Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) still recovering from the events of X3: The Last Stand (aren't we all?), is visited by a mysterious woman named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who's dying employer, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), demands a final meeting with the man who saved his life near the end of World War II. After the meeting, Logan is plunged into a web of intrigue and deceit as he's forced to protect Yashida's granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto).
Those still feeling the taint after X-Men Origins: Wolverine and fearful of this movie, The Wolverine is a far superior sequel. I mean sure any movie sequel with Wolverine in it could be better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This movie is a character piece with no forced cameos from the X-Men universe. This movie dumps all that and singularly focuses on the man named Logan.
It's here were the Wolverine works best. When it's just Logan with Mariko, Yukio, and the first string of antagonists. The movie just clicks for me. When it's just Logan with any of these two it captures the drama quite well. The bullet train sequence is quite enjoyable piece of action. As is Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen, who I just wish was given more because his "better than you" villain anytime he's on screen and he reeked presence, but was never given more.
Also quite good is Rila Fukushima who plays the smarty kick ass side-kick well. Anytime Jackman was with any of these actors I could have wished there were more scenes with them. The chemistry Jackman has with Fukushima just works. I almost wish the final actual end was the two of them just kicking ninja ass, instead of what we actually got.
Then there's the man himself: Hugh Jackman who really is Wolverine at this point. He just embodies and just knows all the character's ticks so well. Here, Logan has had it and well is basically as the movie describes him: a ronin, a masterless samurai. He's looking for that direction and purpose. Enter the character of Mariko, who gives Logan that spark again, and you can buy the relationship that develops between the two (much more than say the one with Jean Grey, but more on that later) when they first meet with just a glance. The relationship feels natural and doesn't feel forced at all. It's here in these character pieces the movie excels along with the action we're given.
Speaking of those, they're not the usual action pieces one is used to in a Fox X-Men movie, instead they feel literally ripped from a kung fu or samurai film starring either Sonny Chiba or Shintaro Katsu. Each action scene is quite brutal and quite refreshing than what we're usually given in the standard type of X-Men universe film. I especially loved the little sequence when a bad guy is left with Logan. You just know the way Jackman merely walks toward them with an intense glare that henchman is so screwed.
However, that's not to say that this up there with any of the X2: X-Men United or X-Men: First Class. The Wolverine does have it's share of issues that hinder it. For me, the biggest was Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova); who's just a walking talking plot convenience to remind us of “the larger plot” and be the reason Logan can't heal right. To sum up Viper is this; she's a second rate Poison Ivy. That fact alone, of being reminded of Batman & Robin makes me want to hate Fox for re-treading that type of character AGAIN. I just hated Viper had all these powers because THE PLOT DEMANDED IT.
If she was just a mutant with poison powers, okay I buy that. She has to have that along with a snake tongue, immune to poisons, snake-eyes (which are only seen twice for whatever reason to show us: “HEY AUDIENCE SHE'S A SNAKE MUTANT GET IT?!”), retractable poisonous claws (when did snakes have those?), and a healing factor (WTF?!) It's here in particular of this subplot where the movie fails for me. Those who think January Jones as Emma Frost from X-Men: First Class was bad will have a new target to lock onto. The character is worse (though honestly I never had a problem with Jones as Emma. She was average acting-wise to me and just gorgeous to look at. Khodchenkova's Viper is a hundred times worse).
The last act is just too grandiose and too big for what the movie was building toward. If it had a climax as it did in the comics with just Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) I'd not have a problem with it. The fight between them here is good too and I just wish it was longer, I'd say the movie would been a hundred times better, as it was in the actual mini-series it's based off by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller.
Instead, the actual climax with the real antagonist (who you can predict easily the moment they show up) just feels tacked on to give us Wolverine fighting "the Iron Monger", though it's called the Silver Samurai here. Take all of this out and the movie just works so much more. You can tell the whole section has Fox forcing the filmmakers to add this section just because they think it's what the movie needed, because Marvel Studios and Disney are setting the precedent now for superhero movies. That's probably the movie's secondary misstep and a flaw that I had with Man of Steel.
In a post-Avengers' world, every studio now is trying to mimic what the masters at Marvel are doing. The only plus I can say of this climax is it doesn't overstay it's welcome and ends when it needs to end. Again it's a minor one to me. The major flaw for this movie is Viper, who just completely wears out her welcome, and the movie has the balls to have her survive the first attempt on her life. Again, that particular character just wore out her welcome the moment she was introduced and when she's finally taken out it's more a relief, that the character is FINALLY gone from the movie not because she was well written villain.
It doesn't just stop with the Silver Samurai who suffers from the Iron Man 3: “Mandarian effect”. It didn't bother me in that movie, but it bothers me here watching a character named Kenuichio Harada (who was called the Silver Samurai in the comics) and not be the actual Samurai, and basically be the movie's Hawkeye. The actor who plays him, Will Yun Lee, does the best he can playing the part of honorable lackey, but the role in the end just feels a waste of his and the audience's time.
Though I digress, if you just not think about those parts you'll enjoy this film. The final fight isn't bad, it just reminds me of what I've watched before it. Plus hell I love when Yukio adds to the crucial hits on what takes down the final bad guy. If anything, the only scenes you'll groan at are Viper (grrrrr) and anytime Famke Janssen is on screen to remind you of the events of X3. After the first dream the sequences just loses it's luster by the fifth time the dream happens. We get the idea of why Jean is there, it just feels overblown to see it done five times of Wolverine pinning for a dead girl who he never got lucky with. The whole subplot should have just dropped the moment Mariko and him took became a couple. Nope, we have to have yet another Jean scene at the end to fully have him tell her, he won't be with her in oblivion. Hopefully, that's that and though I like Janssen, seeing her forever reminds me everything wrong with X3 and should hopefully not be in X-Men: Days of Future Past
The Wolverine is a dramatic and ambitious take on popular superhero. It makes me think of it akin to a samurai movie that just happens to be also be a Wolverine movie. The only time the movie stumbles is at it's climatic final fight, with another “Deadpool” moment occurring along with the horrific character that is Viper. Still, the movie trudges on and these moments never truly outweigh their welcome (well save Viper. Stupid snake-skin healing powers that make her remain in the movie).
You the viewer are just going to either accept the tacked on additional climax or hate it for disrupting the tone. Again, it doesn't fully hinder the movie, because it never overstays it's welcome (save Viper), but it prevents the movie from only being the best comic book movie this summer had. Remove Viper and the climax. Instead put the ninja battle then the Shingen fight and this movie would be so much better for it.
Still, the endings (yes Fox continues taking Marvel Studio's additional scene cue) are quite satisfying. For what it's worth it's the best comic movie of the summer (unless Kick Ass 2 or 2 Guns decides to surprise us all). The only thing stopping it from being more is the hampered additions that feel like Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine all over again, but it's honestly still not that bad compared to that. The Wolverine is a very serviceable nicely shot movie with a nice core group of actors playing some nice characters (save Viper) that you're just going to enjoy along with stomaching the half-ass final fight.
3 out of 5