The Wolverine (2013)

The WolverineFollowing the X-Men’s last stand in San Francisco, which saw him sacrifice the life of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) in order to save the world from The Phoenix, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is living in exile on the outskirts of a small Yukon town. He is sought out by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a clairvoyant who wishes to take him to Japan so that her employer — an ex-soldier Wolverine saved during the nuclear attack on Nagasaki — can repay his debt. Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) has the power to make Logan mortal, but his motivations are called into question when Logan discovers a plot for power involving toxicologist Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and archer Harada (Will Yun Lee).

It’s easy to forget that X-Men used to be a franchise worth getting excited about. A terrible sequel, and even worse spin-off and a pretty mediocre prequel conspired to undo Bryan Singer’s good work on the first two movies. With one of my biggest issues with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class being that it featured too much Hugh Jackman, it’s safe to say that I wasn’t expecting The Wolverine to be the film to put the series back on track.

Imagine my surprise, then, when within  minutes I was entirely on board with James Mangold’s far-flung sequel to Brett Ratner’s utterly woeful X-Men: The Last Stand. Tipping its hat to the original trilogy with a bedside cameo from Famke Janssen, the film quickly pays its dues — at least to  the extent that the previous few films deserve — before moving swiftly into new territory. Now with six appearances to his name, Wolverine ran a real risk of running out of fuel, yet Jackman somehow manages to breathe new life into the character of Logan — helped rather counter-intuitively by the script’s obsession with taking it away.

Featuring the smallest number of mutants of any film in the franchise — just Jackman’s healer, Fukushima’s clairvoyant and Khodchenkova’s viper — The Wolverine distances itself from the extant mythology its burdensome ensemble. The move to Japan only helps, giving the film a distinct look  that is visually very interesting and thematically a welcome change from the franchise’s default moral about self- and societal acceptance. It also adds to the sense of threat — you really fear for Mariko (and, when Wolverine’s made mortal, Logan too), giving the film stakes it otherwise wouldn’t have had.

The X-Men franchise  has always walked a fine line between The Avengers‘ comic-book pride and The Dark Knight trilogy’s denial. Realistic in its own way (the better films have possibly the strongest internal logic of the lot), the series has never been afraid of the occasional suspension of disbelief. Although injured, his adamantium skeleton renders Wolverine’s injuries flesh wounds at worst, and second act set piece atop a speeding train is as barmy as it is brilliant.  Even when the Iron Man-esque Silver Samurai makes an appearance towards the end, the battle leaves scars and retains an unexpected weight throughout.

A far better movie than anyone could have expected it to be, The Wolverine is a return to form for the franchise which has been struggling to find its feet since Singer left after X2. Thrilling, muscular and surprisingly thoughtful when it wants to be, this is a firm reminder that Marvel still has competition in the superhero arena. This is further supported by an air-punching mid-credits stinger, which teases next year’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past to triumphant effect.

4-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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