The first X-Men movie back in 2000 changed the Summer movie landscape. It was the first time that a Marvel comic book adaptation was done right. Obviously Superman and Batman changed the way that superhero movies were seen, but Marvel had never truly been taken seriously in cinema. Then Bryan Singer unleashed Professor X and his band of mutants and it became a huge success. I would argue that X-Men laid the groundwork for the far superior and more financially successful SpiderMan series. Without X-Men taking a risk we might not have Iron Man or The Avengers. Marvel started to notice that if they get the right director and cast, their movies would be crowd favorites. Who knows, maybe Tony Stark could have been played by Burt Reynolds in an alternate universe.
X2 came out in 2003 and raised the bar even higher for comic book movies. It has been 10 years and the X-Men series is still trying to reach that high standard. After X3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the series was hanging by a thread. Now X-Men First Class accomplished a miracle by nearly redeeming the X-Men name and did its best to erase our memories of the two shoddy movies that came before it.
Which brings us to The Wolverine…
Because of the bad taste the first Wolverine movie gave us, there is little excitement or expectation for another solo Wolverine movie. And it’s a real shame that his character has been neutered considering he is basically Marvel’s version of Batman (tonally). I think only 17 people even know that a Wolverine sequel is coming out this weekend.
Okay, enough filler, let’s talk about the actual movie.
The Wolverine follows the events a few years after X3. Logan (Hugh Jackman) has gone off on his own and lives in the wilderness. He is constantly dreaming of Jean Grey and is still haunted by her death at his hands/claws. He is tracked down by a young, but talented girl named Yukio. She brings him to Japan at the request of the man he saved from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima back in WWII. This man offers to cure Logan’s loneliness and relieve him of his immortality.
This spawns a battle within the prominent Japanese family and the Yakuza. Wolverine is caught in the middle of the war and ends up protecting the granddaughter of the man he once saved. Protecting one person would normally be no problem for Logan, but he isn’t instantly healing like he’s used to.
I went into this movie with very low expectations. I was originally excited about this project 2 years back when Darren Aronofsky was attached to direct, but then he dropped out and James Mangold came aboard. Also, am I the only one getting tired of Hugh Jackman playing this character? I think Karl Urban would be a far better fit.
But as I watched the Wolverine, I kept waiting to hate it. I just couldn’t. This movie works because it’s a standalone Wolverine story that doesn’t rely too much on cameos from the rest of the X-Universe. Logan finally becomes a great character because he’s thrown into a situation where he doesn’t understand anyone’s motives or who he can trust. And it doesn’t hurt that we get to see a weaker Wolverine.
As I said, I am tired of Jackman playing Wolverine eternally, but he gives the character much more effort this time around. He doesn’t just rely on screaming to show his anger. Instead, you can almost see the hate in his eyes.
This movie is not without its flaws. Comic book enthusiasts will have some serious issues with the explanation for the loss of Logan’s powers. Also, the movie feels quite dull in the second act. I think Mangold was trying to establish a Christopher Nolan vibe, but it felt a little hollow. Also, the Viper character was the weak part. She did her best to chew the scenery, but just came off acting like the little sister of Poison Ivy (from Batman & Robin).
I think this movie should be called “Wolverine and the Princess.” Because that’s what you’re getting here. At times, it felt like a 80’s movie ala Commando. But, for the most part, it was the X-Men version of Tangled. That may sound bizarre, but now you won’t be able to unsee it.
This is a slightly above-average Summer flick. I feel like I liked it as much as I did, because the first Wolverine was that bad. But it does stand on its own as a worthy addition to the good X-Men movies. If this was the Origins movie we saw 4 years ago, there would be more buzz about the Wolverine franchise.
Flaws and all, The Wolverine is worth seeing in the theater. Though I wouldn’t worry about 3D.
Quick note: You won’t have to stay long into the credits to catch the stinger. It will make you excited for the future (past) of the series. I seriously haven’t cared this much about the series since 2003. Now, let’s just hope they give Gambit and Deadpool their own movies.
And just for fun, here’s a pic of Hugh Jackman selling out…