Welcome to the review of The Wolverine, otherwise known as the film where Logan falls down a lot. Seriously, Logan, played by Hugh Jackman as always, topples over at least half a dozen times. The writers seemed to have thought that Logan’s imbalance would be a neat way to portray his mortality but most of the time it was used to transition from one scene to another, which is rather sloppy. Once is fine, maybe twice at a push, but overusing fainting as a scene transition can get rather old very fast. In fairness, Wolverine was bleeding profusely from several different wounds for about two thirds of the film, so his light-headedness is understandable, but it did seem worn-out by the end.
For example, consider Wolverine’s invasion of the Yashida Corporation research centre, where he attempts to storm the building but is met by the Black Clan, a group of ninja’s sworn to protect the Yashida family. Logan fends off a few of them then takes about fifty arrows and one poisoned arrow to tether him down. Naturally, he faints and when he awakens…he is inside the research centre. That seemed like a complete misuse of the fainting to transition from outside the centre to inside the centre. Rather than allowing Logan to battle his way through the streets and into the centre before being captured by someone like Viper, we get t see him taken down outside, faint and then appear inside. It creates a lack of motion and instead generates a sensation of jumping from one point to another. Since it was already suggested that going to the centre was a trap, if they wanted Wolverine in the research centre so badly, then why not even just let him walk in then be captured?
Speaking of jumping around though, the fight sequences in The Wolverine are really fun, especially the sequence on top of the bullet train. Everyone has seen train fights before, where two or more characters will battle on top of a speeding train. In Japan though, they have a rail line called ‘Shinkansen’, otherwise known the ‘Bullet Train’ because the trains are similarly shaped to a bullet and because the top speed for the train is 320 kilometres per hour. Unlike the traditional train fight scenes, you can’t even stand on top of the bullet train at top speed. It makes for an extremely interesting fight to see Logan and some random Yakuza thug jumping and sliding along the train, using knives and claws for grip.
The Bullet Train fight is probably one of the most enjoyable fights in the film, but Wolverine’s battle with the Silver Samurai is cool too. It is the only fight where he really gets into a sword fight, whereas I would have liked him to take up the sword and really embrace the samurai culture. Hints are dropped, which seem like foreshadowing, such as Wolverine being called an Rōnin (a samurai without a master) or being given a sword on two occasions and even being taught how to hold it. The teaching comes back to help him in one instance but after so much build up, I was expecting more sword play. He also doesn’t get to fight Viper, so there is no opportunity to get even after she suppresses his healing factor.
Surprisingly, this film isn’t all about action and attempts to really get into the mind of The Wolverine. The Rōnin title that he is given by a sickly old man that he once saved was originally a term of disgrace. It was a samurai who had not committed ‘seppuku’, or ritual suicide, following their master’s death. The Rōnin was then meant to suffer great shame, much like the great shame that Wolverine suffers following his killing of lover Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand. Many people would love to forget that atrocity, but The Wolverine does a fine job of dealing with its aftermath. Famke Janssen returns as Jean Grey, speaking to Logan in his dreams as he struggles to accept her death. He even takes a vow not to hurt anything but that doesn’t last very long. He has no long dilemma like Superman though. Someone is in trouble and the claws come out.
Themes of life and death run throughout, as the main plot centres on Logan being invited to say goodbye to an dying friend. The old friend incidentally was a soldier during the second world war who, rather than commit seppuku like his superior officers, is saved by Wolverine. So that would actually make him the Rōnin, not Logan, but I digress. After surviving the blast of a nuclear bomb, Logan goes on his merry way, only to be called back when the man is upon his deathbed. Instead of just saying his farewells, the old man, Ichirō Yashida, head of the Yashida Corporation, begs Wolverine give his healing power to Yashida, thus making the titular hero mortal. Wolverine, of course, declines, citing that Yashida would not want what he has. You can guess how the story progresses from there.
Honour has a strong presence in this film and it feels connected to the themes of life and death. From the very beginning, honour is a reason to die and an honourable death is good. It is when people decide not to die, or can’t accept death, that they begin to act without honour and go so far as to hurt kith and kin. However, the film does have a positive message, as Wolverine finds honour in life by finding a reason to live.
Outside of the strong action scenes and overarching themes, the supporting cast help to really make this one of Fox’s best superhero films, along with X-Men: First Class. Rila Fukushima as Yukio is believable beside an actor of Hugh Jackman’s calibre despite not having starred in much herself, and brings a little sister vibe to the character, similar to Rogue from the original X-Men or Jubilee in Fox’s X-Men cartoon. She is more badass than either though. The real standout is Tao Okamoto as Logan’s love interest and Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko. Opposite Jackman, she gives an endearing performance and her character manages to come across as both strong and conflicted.
Thankfully the door is left open for both of those characters to return. Speaking of the door being left open, stay after the credits. The Avengers really seems to have inspired Fox with what they can do with their characters. The build up for The Avengers made every preceding movie a must see event, and the same goes for The Wolverine. Seeing this film made me so much more hyped for already hotly anticipated X-Men: Days of Future Past.