Three strikes, you’re out
The Wolverine, the latest in Marvel’s ever-growing line of superhero box office domination, is more or less a long Instagram selfie of a shirtless Hugh Jackman arriving home from the gym and posing forlornly in the rain. Not much happens in the film and it’s hard to see what it accomplishes to further the already convoluted story of the X-Men film series. As a standalone it’s an entertaining but not excellent action flick. Jackman attacked the role of the Wolverine with his claws out, literally, and injected some much-needed life into the 126-minute runtime.
Logan the Wolverine (Jackman) is an immortal mutant who possesses rapid healing abilities and three metal claws that protrude from his knuckles. He is tracked by magenta-headed assassin Yukio (Rila Fukushima) as he lives caveman-style alone in the wilderness, presumably in light of events from one of the, like, five X-Men prequels leading up to this. Yukio is the granddaughter of Logan’s old friend (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), whom is now in charge of one of Japan’s most influential companies. He proposes to swap his mortality with Logan’s immortality, believing Logan wants to die after being haunted by dreams of his dead love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).
Logan is also put in charge of protecting Yukio’s sister Mariko (Tao Okamoto). She is suicidal and has a squad of assassins hunting her, and now she’s Logan’s business. With some of his powers mysteriously going missing, Logan must protect Mariko and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding her family.
For a Marvel movie there’s a surprising lack of full-force action scenes. The most typical superhero sequence (aside from the climax, which reeked of Marvel) is when Logan ends up fighting an assassin atop a speeding bullet train for some contrived reason. Tons of movies have fight scenes staged on speeding vehicles, but the duck-and-jump feature and seemingly endless train length give this one a reenergized twist.
The film is also unlike usual Marvel tentpoles with its Japanese setting, some of which takes place in a sprawling city that might as well be New York City, and some of which that takes advantage of Japanese culture in rural Japanese villages. It’s notably based off of Wolverine’s anime and utilizes quirky elements of the show (oh, Japanese humor) to feel unique and refreshing for a superhero flick.
The supporting cast outside of Yukio is mostly uninteresting, as the characters fulfill their minimal contributions to the story without any further characterization. The script’s main focus is the Wolverine, who is hard to not at least appreciate by the film’s end. Jackman maintains the character’s iconic snarling, side-eyeing persona but provides a few glimpses of the character’s vulnerability, giving Logan an emotional base he acts from. One of the film’s main images is the hero harrowing forward on his quest with around two-dozen arrows sticking out of his back and counting. Wolvie’s a sad sack but you can’t deny he’s got guts. (That’s cause they’re falling out of him most of the time.)
The film is entertaining while playing and forgettable when it’s over. It’s entirely skippable, but moviegoers may want to go and enjoy Jackman’s strong performance. With so many superheroes on the market, however, it may be difficult for The Wolverine to claw its mark on audiences.
Fans of the X-Men series definitely want to stick around for the post-credit scene foreshadowing the next installment set for summer 2014. My theater, that I suspect was full of X-Nerds, went absolutely nuts for it, which is an understatement. I did not appreciate it as much as they, but I haven’t been following the series.