wolverine is a definite step up from the Origins movie.  A positive thing that the movie does is that it returns the character to the figure he was at the start of the first X-Men movie: a loner.  At one point in this movie he is referred to as a Ronin, a samurai without a master.  That’s a fitting label for Wolverine and Hugh Jackman wears it well.  The actor again seems right at home in the role.  He looks the part—he says this is the best shape he has gotten into to play the character—and delivers some great one-liners with only the slightest hint of a wink.  The eastern setting for the movie also works well, placing Jackman’s Ronin in the land of the samurai where he seems right at home, even as an outsider.

Although the action scenes won’t set any new standards for the genre, they are entertaining.  The closest the movie comes to a groundbreaking action scene is a battle atop Japan’s bullet train.  It comes close to going too far over-the-top, but stays grounded enough, even while featuring one of the movie’s most comic moments.  The climactic fight scene is also impressive, but much of the stuff in between is little more than Wolverine taking out random, faceless bad guys with some claw-aided fisticuffs.

Where the movie struggles most is in the film’s lack of an ultimate villain.  There are two main villains.  The first is Viper, played by Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova.  She has the potential to be a really cool villain, but unfortunately the actress just doesn’t seem capable of pulling it off.  Even when she’s poisoning a man by kissing him or shedding the skin on her face, there is an unfortunate lack of menace.  It’s not all the actress’s fault, however, as she is also given some awful costumes within which to work.  The second main villain is not even revealed until the end of the movie.  It’s a cool villain, but is not in the movie long enough to really make enough of an impression.

There are a few plot points in The Wolverine that go unexplained, but that doesn’t do much to lessen the movie’s entertaining value.   One of the film’s most intriguing moments came during the closing credits with a scene that sets up next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, so make sure not to leave early.

The Wolverine is rated PG-13 for “sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.”  The filmmakers flirted with releasing an R-rated version, but ultimately the final product fits well within the PG-13 zone.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Wolverine.