If you’ve been following the ad campaign on TV and online, the new Wolverine film has the tagline “The Wolverine fans have been waiting for”. Though as audiences will come to find out, that might largely depend on how old you are.
The Wolverine opens with Logan surviving as a long haired, scraggly mountain man still suffering nightmares from what happened at the end of 2006’s X-MEN: The Last Stand. If you never saw the film, let’s just say he didn’t get the girl, and a lot of people died. After being sought out by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a petite, but deadly Japanese body guard, Logan reluctantly agrees to return to Japan to say his final goodbyes to a young soldier whose life he saved back in WWII. Now an elderly and dying business tycoon, (Yashida) wants to give Logan the ultimate gift: An end to his immortality and a chance to lead a normal life.
Shortly after his death, Yashida’s daughter and heir to the family business (and soon to be Logan’s new love interest) Mariko (Tao Okamoto), is targeted for assassination by the Yakuza. What follows next is a plot that encompasses shady business deals, family drama, a ninja fiancé, a biochemist who likes to wear green latex, and a Silver samurai who just might be trying to permanently declaw Wolverine. Remember, this is all based on a comic book story, so just set your suspension of disbelief meter pretty high, and all will make sense.
Not counting his cameo in X-MEN First Class, this is the fifth time Hugh Jackman has tackled the role of Logan/Wolverine. And while his ability to get in shape and become the title role is uncanny at this point, there isn’t that much more for him to do. Director James Mangold (Knight and Day, 3:10 to Yuma, Copland) does an even job of keeping audiences invested in the story before the heavy action starts, but sadly after that, the film starts to lose traction. Including the main villain Viper, (Svetlana Khodchenkova), there are at least two other foils to keep Logan busy, not to mention his fading ability to heal. But even with multiple enemies and an interesting subplot, the movie manages to settle into a predictable tale of rescue and revenge that bows out with a Disney feel good ending. (You’ll know it when you see it).
The problem with The Wolverine is not that it’s a bad comic book movie; there are, in fact, plenty of fun and exciting moments that both fans and newcomers will enjoy. But overall the film feels like it’s holding something back and any Wolverine fan over the age of 25 can probably tell what it is. To put it bluntly, Wolverine is not a PG-13 character. For mass marketability reasons, you can probably understand why the top brass over at FOX Studios didn’t want to slap an R rating on one of their biggest summer movies. But even though this is being called a follow-up to the last X-MEN film, really, it’s the second origins story for this character. And that’s upsetting because we still never really get to see him become the animal he should be.
Most critics and fans agree that 2008’s X-MEN Origins: Wolverine was a bit of a letdown. So a few years ago when Darren Aronofsky was set to come aboard as director for this new tale, a glimmer of hope and fan expectation was raised to an all-time high. Unfortunately after working on the project for almost six months, the studio decided not to go with his treatment, which aimed for some sexual content and more brutal violence than has been allowed in the previous films. The mind could go wild with imagination trying to piece together how amazing of a film that could have been.
With The Wolverine we now have two films where Logan’s backstory and full character traits have supposedly been on display, so even in this age of reboots and prequels it’s doubtful that he will ever get another chance to tell a solo story. But new and old fans alike shouldn’t worry. If you stick around for the credits, as with most MARVEL films, you’re given a tasty surprise that is sure to leave you salivating for what’s coming next in the X-MEN saga. And from the looks of it, there’s no doubt that Wolverine will be right in the thick of it.