Since the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has taken to living in the cold Canadian wilderness, completely cut off from society. A tortured soul, his dreams are still haunted by the memory of Jean Gray (Famke Janssen), the woman he once loved and was forced to kill.
Having vowed to never hurt anyone ever again, he almost reneges on this promise when he’s confronted by a group of boorish hunters in a local tavern. About to tear these guys a new one, he’s whisked away by Yukio, a young Japanese mutant with some serious fight skills. As it turns out, she works for Japan’s most powerful inventor and industrialist: a man whose life Wolverine saved in Nagasaki back in 1945.
No sooner than he arrives in Tokyo, Logan finds himself caught up in a web of intrigue that involves corporate politics, family feuds and the Yakuza. Remember that promise he made not to hurt anyone? Well, that goes out the window pretty quickly. Taking it upon himself to protect the beautiful young heiress to the company, he ends up mowing down dozens of gangsters and ninjas in a series of (pretty thrilling) action sequences.
Learning from the feature-length mistake that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, director James Mangold and his writers have avoided packing this film with tonnes and tonnes of super-powered villains and comic book cameos. They keep the focus of the story squarely on Jackman and the action and as a result, the 2-hour runtime just flies by. There’s absolutely no question that this is a quantum improvement over the last Wolverine adventure.
There’s a nagging thought that been hanging around the back of my mind ever since I saw this film: the only thing that really stops this from becoming a really good movie is the title character himself.
In concept, Wolverine is the coolest, most interesting characters in the Marvel stable of superheroes: He’s a brooding soldier with a past; part-lonesome cowboy and part-guardian angel. He can dispose of twenty enemies at once and toss out a quick line like he was James Bond. He is really pretty awesome!
Then why isn’t he a better leading character?
Could it be that we’ve finally become tired of his gossamer thin back-story. Yes, we know he’s been roaming the Earth for centuries like God’s lonely man. Sure, we understand that he was captured by the government and brainwashed. But after four films where his character arc has been exactly the same, I can’t help but think they’ve mined the character for for everything it has.
Or maybe he’s suffering from Jack Sparrow Syndrome. Johnny Depp was never better as Captain Jack than in the first Pirates of the Caribbean, where he was a supporting character. By putting Captain Jack front-and-centre for all the sequels, they de-mystified him, overused him and made him kind of boring.
Using another classic example: Han Solo is by far the best character in Star Wars, right? But a Han Solo movie where they go into his back story and examine his personal pains would blow space chunks. With that logic, I’m not sure that a Wolverine film could ever be great.
When the credits roll for The Wolverine, be sure to stick around for the now-perfunctory credit sequence which teases next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Jackman’s signed up and it’s currently in production but we can only hope that it doesn’t linger too much on Wolverine’s personal journey. I think I’ve seen enough of that.
Verdict: A very solid summer blockbuster that erases the memory of the 2008 X-Men Origins debacle. Go and see it.
The Wolverine is in cinemas now