After the events ofX-Men: Last Stand, Wolverine is alone and coping with the loss of Jean Grey. He receives word that a man he saved a lifetime ago would like to see him one last time but there is more to visit than meets the eye. This journey not only brings Wolverine to a foreign land but thrusts him into a chain of events that will test his resolve as well as his mutant abilities. The odds are stacked against Wolverine and the outcome of these events will leave him a changed man.
If you are familiar with the Chris Claremont/ Frank Miller Wolverine story you will see many issues with the film immediately. I decided to watch this film without factoring in the previous Wolverine film, which while moderately entertaining did not do the character justice. I came away entertained albeit slightly dismayed by certain aspects. The first issue for me was the pacing of the film, which at times seemed immensely slow. The second were some of the actors primarily Svetlana Khodchenkova‘s Viper, who while essential to some of the plot seemed lost with her poor American accent and paper-thin motivations. I also felt let down by Hiroyuki Sanada who played Shingen as the character lacked true motivations other than the most obvious one which won't spoil. I really enjoyed Sanada's work alongside Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai and I expected a cold, calculating Shingen on par with the comics. Instead, I got a practically cartoonish villain. Now looking past the acting performances of his costars, Hugh Jackman delivered one of his best Wolverine performances to date – not only in creating a physically imposing Wolverine but in making him comparable to the smart-talking bad ass we know from the books. Jackman is never dull and tries his hardest to do the character justice. While Jackman made the most of the plot, I feel we could have stood to see more of Wolverine adjusting to being in Japan as the fish-out-of-water scenes shown throughout the film gave Jackman some great lines. The same can be said to the moments where his healing factor was out of commission as we got to see Wolverine interacting with situations that were alien to him given his healing abilities.
James Mangold not only gave us a more in-depth look into Wolverine's motivations but also created some great action sequences. I must admit, not bad for a guy who also did Kate & Leopold. Mangold gave ample character development with decent sprinkles of action mixed in. Some think that the character development dragged on longer than it should have and to some degree, I agree. I think that the toughest aspect of making Wolverine work is confining him to the PG-13 rating, which while good for tickets hampers certain aspects of his true character. There are some strong rumors that an R-rated cut of the film exists and may see a release on DVD/Blu-ray – which if true I'd like to see not only as a fan but see if the R-rating is what Wolverine needs.
The Wolverine starts off quite solid and then sputters a bit in the second act with the film's climax redeeming it to a degree. The Wolverine is a great launch pad to the next set of X-Men films and reinforces why Hugh Jackman was the right man to bring Wolverine to the big screen. The Wolverine is a solid entry into the solo Wolverine films and delivers what I feel has been best portrayal of the character thus far. Go and see it if you are a fan of the X-Men films or enjoy a good action film. Comic purists on the other hand need to walk in expecting a loosely based adaptation of the Claremont/Miller classic so see it at your own risk. Lastly, stay after the credits which with Marvel films should be a no-brainer at this point.
The Next Chapter Of Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted is Now Available