IGN finally reviewed The Wolverine. Seems like they liked it a lot.
With his return to the title role of The Wolverine for the sixth time (with a seventh film now shooting), Hugh Jackman has proven that there's plenty of life left in the most famous X-Man. Unburdened by the type of reservations or fears that some other filmmakers and actors seem to have about the comic-book characters they're adapting, Jackman once again goes full in, embracing the Logan that fans first fell in love with in the pages of the X-Men. The result is, finally, the Wolverine movie we've always wanted.
Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) and his screenwriters smartly avoid the clutter of mutants and other pitfalls of the character's first solo film, creating a tale that is equal parts inspired by a classic storyline from the comics, a continuation of the X-Men film series, and a separate adventure all its own. Much like the character himself, The Wolverine is lean, mean, and fun.
Interestingly enough, the film serves as a quasi-sequel to the last of the "original" X-Men films, The Last Stand, which came out all the way back in 2006. When we first meet him here, Logan is living like a hermit in the Canadian wild, with the closest thing he has to a friend apparently being the grizzly with whom he uneasily shares the area. Wolverine is mourning the loss of Jean Grey, the X-Men teammate who he loved -- and was forced to kill in that earlier film -- and he has cut himself off from the world rather than have to face more loss.
Famke Janssen as Phoenix-like as ever, appears to Logan throughout the story -- as a dream, a ghost, or something else entirely perhaps -- as he struggles with the guilt of what he did.
But the film is a journey of healing for the character, as well as a meditation on the nature of life, death, and the notion of immortality. Soon, the ageless Logan encounters Yukio, the emissary of a dying old man whose life he saved decades earlier during World War II (we flashback to this moment, an intense recreation of the Nagasaki atomic attack). The old man, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), brings Logan back to Japan, where he offers to take the mutant's immortality away from him a compelling situation to put Wolverine in, cursed as the character is to forever see those around him grow old and die.
In this age when superhero movies are increasingly concerned with universe-building, it's refreshing to get a film like The Wolverine that mostly stands alone. It's nice not having to worry about the bigger X-Men story or some kind of origin tale during the film (which isn't to say there's nothing here that points to the future of the Wolverine and X-Men franchises). For the most part, this is just a single adventure in Wolverine's long, long life. And really, it makes you feel that the Wolverine movie series could go on forever.
While the picture pulls liberally from the classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Japan storyline from the comics, it really plays more like a Bond movie than anything else, putting Logan in an exotic locale with entirely new characters to deal with, friend, foe, and love interest. (Of particular note are Rila Fukushima's Yukio, who in a sort of flip on Logan's powers is endowed with the unenviable ability to foretell death, Tao Okamoto's Mariko, upgraded from her damsel-in-distress comics counterpart, and Svetlana Khodchenkova's Viper, who spews venom like a fiend, quite literally.)
There's also a small but great beat in this script that I think is instructive for those who are looking to work in this genre. It involves the undying Wolverine starting to become a thing of legend -- via bedtime story! This is not only a cool concept but it also ties in perfectly to the film's bigger themes and the very notion of what makes Wolverine what he is. Note to all studios: This is the type of flourish that makes a good superhero movie -- not Gambit cameos that go nowhere.
As far as the action goes, a high-speed fight aboard a bullet train is a showstopper, but there are lots of ninjas and sword fights to also keep Wolvie in motion. And fanboys will find the deeper mythology of the character is intact as well. Still, The Wolverine does run into some problems as it nears its climax. The Viper is sexy and kick-ass, but kind of one-note. And a perhaps too cartoonish villain emerges during the finale, as does some CGI action that is more over the top than the rest of the film that precedes it.
But this story paints a deep and compelling portrait of Logan, a haunted character that Jackman still finds new ways to play all these years later. It turns out The Wolverine is the superhero movie surprise of the summer. He's still the best there is at what he does.
The Wolverine is a standalone adventure for the classic character that reminds us that there's more to this genre than universe-building and crossovers.