When first watching “The Wolverine,” all I could do was compare it to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” It just had to be better than that mess. That wasn’t too difficult to do. However, once I started to let the second Wolverine movie stand on its own, I realized it didn’t little more past that initial goal.
The film has Logan going to Japan so that a dying man whom Logan saved in World War II can say a proper good bye before passing. As a thank you for saving him all those year’s ago, the man offers Logan, who does not age thanks to his healing ability, a chance to be mortal. Of course nothing can ever be that simple, and throughout the movie we see everyone’s true intentions and how they all collide with each other.
Here is the main way this movie surpasses Origins. Where Wolverine’s first solo effort was heavily tied to the other X-Men movies, this one essentially stands on its own. Jean Grey does have a significant role, but she mostly acts as a vehicle for Wolvie’s inner thoughts and you are brought up to speed easily enough. Through Jean, we see how Logan has had enough of the life he has led killing and watching his loved ones die while he doesn’t age. It’s the killing part however that is my first gripe with the film, and all the movies Wolverine has been in the more I think about it.
Wolverine is most notable for being a ferocious killing machine who goes into berserker rage. While that behavior is certainly referenced, we never actually see it. At no point does he ever lose control of his actions and really let loose. Instead he just fights everyone in a controlled fashion. He should be acting like an animal on the loose. He doesn’t even really take advantage of the fact that he has razor sharp claws coming out of his hands. Sure there are some stabs, but he fights more like Batman than a wild animal. Overall, the fight scenes are just a bit tame. Yes, the bullet train scene was cool, but there just weren’t many moments that got a big reaction from the audience.
My other gripe is the way they handled Logan losing his healing ability. I had a small issue with how it was taken instead of him choosing to have it removed, but the effects of it are what really bothered me. It could have been played as a big dramatic moment for him. Sustaining real pain that doesn’t go away for the first time. Just popping out his claws the first time without a healing factor could have made him scream. Instead he just gets a little dizzy from wounds and has a limp for a while. Then when he does have his healing factor, it is basically just seen healing cuts that he gets on his face so that enemies can look freaked out when they realize they can’t hurt him. It all just comes off as playing it too safe.
Just once during the movie I would have liked to see Wolverine get his face blown off and see a gruesome shot of his skull or guts exposed, or seeing any other character bleed or lose a limb. It doesn’t have to be an entire movie and blood and guts, but to at least introduce how far Wolverine and his abilities can go would go a long way toward giving us Logan we know and love. Instead, the worst that happens to Wolverine is losing his hair in an explosion, and a guy gets stabbed in the neck with no blood in sight. Would it have really been so horrible to have an explosion take some of the skin of his face to regenerate, and for a couple of guys to have their legs chopped off in battle?
The rest of the positives all come with negatives of their own. Thankfully, The Wolverine does not try to throw a ton of X-Men characters at you like Origins did, however by the end of the movie all of those characters get exposed for their character flaws. Viper is initially believable as a biochemist to go with her powers, but then she also knows ninjitsu? The other supporting characters seem to swap sides on a dime, and seriously does everyone have to be a trained ninja? I also liked having the bulk of the movie take place in Japan to separate it from the other X-films and provide a fresh setting true to the comics, but despite being on location, it was a very Americanized interpretation. More Rush Hour than Kill Bill. The more I think about it, that could some up my entire opinion of the movie.
Hugh Jackman is of course great as Wolverine. He could probably do this in his sleep by now but he keeps bringing the attitude and look you want from Logan. He just isn’t required to do enough with it here. The rest of the cast is fine, excluding Rila Fukushima who stands out as Yukio, Logan’s sidekick.
I didn’t hate The Wolverine by any means. I just didn’t like it very much. It existed. It was better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It just wasn’t more than that.
Stay for the post credit scene though. It makes the whole movie worth going to.