PG-13, 126 min.
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee, Famke Janssen
I feel like I’ve been spinning around in circles looking up at the sky after having spent the last week or so watching the six X-Men movies leading up to the new “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. What with starting in the “not too distant future” of the first film, the flashbacks that permeate all of them, then bouncing back to the early 70s for the first Wolverine movie, then back another decade for “First Class”, then back to the present (or is it still the not too distant future?) for “The Wolverine”. I imagine considering the time traveling nature of “Days of Future Past” that feeling won’t be going away when I go to see it tomorrow.
One of the harder aspects to deal with in watching “The Wolverine” is remember that chronologically the last thing that Wolverine did before this movie was kill Jean Grey. That explains why she shows up so prominently in this movie, returning in Wolvie’s guilt-ridden dreams. But, the film finally puts Wolverine into that setting that we’ve all wanted to see him in since Chris Claremont introduced the idea in the early 80s. Wolvie goes to Japan.
James Mangold was certainly the right director for this film, considering the great understanding of the western he showed in his remake of “3:10 to Yuma”. The Wolverine mythos is filled with samurai influence and meaning. The great samurai films of Japanese tradition were based off of our westerns, so now Mangold goes full circle while getting a comic book adaptation under his hat to boot. “Hat to boot”? Can I say that?
Anyway, “The Wolverine” is so much better than its predecessor “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” that I’m nearly willing to forgive that faux pas. The difference between the two is that “The Wolverine” tells a story, while XOW just tries to be awesome and doesn’t really bother building a good story. Now, this one’s story isn’t incredible, but it’s good. It’s sturdy enough for the filmmakers to hang something on it at least. For the first time in six movies we get to see Wolvie show physical weakness, which is his greatest weakness as a character. Being nearly indestructible creates a problem in building tension. Here, that isn’t as much of a problem.