The latest in the X-Men film franchise and the second solo outing for Wolverine, the sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand is far better than the last team outing, and far better than Wolverine’s first go around. Inspired by the Miller/Claremont storyline where Wolverine heads to Japan and fights ninjas and Yakuza, this film does a decent enough job working within the framework of the established films and following the idea of the graphic novel while still standing on its own for the most part. While I’d have preferred an R-rated version like they’d originally planned, this one brings us a broken Wolverine that’s healing from some serious mental scars, and Jackman sells it amazingly well along with him healing as the film moves on.
The Wolverine starts out with Logan out in the wilderness, broken mentally, dreaming about the woman he loved and was forced to kill in X-Men: The Last Stand. He’s taken to living out with a bear, who ends up being the catalyst for his going to Japan. He heads into town to go after a hunter, and is confronted by a Japanese girl who’s been searching for him for someone he saved long ago. Logan gets drawn into a family struggle with the Yakuza, and a ninja clan and a mutant scientist are all somehow involved, leaving Logan to try to piece things together all while fighting a problem with his healing and protecting the granddaughter of the man he once saved.
The film has a very Western genre feel to it, with Logan falling into the “Man with No Name” archetype, and Japan taking the place of the old American West setting. I’ve seen others compare it to a James Bond film, and yeah, I can kind of see it towards the end a bit, but like most X-Men stories, there is never just one genre or theme presented. This isn’t a story about redemption, though, it’s more about Wolverine piecing himself together again after a devastating loss, and the events that bring him back from the brink and make him realize that he’s ready to move forward into the world, and maybe even love again.
The X-Men films have always been a reinterpretation of events from the comics: Striker in X-Men 2 being a military man instead of a religious nut, Phoenix simply being Jean’s dark side instead of a separate powerful entity, and so on. If you go into this expecting a strict, printed page to movie translation, you’ll be disappointed. I can see the finale raising a few eyebrows, but the rest of the film gets Logan’s tone, and how he deals with things, so well that I can easily get on board with the changes. I’m used to them throwing alternate realities at us, and the “film-verse” is just another one of those for me. Plus, the film works so much better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
While comic fans may take some issues with the way they handle certain events and characters, The Wolverine is still an all-around great film, and is an instant buy when it releases on home video.