When we first find Logan (Hugh Jackman) he is alone in the Canadian wilderness, living in a cave with only the bare bone necessities needed for survival. He’s still haunted by his past; a vision of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the woman he was forced to kill in X-Men: The Last Stand, visits him in his dreams, asking the former Wolverine to join her in death. But Logan can’t join her in death. He may never be able to die, thanks to a healing factor that feels more like a curse than a blessing at this stage in his life.
The Wolverine is a personal journey for Logan, who struggles to reconcile the pain he’s caused with the fact that he’ll never answer for it. In this unexpectedly deep character study, Logan will face his past head on, dealing with not only the memories of his tortured life, but the demons he created from the people he chose to save.
Logan finds a bear in the woods that is slowly dying from a poison. Little does he know that the fate of this one animal will soon parallel his own life. After heading to Japan to meet a man he saved during the bombing of Nagasaki (Hiroyuki Sanada), Logan is given a proposition: transfer his healing factor to the man, allowing the X-Man to live the normal life he’s always longed for.
Despite refusing the offer, Logan still finds his ability to heal dwindling, taken away by a mutant who calls herself Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). Now being almost completely mortal, Logan fights not only for his own survival, but for the life of a young woman, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who happens to be the granddaughter of the man he saved all those years ago. This is a story of betrayal, organized crime, and corporate corruption, and sometimes it can be a little convoluted, especially towards the end. To be honest, the story isn’t all that unique or interesting. The real value comes from exploring the relationship between Logan and Mariko, who seems to have given the former X-Man a new reason to live, despite the taunting of the ghostly Jean Grey.
The plot is far from perfect, but it certainly provides the recipe needed for some awesome action sequences. You’ll be happy to know that The Wolverine delivers the thrills. A fight with the Yakuza on a fast moving train steals the show in terms of visual effects, but I’m partial to a scene that features Wolverine fighting Ninjas. He’s in Japan, so you know it has to happen at some point, and it’s so satisfying when it finally does.
A lot of this was clearly shot outdoors on real locations with real backgrounds, and it shows in the final product. The Wolverine is an awesome looking movie, well-directed and sporting some gorgeous photography. It’s a welcome change from the recent bout of super hero epics, most of which fall into a trap of overusing CGI and green screen backgrounds, much to the film’s detriment.
It’s true that super heroes are appealing because they’re larger than life, but that doesn’t mean they always have be presented with extremely fast cuts and tons of computer effects. The Wolverine provides a near perfect balance – it’s exciting to watch, but my eyes never felt like they were about to bleed. Choosing to film The Wolverine with tempered effects also helps the human side of the character shine, which really is the movie’s strong point.
I’ve been very disappointed with the last three X-Men films, most of all Wolverine’s first solo outing, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Luckily, The Wolverine seems content with just pretending that first film never happened. A wise choice. Comic book arcs will feature various creative teams and have their ups and downs in terms of quality, so the X-Men film series is allowed to do the same. I think it’s best if you look at The Wolverine as a stand-alone film as much as possible, not just as a semi-sequel to the sub-par X-Men: The Last Stand. If you can forget that some of the previous films ever happened, you’ll get the most out of enjoying Wolverine’s latest solo outing. Make no mistake about it, The Wolverine is the best X-Men film since Bryan Singer was at the franchise’s helm, and fans of mutants absolutely have to see it.