would be easy to be cynical about yet another entry into one of the many
superhero franchises that seem to dominate the landscape of modern cinema these
days, but at least with “The Wolverine” there seems have been a conscious
effort to mark the film out as more than just another comic book summer
from the limited series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, “The Wolverine”
sets out to do what all good films should do, and that’s to allow the
characters to drive the story forward and thread the narrative with an
overarching theme. In short, “The Wolverine” attempts to be more of a
structured drama than a comic book adaptation, and in this it mostly it
sometime after the events of “X Men: The Last Stand”, Hugh Jackman’s Logan has
forsaken his identity as The Wolverine and is living rough in a cave in the Yukon
mountains. On a depressive, downward cycle, he mourns the death of Jean Gray,
(Famke Janssen) whom he visits in the netherworld between life and death. Jean tempts
Logan to join her in the afterlife, and yet, as much as he wishes it, his
immortality means he must remain tied to this world.
overarching theme of mortality is hammered home when Logan is brought to Japan
by the precognitive mutant Yukio and to the deathbed of her employer, Yashida -
a Japanese soldier who Logan saved at the bombing of Nagasaki. In the
intervening years, Yashida has gone on to become the head of the powerful
Yashida Corp. Like many powerful and ailing men, Yashida yearns for
immortality. He offers Logan a chance to pass his immortality on to him,
allowing Logan to live - and, crucially, die - as a normal, mortal man.
Logan isn’t ready to pass on his “gift”, seeing it more as a curse. He turns
Yashida down and resolves to return to his man cave. However, before Logan can get
back to his usual hobby of beating up hicks in bars, he encounters Yashida’s beautiful
granddaughter, Mariko. Mariko, it seems, is her grandfather’s favourite, which
puts her at great risk from her father, Shingen, and Logan’s protective
instinct clicks over into hyperdrive.
Yashida passes away and Logan’s “gift” is forcibly taken from him by the mutant
Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), Logan is forced to not
only protect Mariko from the Yakuza, but also to come to terms with his own
This allows for a number of set pieces where
the reluctant and vulnerable Logan must unleash his wild side and let the
Wolverine’s claws come out. As he protects Maiko, he slowly begins to fall for
her. Perhaps now he has something to live for again?
However, it’s not long before the tables are
turned and we find ourselves marching squarely into a proper comic book third
act territory, full of fights, falls, and explosions. Sadly, although this is
where all the stops are let out, this is where the film is let down. Despite
all the eye candy on screen, this is also the point where all the characters
must find their resolution, which is never easy in an exploding villain’s lair
where everyone is fighting each other.
Viper, it is revealed, has an issue with Logan
- and men in general - but her character and her motivations are never really
explored or developed further than this, and she ends up being the most
directly caricatured of these comic book characters.
Yukio and Mariko, who have spent the film as
loyal sidekick and damsel in distress respectively, seem suddenly to have
little depth as soon as they are not fighting or running away from Yakuza.
Logan - now squarely Wolverine once again - does
actually get something of a resolution as he comes to terms with his mortality
and finally, rather than running from his nature, embraces it.
“The Wolverine” is, without a doubt, a more
character driven comic book film than many we’ve seen in recent times, and it’s
theme of mortality is deeper than one than we’d be used to encountering in this
kind of film. However, “The Wolverine” is a little too self-aware of its
attempted cleverness and often it feels as though it’s too heavy-handed in its
Despite this, “The Wolverine” still manages to
be a great deal of fun. Whilst it doesn’t pack the visual punch of “The
Avengers” or “Iron Man 3”, it does have more coherence and heart.
Jackman, although stepping into the Wolverine’s
boots for the sixth time, still brings the same energy and vigor to the role he
did when he first took it on thirteen years ago and any signs of weariness only
serve to highlight the character’s mental fatigue. He is clearly very comfortable
in this character’s skin (and muscle), which is fortunate, because, if the de rigueur post-credits teaser
is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing him in the role again soon.
(Ben Williams is a London-based contributor to Cinema Retro magazine and MI6 Confidential)