This second installment in a supposed Wolverine trilogy is certainly a step in the right direction. Despite ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘ being a terrible mess of a film on all levels, it managed to muster almost $400 million worldwide. With James Mangold at the helm this time, we finally have a decent attempt at furthering one of the most beloved mutant heroes in comic book history.
Writers Scott Frank and Mark Bomback take their cues from Frank Miller and Chris Claremont’s comic book story arc from the early ’80s to give us a modern-day take on the character. Dealing with severe depression about his immortality, Logan takes on the Yakuza and corporate corruption in Japan. While it’s not the norm for a comic book film, Mangold pushes things in the right direction, until an anticlimactic fight scene that falls apart on every single level.
We first see Logan (Hugh Jackman) a bit of time after the separation of the mutant squad in the horrible ‘X-Men: The Last Stand‘. Logan has let himself go. He lives in the forest on a pile of rocks, and has a beard that could compete with Grizzly Adams. His only friend is a giant Kodiak bear. Throughout the movie, Logan is haunted by corny dream sequences about his late love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who Logan was forced to kill some time ago. For some reason, Janssen’s wardrobe consists only of white lingerie.
As we learn in a flashback, Logan saved a young Japanese soldier from a nuclear bomb, and the two have stayed distant friends for many years. When Japanese hipster Yukio (Rila Fukushima) shows up in the present day to inform Logan that his long-time friend, now a powerful business tycoon known as Lord Yashida, is knocking on death’s door and wants to say his final goodbye, Logan follows her to Japan, where things get a bit hairy. After Yashida’s death, events spiral out of control. Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is a target of the violent Yakuza, seemingly led by Mariko’s father (Hiroyuki Sanada). She and Logan go on the run from assassins, ninjas and the mutant villain Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who dresses in green and kills her victims with a venomous kiss (and is eerily similar to Batman’s enemy Poison Ivy). This all leads to a climactic battle where Logan must defeat the Silver Samurai.
Other than a fun and silly scene on top of a 300 mph train, most of the action takes place on the ground with very little CGI, if at all. The martial arts fighting is spot-on and fun to watch. Mangold does a good job capturing the Japanese culture and cinema.
Hugh Jackman once again owns the Wolverine role. We see him struggle with his personal demons and physical ailments, as well as take on seemingly unstoppable villains with this constraint.
The 3D conversion does little to impress, although the wide shots of a snowy Japan add some good depth.
While ‘The Wolverine’ is still not a solid film, it’s a step in the right direction. Some of the pacing is a little slow, and some elements of silly comic-book humor feel out of place. An end-credit sequence will blow your mind and might make you jump out of your seat and yell “YES!”
I figure that fans of the story and Wolverine will venture out to see this bloodless PG-13 super-hero movie, but the rest of us might as well just wait for the upcoming ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’.