The Wolverine

The cream always rises to the top.  The star always gets the spin-off, or leaves the group to go solo.  Movie franchises are no different.  The X-Men are a captivating ensemble, but there are only a couple of them who you’d want to see alone.  I think Wolverine is such a character, and he’s the only one has his own franchise.  As I’ve stated before, I didn’t read the X-Men comic books, but I used to watch the cartoon – and Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) is the embodiment of the Wolverine.

When we find our long-lost Logan, he’s literally holed away in an isolated mountain cave on the outskirts of a small town.  He’s plagued by nightmares of Jean (Famke Janssen, Taken 2) and flashbacks to the World War II nuclear bombing of Nagasaki.  It was there that Logan saved the life of a Japanese soldier named Yashida, and the two men have never forgotten that fateful day.  Of course Logan hasn’t aged since then, but Yashida is now the elderly CEO of a profitable Japanese company.  Logan’s connection to Yashida is brought to the forefront even more when he encounters a young woman named Yukio (Rila Fukushima).  She intervenes to help Logan in an altercation, but has been dispatched to summon him to Japan.  Yashida is on his deathbed and would like to see his old friend one last time.

Logan reluctantly travels to Japan, where he finds Yashida on death’s door.  He meets Mariko (Tao Okamoto), Yashida’s granddaughter and Yukio’s adopted sister.  She is betrothed to a young Japanese man in a marriage arranged by her father, but everything is turned upside down when it’s revealed that Mariko will inherit her grandfather’s company instead of her father.  Later, she is nearly kidnapped by the Japanese Yakuza, but Logan intervenes and saves her.  Complicating matters is Yashida’s sinister doctor, who seems to have a hidden agenda.

The movie follows Logan and Mariko as they flee her would-be captors and Logan tries to figure out why his healing abilities are unexpectedly diminished.  Yukio has a premonition that Logan will die, and although he is dismissive of her concerns, it certainly seems like a possibility given his suddenly more human condition.  He and Mariko grow closer, especially when he uncovers betrayal within her family.  In the first act of the movie we are shown Logan’s tortured, solitary existence; in the second act he returns to Japan and we are introduced to the movie’s principal conflict; and in the third and final act we see the resolution of that conflict.  I appreciated the straightforward storytelling and found it largely effective.

Director James Mangold (Knight and Day, 3:10 to Yuma) created a dark landscape for Jackman, who is very good as Wolverine.  The role has never been played by anyone else on the big screen, nor should it.  The movie assumes that the viewer is familiar with X-Men and/or has seen the first Wolverine movie, and I won’t quibble with this.  I doubt anyone would go see this movie if they hadn’t seen either of those previous works.  I’ve seen a few tweets criticizing this movie – so I’m not sure what demographic to which it appeals, but I liked it.  Some decried the lack of action; others thought it seemed like a “kiddie” movie.  Bear this in mind, but I wasn’t disappointed at all.  Grade: B.

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