in Movies

Film Review: Hugh Jackman Goes to Japan in “The Wolverine”

The Wolverine is shockingly good compared to its predecessor, X-men Origins: Wolverine. I say ‘shockingly’ because I abhorred X-men Origins and had absolutely zero expectations going into this movie. That’s not to say The Wolverine is without its problem. But, overall, I really enjoyed James Mangold’s take on the popular X-men character.

This is Hugh Jackman’s sixth time playing Wolverine on the big-screen, and he’ll play him two more times in X-men: Days of Future Past and the untitled sequel to The Wolverine. This movie is a follow-up to the events of X-men: The Last Stand, a horrifyingly bad end to the original X-men trilogy that director Brett Ratner never recovered from. The Wolverine gives X-men: The Last Stand a sense of relevancy that I didn’t think was possible, and that’s mostly a good thing. Famke Janssen appears as Jean Grey in multiple dream sequences to basically poke at Wolverine’s guilt over having killed the woman he loved (even though he was mostly justified in his actions). If you recall, Wolverine was forced to kill Jean in X-men: The Last Stand because she had become too powerful and murderous.

In The Wolverine, he’s become a recluse in the wilderness of Canada until his pet bear is killed and he’s asked to go to Japan by a young mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima). Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), the man whose life he saved during the bombing of Nagasaki during World War II, is dying and he wants to thank Wolverine in person for what he did. Of course, it’s never that simple.

Once in Japan, Wolverine runs into all sorts of trouble and life-threatening situations, which give way for some really terrific action sequences. The story is much more self-contained than superhero action flicks like The Avengers or Man of Steel, which are about saving the entire world. Instead, The Wolverine has a fairly straightforward plot, albeit with an added layer of mystery, but the simplicity works to its advantage.

The movie deals with Wolverine’s healing factor in a really interesting way, as well. He’s forced to grapple with the possibility of giving up this power, and thus his immortality, and dying like a normal human being. He can finally get rid of all the emotional baggage that has built up over time because of his ability to live forever. Unfortunately, this idea never reaches its full potential. While the opening is pretty strong, The Wolverine starts to falter midway through. The third act is pretty weak, one of the main villain’s motivations are never explained, and I didn’t particularly enjoy the romance, which felt trite and unnecessary.

The two women, Yukio and Mariko (Tao Okamoto), are pretty great; Yukio, who has precognitive abilities, gets to kick a fair amount of ass. Even Mariko, the damsel-in-distress, gets to defend herself a number of times. However, there is something to be said about a white male going to an Asian country and beating up a bunch of Asian men, none of whom are portrayed in a very positive light. While this movie never reaches The Last Samurai levels of offensiveness, Japanese culture and traditions are exoticized and appropriated to a remarkable degree. Kenuichio Harada (Will Yun Lee), who’s essentially the Hawkeye of this movie, had potential to be a really interesting character, but that never panned out.

If you’re a fan of Wolverine, then I would definitely recommend this movie. As always, Hugh Jackman does a superb job in this role. It’s very character-driven, with plenty of action and suspense, and the post-credits scene is perhaps one of the best stingers I’ve seen in a long time. You can watch The Wolverine here.

3-stars-out-of-5

  • Starring: Hugh Jackman
  • Directed by: James Mangold
  • Running Time: 126 minutes
  • Genre: Action