The Wolverine

I did try my best to forget the debacle that was X-Men: The Last Stand, but sadly I was forced to remember some of it here. The Wolverine, you see, has sworn never to hurt anyone ever again, after having been forced to kill Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, last seen playing a wicked witch), and now lives like a hermit in some mountainous area or other, only occasionally resurfacing to walk into town and buy batteries when his radio dies. Mostly he sleeps in a cave and has recurring dreams / nightmares featuring his lost love.

Hugh Jackman (Real Steel) is really a very good Wolverine / Logan, even if he is a foot too tall, quite literally. But he's been hiding pretty effectively, as it turns out; someone named Yukio (Rila Fukushima, who was in a short film three years ago and has been lying low since) has been looking for him for almost a year. The Yukio character is also in the comics, except there she has no powers and here, she can predict when people are going to die, which is a little creepy. She's working for a man named Yashida, played by Haruhiko Yamanouchi, who speaks fluent Italian and I think has been in more Italian films than Japanese ones. Long ago, you see, the Wolverine saved his life, and now that Yashida is dying, he wants to say goodbye. And yes, there is more going on than a simple goodbye or we wouldn't have a movie.

For instance, there's his lovely granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto, with absolutely no previous credits since she's mostly a model), who is clearly unhappy and being bullied by her father, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada, Sunshine). A man named Harada (Will Yun Lee, Red Dawn) who's very good with a bow is determined to protect Mariko from anyone who might hurt her, and there are quite a few of them. He's also hoping to marry her, so he isn't very thrilled with Logan's presence. But the real kicker, of course, is Yashida's offer to make Logan mortal, to let him live out a normal lifespan and then die like everyone else.

You may have noticed the blonde woman with the strange tongue in the previews. I didn't recognize her at first, but she is an established Marvel villain who did fight the X-Men: Viper, formerly known as Madame Hydra. She's played by Svetlana Khodchenkova (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), and has a lot of fun chewing the scenery. And of course, there's the Silver Samurai, though that isn't quite like the comics.

The sole plot twist might have surprised the eight and ten year olds in the theatre (yes, there were kids that young, despite the movie being rated PG-13), but it shocked no one else at all -- you see it looming on the horizon well before it arrives. The movie was obviously working hard at sticking to the PG-13 rating, making this another example of the way Hollywood sometimes has to struggle to tone down the comic books for the screen. I hate to say it, but it might have been better if they'd just let the movie get that R rating -- not that I really want to see more violence, but face it: Wolverine is violent. Very violent. It's a little difficult to avoid lots of bloodshed when your main weapons are six razor-sharp blades. That's why I never much cared for the character.

Anyway, it was better than I feared it would be, but as with The Lone Ranger, that doesn't necessarily make it actually good. It was slightly better than The Lone Ranger, however, so we'll go with three and a quarter out of five. There's nothing stellar here, but it isn't a bad little action flick, and better than some that we've had this year. And remember: Marvel = teaser scene during credits, so don't zip out the door. If the source material is anything to go by, the next X-Men movie might actually persuade me to forgive them for The Last Stand.

Image: 
Logan attempts to create the world's first convertible bullet train.

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