For all intents and purposes, 2009’s X-Men Origins is a colossal, exploitative failure and nothing more than an attempt to cash in on Wolverine’s overly recognizable prevalence within the X-Men sect of the Marvel comic book canon. Sure, Jackman gives it his all like always, characterizing the immortal, rapidly healing and adamantium skeleton-harboring hothead in a way only he can at this juncture, however all the film did was thrust him into a hollow situation he was forced to claw himself out of based on principle. Despite a heavy sigh-inducing directorial switch, James Mangold’s flair for recreating the essence of what it is to be the title character makes The Wolverine one of the more enjoyable Marvel efforts – barring The Avengers – to come about since Bryan Singer’s X2.
As we’ve all come to realize, superhero flicks are essentially “Point A” to “Point B” endeavors – titular comic book staples thrust into particular situations, a whirlwind of detail serving only to beef up the proceedings as he or she forcibly gets to the bottom of things. Needless to say, The Wolverine is no different if revelatory for our key protagonist, Logan (Hugh Jackman) lamenting the perpetually guilty conscience he’s stricken himself with following the necessary death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Summoned to Japan by a well-to-do pink-haired acquaintance, Logan must (at first) bid farewell to a former soldier-turned-industrial dynamo he shielded from the nuclear WWII attack on Nagasaki. Offering him the mortality he desperately desires but cannot achieve, the all-powerful Yashida pitches a “cure” for Logan’s affliction with ulterior motives, of which soon segues into the thick of his overseas exploits.
With The Wolverine being a previously semi-unexplored niche of the icon’s mythology, it’s quite excellent to witness a straightforward marketing ploy transform into something wholly involving from start to finish, what with careful pacing and a Nolan-esque “maximalist” vibe permeating the script to do the lore justice. While “Protect Mariko” is the conveyed objective at first despite some obvious hang-ups, the film as a whole does a bang-up job in establishing Logan as a true individual discovering an intended purpose he never knew had to fulfill. While no particular central villain exists outside of the obviously portrayed (Svetlana Khodchenkova’s Viper among others), it’s definitely interesting to witness Logan’s internal struggle with his sense of self and newfound obligations as a guardian and upholder of all that is morally keen.
Yes, The Wolverine sports a fair share of characteristic action-oriented bits laden with suspense, what with one not knowing how the newly feeble Wolverine will fare in the wake of his most recent troubles. In fact, the action is quite fantastic if just barely less engaging than the mystery surrounding the central story arc itself, even if Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and Mariko’s (Tao Okamoto) soft-spoken and culturally resonant flashbacks become a bit too plentiful. In summary, it’s relieving to finally stumble upon a film adaptation that does one of my and countless others’ favorite comic book hero justice. Where the aforementioned film suffered, this go-round sports a serviceable amount of human emotion and general intrigue, the plot’s intricacies and warranted violent bombast doing wonders for what a comic book film should be. Substantial cheese and glaring flaws are unavoidable, but as a generally solid, moreover enjoyable big-budget piece of Marvel goodness, look no further than The Wolverine.