I feel like at least half of the films I’ve watched this year have been superhero-based, maybe it’s just the latest flurry of Iron Man and Superman that’s given me that impression, but the X-Men saga finally takes another step forward in preparation of next year’s “Days of Future Past” that looks to tie together the post-“Last Stand” storyline with the cast of 2011’s “First Class”. Well SORT OF. Not a lot of preparation was really needed – indeed a lot of this groundwork is dealt with in a 2-minute mid-credits scene.
But the goal was to rehabilitate Wolverine after the brutal end to “Last Stand”, and it seems that it accomplished that. Not only his character needed rehabilitation; after 2009’s “Origins” film, the franchise was looking a little shaky and I admit I wondered if the whole idea had been scrapped in favour of the inevitable reboot. Fortunately it looks like I was wrong on that count. People seem fond of saying “Origins” was effectively written out of history with this latest instalment but I don’t think that’s the case at all. Sure “The Wolverine” didn’t really make any reference to it, but what more was there to say? It was Wolverine’s backstory, and in essence the loose ends were mostly tied up as part of “X2”.
Anyway. “The Wolverine” picks up with Hugh Jackman’s Logan in self-imposed exile in the Yukon, approached by Rila Fukushima’s Yukio to bring him to see her adopted grandfather – a figure from Logan’s past. This takes him to Japan where the rest of the film is set. On a personal level that was a selling point for me, I loved the set-pieces: a huge fight scene at the Hamamatsucho temple I’d visited, the usual neon skylines and the sleepy coastal area of Nagasaki.
It just had a different flavour to other films of its genre, and having a lot of the dialogue in subtitled Japanese was a surprising choice (despite a few odd English exchanges between two Japanese who would’ve been talking Japanese). Logan of course didn’t take to this easily, the gruff Westerner scowling his way through most scenes.
The rest of the cast play their roles gracefully and at times perhaps a bit too stereotypically – I wonder if real Japanese people talk about honour as much as movies make out – Tao Okamoto’s Mariko is a beautiful but otherwise insubstantial love interest, while Svetlana Khodchenkova’s Viper plays an uncanny version of Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy, complete with a parade of increasingly slutty outfits. I didn’t quite get what she was hoping to achieve though.
I really enjoyed it all though, the set-pieces were spectacular, the fight scenes perhaps went on a bit but still it was a solid film. For someone who never got particularly excited about Wolverine the character, no matter how many ripped torsos were thrown at me (including some truly terrifying sets of bulging veins), I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It’s got me excited for next year’s film, and hopefully will stop it being too Wolverine-centric now his issues have been dealt with for now. And it only took dozens of dreams of Famke Janssen…