Let’s get this out of the way first: other than providing a high degree of eye candy, Wolverine’s previous outing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a disappointment. The somewhat ballsy marketing behind The Wolverine has certainly had a lot of people concerned – but is the film an improvement on its predecessor?
Logan was never going to take the death of Jean Grey well. After a jaunt down memory lane, we find Logan living as a hermit in a forest in Canada. He’s living extremely rough, clearly at an even lower-ebb than any point of his cinematic appearances. We are made to emphasise with him a great deal while he ekes out this kind of Grizzly Adams like existence, only Logan is clearly an equal to the local wildlife he surrounds himself with.
Unless you hate the character, you want Logan to find some kind of silver lining – like the compact yet lethal Yukio. And here begins one element of the film that I struggled with: I couldn’t tell how respectful of contemporary Japanese culture they were being, but more on that later. Anyway – Logan heads for the bright lights of Tokyo to be reunited with a very old friend.
The trailers had made it quite clear that a huge plot point of the film was going to involve Logan losing his ability to heal, which is a pretty big deal for a character like his. The concept of Logan being vulnerable in this way makes you fearful for him, it’s a complete switch from the fearless, claw slashing, two-legged decapitation machine of the previous films. Anything is almost possible and watching Logan take bullets and not shrugging it off, not just continuing his onslaughts – to see him staggering and looking weak is a far more compelling experience than seeing a certain alien deal with rocks from his home planet.
Action in this film has been bundled into every nook and cranny. It’s like a sliding door can’t be opened without Yakuza, businessmen or ninjas sparring behind it or killing each other. The pace is unforgiving, with characters barely given a chance to breathe. When Logan gets the chance to stop and collect his thoughts he’s having to deal with more than just healing from the numerous gun wounds now covering his body. There’s precedence in the comics for some of what happens in terms of the film’s love interest, at no point does Logan ever seem quite ready for it until the film’s end and just about everything has been vanquished.
I can’t claim to be an authority on Japanese culture and I’m always wary of stereotyping in films, but it was strange watching the brushes of culture that were worked into the film. From the highly traditional world of the Yashida family home and a Buddhist temple to a particular hotel and Yukio’s attire – I want to think that the film was quite respectful of its representation of contemporary Japanese culture, mixing old and new, though the treatment of women in the film was unpleasant at times. One of the main villains was definitely unpleasantly characterised in a gender based way.
Strangely, the food wasn’t stereotypical – I don’t think I saw a single piece of sashimi or sushi, instead they opted for scenes to be accompanied by tea and one featured a well fortified stew. There was also a general air of Japanese martial-arts drenched crime films, while by the film’s final act I was left thinking of Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
Paul Blewitt’s thoughts
An action packed improvement on Origins, The Wolverine is a pleasant enough re-acquaintance with the X-Men universe. While motivations for the characters can be unclear at times, the scenery and fight scenes are often breathtaking and deeply detailed. And if you do see this film, don’t do what the group sat next to me at the cinema did – leave as the credits rolled. You need to stay for the credits.
The Wolverine is out now in cinemas in the UK and US. We paid for our own tickets.