Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Wolverine; and incidentally, continues a “who can keep his shirt off longer” competition with Matthew McConaughey.
Haunted by the guilt for his part in the death of loved ones, especially his girlfriend Jean, Logan has chosen to live as a hermit. Living with his guilt, immortality has become a burden to Logan in a way that Bill Murray in Groundhog Day was only beginning to understand.
After Logan saves Japanese Officer, Yashida from the atomic blast in Nagasaki in 1945, Yashida symbolically offers him his samurai sword, of special significance after Yashida “failed” to commit ritual suicide along with his fellow officers just before he witnesses the white mushroom plume in the sky. Wolverine refuses the sword, unwittingly shaming Yashida.
Fast forward a few thousand X-Men animation cells and Logan is living in the woods with only whisky and regret to keep him warm at night. Jean appears to him in his subconscious, where she is perpetually wearing a nightgown, bearing cleavage and guilt trips. Jean’s haunting leave Logan more caveman than Wolverine, a lonely alcoholic roaming the woods aimlessly.
Such is the condition in which the Wolverine is discovered by another redhead, Yukio. Yukio had been sent by the now ninety-something Yashida, to retrieve Logan and bring him back to Japan.
After reluctantly agreeing, Logan is confronted with an identity crises and a chance to find peace: mortality. Yashida has built a powerful empire in the time that has passed since Logan saved his life. With limitless wealth and powerful medicine, Yashida claims he can transfer Logan’s genetic mutation to himself. As a result, the old man gets new life and Logan can look forward to a “normal death.” Once again, Yashida’s offer is turned down.
In true lone wolf hero hubris, the protagonist can’t keep himself out of trouble or find the peace that death surely promises. Instead, Logan lands in the midst of a family drama. As it turns out, the Yakuza are after the beneficiary of Yashida’s will, his granddaughter, Mariko. This doe eyed, wooed with American bravado damsel in distress can, predictably, only be rescued by The Wolverine, and of course she gives him something finally to live for.
But mutants who chase after controlling man’s granddaughter only catch poison. The Wolverine’s signature cellular regeneration has finally met its match in a femme fatal named Viper, who has been at work pulling family strings at the behest of… exactly who you’re suspecting.
For fans of the comic book character, The Wolverine delivers; it captures his isolationist/ survivalist saga and pits his character against two of his greatest rivals. Action lovers will also enjoy the film for its combat sequences and snarky one-liners.
In the capable hands of Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line), and writer Scott Frank (Get Shorty, Minority Report), Logan’s personal story survives a plot that twists itself in an effort to disguise its forgivable simplicity from the audience. It would have been better served to sharpen the contrast between the protagonist’s self-reproach and the self-worship of his arch nemesis.
The Wolverine delivers as advertised: another popcorn, comic/action flick, and it makes room for some good laughs along the way.
Overall rating: 2 ½ stars out of 5
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language