I don’t normally do movie reviews because, for one reason, I don’t watch that many movies–at least not in the timely fashion necessary to be relevant. However, I figured I’d do one for The Wolverine because I did a book review of Clairmont & Miller’s Wolverine.
The Wolverine shares superficial common ground with the Clairmont & Miller book. The setting for each is largely Japan. The movie and the book share almost the same slate of major characters. However, the characters don’t necessarily have the same relationships to each other or the same personalities as in the book.
If you’ve seen the trailers, my synopsis will be largely spoiler/surprise free. The movie opens with Logan saving a young Japanese officer. It then flashes forward to Logan living in the wilderness of the Pacific Northeast. The primary reference to the earlier films is that he is tormented by killing Jean Grey in X-men: The Last Stand (a.k.a. X-Men 3.) Yukio (a female warrior who the movie makes friendly to Logan from the get go) tracks Logan down to take him to see her employer, the same individual he saved during the war. That individual offers him mortality. After their meeting, Logan’s principal goal shifts from living by a vow to not kill to one of keeping Mariko safe. Mariko is the granddaughter of the officer Logan saved and she becomes his love interest. As in the book, Mariko is tangled in intrigues of family and company (i.e. kairetsu), but the nature of these intrigues is somewhat updated in the movie. In the book, Mariko is a helpless damsel-in-distress, but in the movie we see her strength.
The biggest strength of this movie is that Wolverine becomes mortal in the film–at least for a time. This creates stakes for Logan where none usually exist. The problem with Wolverine’s combination of rapid healing and indestructible skeleton is that there’s no nail-biting over his fate. You know no matter how much he gets tossed around, he’s going to get up and within a minute he’ll be right as rain.
In my opinion, the biggest flaw of the movie is the creation of a twist ending that fails to surprise but yet requires distorting a character. I realize it’s hard to write a good twist ending. If one foreshadows too much, one gives away the surprise. If one fails to foreshadow, then one annoys the audience with a “gotcha” type ending. In this case, one of the characters behaves in a manner that is out of character with the first act portrayal. This is a “gotcha,” but one that one couldn’t help but thinking was a possibility. There are a number of little forgivable sins that I won’t discuss, and which may be inevitable in film.
The film also contributes to the general continuity muddle of X-men films. Because this film attempts to be a standalone film, it may not seem fair to critique this point. However, by using the aforementioned piece of the X-Men 3 timeline, I think they open themselves up to this criticism. As an example, while in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film we are told that Wolverine can’t grow back his memories, he apparently grows back his memories of what happened in WWII just fine. There’s a post-credit scene which happens three years after The Wolverine timeline that is a set up for X-Men: Days of Future Past and Professor X appears in it, but they hint that there may be an explanation for this (Xavier died in the same X-Men 3 that this film references through about half a dozen dream sequences.) This is not so much an example of discontinuity, also because the upcoming film features time travel prominently, but may or may not be example of the general X-Men muddle.
I’d recommend seeing this movie, but only if one goes in thinking of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. If one does that one will find it an enjoyable step up. However, if one goes in expecting a movie of The Dark Knight caliber, one will be sorely disappointed.