By Philip Rearich
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Mark Bomback and Scott Frank
Based on: Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller
Starring: Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida
Rila Fukushima as Yukio
Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen Yashida
Famke Janssen as Jean Grey/Phoenix
First off, I just wanna say this: Wolverine is Marvel’s Batman. Now, others would say “no way, Iron Man is Marvel’s Batman,” and while they are entitled to their opinions, I still think it’s Wolverine. Sure, Iron Man 3 can be Marvel’s version of The Dark Knight Rises (the hero questioning himself and being depressed, the guy that was thought to be the main villain isn’t the main villain), but The Wolverine is Marvel’s The Dark Knight…sort of. Let’s face it, Wolverine is the most overused character in the X-Men movies, the ironic fact being that he wasn’t even originally created as an X-Men character but rather debuted in an issue of The Incredible Hulk. Somewhere along the way, he joined the X-Men and has been the character mostly identified with them, though he has been with other superhero teams in comics such as The Avengers, and has even stood on his own as a solo character. Yes, Iron Man does have similar traits to Batman (rich guy, genius inventor, dark past, etc.), but Iron Man is more flippant and open, not to mention a substance abuser, whereas Wolverine is more of a loner and sometimes a team player, using the most drastic means to get the job done (yeah I know he kills and Batman generally doesn’t). Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the movie.
As if the other X-films weren’t Wolverine-centered enough (with exception of First Class, even though he had a cameo), there are now two Wolverine solo films with another rumored along the way. While Origins (the prequel movie released in 2009) was somewhat enjoyable, it did have a lot of problems. It tried to cram in every Wolverine origin story (trust me, there are A LOT of them) and rush it out in a 2 ½ hr narrative, characters (especially fan favorites) were simply glossed over and/or simplified either just to put them in there or simply fan service (not to mention provide their own movies; speaking of which, where are the Deadpool and Gambit movies?) because Wolverine trumps them all I guess, and it tried too hard to be like Batman Begins only more rushed (fitting I guess since Wolverine is a berserker). Thankfully, this movie is a major step up from that.
Originally, this was gonna follow on from Origins, but it doesn’t. Instead it takes place after the third X-Men movie. While it’s not a sequel, it does feel like an aftermath movie at times (to much better effect than Iron Man 3 was to The Avengers), yet can still be its own movie. Wolverine is depressed, living in exile, and not with the X-Men anymore after killing the love of his life, Jean Grey. He gets called back into action when a supposedly old friend of his from Japan offers to take away his immortality so he won’t continue living in despair. What follows is a battle for survival against various foes that feels like something out of Japanese anime, only in live action.
I loved Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, ever since the first X-Men movie. He practically IS Wolverine. There are few actors who could actually be the comic book characters they portray or are most identified with in their media portrayals and Hugh Jackman is one of them when it comes to Wolverine. In this one, he is ripped as Hell and he’s still got it, for every time he’s been Wolverine. I like the idea that this movie focuses on how he deals with his immortality. Others would say “what’s there to complain about being immortal” and I would say to them “watch Highlander and find out.” This movie evokes that kind of feel. When you’ve been immortal, living for so long and seeing people you’ve grown to care for die around you and you wished they wouldn’t go, then you’d probably want to die or want your immortality taken away so it doesn’t happen anymore. Wolverine is tempted to take the offer and almost does (actually almost forced on him but whatever), but realizes there is still evil around and has to be the best he is at what he does, even though it may not always be nice. Also, how awesome was it when he said “go bleep yourself”? I know it’s something that not even the comics would do, but given he said it before in First Class and now this film, it just seems fitting for him.
For those who don’t know, this is actually based on a Wolverine story simply titled Wolverine. Basically he goes to Japan and gets his butt kicked by samurai and goes through great lengths in order to beat them. The film utilizes this story well for the X-Men movie universe, but it does have its problems. I didn’t really like the changes to Silver Samurai, changing him into a differently named character who wears a mechanized suit of armor instead of a mutant who can charge his sword with energy. Viper just seems more like a background character instead of a major villain. The tone is excellently dark, but sometimes overshadowed by the special effects, which seem a little overabundant and gawdy at times, something that has been consistent with past couple X-Men movies, but fitting given that it takes place in Japan and feels like a live action anime. With the end leading up to the next X-Men movie, Days of Future Past (also based on another iconic X-Men story by Claremont), there will be that kind of special effects, but mixed in with the tone of the first two X-Men films. Regardless, this film is the best there is at what it does (being a dark comic book movie featuring a dark brooding antihero), but what it does and what’s seen in it may not always be nice.