X-Men Origins: Wolverine wasn't a film many of us enjoyed and despite it having a totally different director and set of writers, the previous movie has cast a rather ugly shadow over The Wolverine. Luckily for us, Logan's second film is definitely better than his first, but that isn't saying a lot, is it?
The Wolverine picks up after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. In case you missed it, Wolverine was forced to kill Jean Grey. Plunging his claws into the woman he loved has taken a huge toll on him, forcing him to go into isolation and while he lives in the wild, he strives to avoid conflict. Logan may be an outcast, but one person wants to bring him back into society. Yashida, a man Wolverine saved during World War II, is now dying and wants to give his savior a gift: mortality. Wolverine is flown to Tokyo to hear the dying man's offer and to say any more would be too spoilery, so I'll cut the recap there.
The plot is loosely based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's 1982 four-issue series which is simply titled WOLVERINE. And when I say "loosely," I sure do mean it. Yes, it involves a lot of the same names and some scenes are blatantly inspired by the book, but it's massively different. I'm usually cool when it comes to most changes -- after all, they need to keep things fresh -- but they missed quite a few opportunities when it came to some of the more iconic moments from the book (there's a major tease early on but it never delivers the scene you're expecting). Additionally, I didn't appreciate the handling of a certain character. That's sure to only annoy a select few, but it's a character I'm really fond of, so sue me. And naturally, these complaints won't matter if you haven't read the classic series or share my passion for a certain Marvel character.
The story being drastically different than the source material is something I can overlook a vast majority of the time, but the problem here is the new narrative it creates feels like it's striving to be way more complex than it actually is. There's more than a handful of twists thrown our way, but the issue is none of them are actually shockers and I imagine most of you will be able to predict them well before they happen. A generic plot isn't a terrible thing if other factors can outweigh it, but it's worth noting because there's a fair share of moments I thought were downright silly -- the final act in particular had a few. Much to my surprise, there's an awesome amount of humor in the film, too. There's plenty of big laughs to enjoy, so even if you're not all that fond of the plot, odds are this movie will manage to slap a smile on your face a couple of times.
The Wolverine really succeeds when it decides to focus solely on Wolverine's internal struggle. Thankfully, there's a good chunk of that in the movie. Once again, Hugh Jackman does a superb job with the role, delivering the perfect blend of heart and rage. One moment you want to tell him everything will be alright and give him a pat on the back, and the next, you want to keep a safe distance from him or run as far away as you can. The more serious scenes are never enough to get the waterworks going, but it's certainly heartfelt enough at times and that's thanks to Jackman's performance. So if the plot does one thing very well, it would be its handling of the most popular X-Man and how he develops as the journey continues.
While Jackman steals the show and rightfully has a vast majority of the focus, Young Yashida's actor, Ken Yamamura, comes in second place for a short yet strong emotional performance in the opening scene and another flashback. Everyone else does an able job with their roles, too -- even if it is a super campy villain (here's looking at you, Viper).
Earlier action scenes suffer from too much shaky cam (and I'm someone who can usually tolerate a very good amount of that) and it really detracts from the chaos. This movie needs to bring good melees and unfortunately, it misses the mark in some of the early fights. I get the movie can't be too gory and a Wolverine movie certainly doesn't need gore to be good, but it's awkward watching him slice and stab so many goons without any kind of visible damage occurring to them most of the time. That said, they do counter this a few times with some pretty cool shots of blood still on his claws and the aftermath of a door he stabbed through. Additionally, Wolverine is more vicious when it comes to his handling of certain people he encounters, but those actions often take place right outside of our view. Regardless, I'm just happy they occurred, even if we couldn't technically see it.
Director James Mangold delivers big time when Logan finally faces off against a certain character from Claremont/Miller's story. It was without question the best scene the film had to offer and one of Logan's best action scenes yet. For a moment, I thought to myself, "why aren't Wolverine's claws slicing through those swords?" But then I immediately thought, "Shut up and enjoy the best action scene, stupid." (To be fair, they did say they were stockpiling adamantium, so maybe some went to those blades?) And the bullet train sequence? The final cut has better editing than the previously released clip and, despite it being all kinds of ridiculous, it has some truly fun moments that'll likely make the audience erupt in laughter. It's just too bad the finale doesn't have anything on par with these two scenes, but regardless, the two are indeed really enjoyable.
Honestly, 3D isn't worth it unless you want a tad more depth to Jackman's ridiculously jacked body (I wonder how many 3D tickets that line just sold?). The 3D comes off as an afterthought and never added much to the experience. So if you're going to buy a ticket this weekend, I highly recommend saving a few bucks and checking it out in 2D.
If you've been optimistic about the trailers and clips, check this out and hopefully you can pretend this is the only Wolverine solo film that exists. Odds are you won't fall in love with it, but you'll probably dig it way more than his first effort. It does a solid job handling the character and provides at least two crowd-pleasing action scenes. That said, it does also suffer from a pretty weak overall plot and has some fairly questionable moments, especially towards the end. The Wolverine isn't a very bad movie -- it's just not a very good one, either.
Oh, and there is a mid-credits scene and yes, it is ABSOLUTELY worth waiting for. You'll definitely want to stick around for it.