The Wolverine – Review


With Labor Day on the horizon, don’t count the summer blockbuster season out just yet, as James Mangold’s “The Wolverine” claws its way into theaters this week.  This film, the sixth entry in the X-Men film universe, is notable in that, for the first time, the story feels more as though it’s a movie that has a superhero in it rather than a superhero movie.  Gone are the teams and flashy displays of power (mostly), in their place is a deeper story as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) deals with a past that continues to haunt him after having to kill Jean Grey at the end of 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand”.

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The film picks up after the events of the third X-Men movie, with Wolverine living a life of solitude in the northern wilderness, only going into town to inflict his own style of justice on local hunters.  It is here that he meets Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a spunky mutant with the ability to see the future, who is there on the orders of her employer, a young man Wolverine saved from an atom bomb many years prior who is now on his deathbed and wishes to say goodbye.  She takes Wolverine back to Japan with her, where he discovers that Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), now one of the most powerful men in Japan, has built a technological empire in the years since the war.  He informs Wolverine that his mutant healing ability can be passed on to another, granting him mortality and the ability to die.  Wolverine, of course, turns down the offer, but when Yashida dies during the night, is drawn into the conflict.

At his funeral, the Japanese Yakuza attack, attempting to kidnap Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto).  Wolverine jumps into the fray but is shot and, having lost his ability to heal thanks to a midnight kiss from Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), suddenly finds himself vulnerable for the first time that he can remember.  He and Mariko flee to the South where he learns that Yashida has left everything to Mariko, unwillingly making her the most powerful woman in Japan.  When the Yakuza track them down and take Mariko back to Yashida’s compound, Wolverine follows with the assistance of Yukio, who has had a vision of his death.

At the Yashida compound, it is revealed that the hit on Mariko’s head was placed by her own father, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), jealous that everything was left to her.  However, a band of assassins descend upon the compound, led by Viper and Mariko’s childhood friend, Kenuichio (Will Yun Lee).  She poisons Mariko’s father and makes off with Mariko.  When Wolverine and Yukio arrive, he has the revelation to use Yashida’s medical equipment to scan himself, finding a cybernetic bug latched onto his heart.  As he is tearing himself open to remove the bug, Shingen attacks Yukio and the two fight.  Wolverine removes the bug but dies on the table, though he soon starts to regenerate once the power-suppressing bug has been removed.  Quickly regaining consciousness, he joins the fight and overpowers Shingen, leaving with Yukio for the laboratory where Viper has taken Mariko, overlooking Yashida’s home village.

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After fighting his way through the assassins in the village, Wolverine is taken prisoner and transported to the laboratory.  He wakes up to find himself strapped into a chair next to a large suit of samurai armor made of adamantium, the indestructible metal that is grafted to his own bones.  The conflict come to a head as Wolverine takes on the Silver Samurai and Yukio takes on Viper.  While Yukio is able to take of Viper, the Silver Samurai uses its sword to slice off Wolverine’s claws on one hand.  He is able to cut the head of the Samurai off with one of its own swords, revealing that the elder Yashida is inside, being kept alive by the robotic suit of armor.  He slices off Wolverine’s remaining claws and begins to drill into the bone that is underneath the metal, which starts to pass Wolverine’s powers onto Yashida himself.  As Yashida is getting younger, Wolverine’s years catch up to him in rapid succession and he is unable to fight back.  Mariko, however, picks up Wolverine’s claws that are still covered in adamantium and throws them into her now-younger grandfather’s head, killing him and stopping the process.  Wolverine regenerates and throws the Samurai out of the lab, killing the man he had saved so many years ago.  A few days later, Wolverine and Yukio board a plane that will take them anywhere in the world, courtesy of Mariko.  Wolverine tells the pilots to start by going up and they will decide from there.wolv1

Throughout “The Wolverine”, Wolverine has several conversations in his mind with Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), revealing just how deeply he loved her and how much it hurt him to have to kill her for the sake of mankind in the third X-Men movie.  This is where the film is at its most tender and successful, tying “The Wolverine” into the overall storyline of the X-Men films while keeping it strong enough to stand alone.  By the end, Wolverine is finally able to say goodbye to Jean Grey as she appears to move on to the afterlife and Wolverine to his next adventure.  However, X-Men fans will be left wondering if anyone is ever truly gone in the X-Men universe, especially a telepath as powerful as Jean Grey.wolv 2

While there are sure to comparisons to 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, I found “The Wolverine” to be far more successful in that it contained a story that had been much more thought out and there were no unnecessary characters thrown in simply for name’s sake.  Sure, there are the standard action scenes (including a vertigo-inducing fight on a bullet train) that could be in any superhero movie, but they are coupled with beautiful shots of Japan and even an attempt at a new romance for Wolverine.  The mix works and “The Wolverine” ranks as one of the better movies of the X-Men film series, even as it teases next summer’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” with a scene after the credits that will leave the audience begging for more.

Andrew Noles


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