This is not the most favorite silver screen outing of everyone’s favorite mutton-chopped mutant. And it’s easy to see why.
The Wolverine sees Hugh Jackman return as the titular hero mourning in self-indicted solitary confinement after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand left him more battle-scarred than ever. For anyone who needs reminding, Last Stand had Cyclops and Professor X presumably killed by Jean Grey a.k.a. Phoenix. Logan, being the only mutant who can, was forced to kill her with his bare adamantium claws to save them all from imminent destruction. Add to that fact Logan’s overwhelming, unrequited love for Jean and yes, he will get deep, battle scars that do not heal like the rest of the wounds on his flesh.
Japanese katana-weilder and mutant Yukio (Rila Fukushima) finds Logan in this state. Dying inside but unable to die, sleeping alone in a hollowed out cave in the mountains with a bear for a friend, plagued by nightly nightmares of killing the love of his life — Logan is at the verge of losing the will to survive. But as Yukio so aptly observed, not just yet, and his humanity and morality are both very much intact, if not heightened by the pain.
Yukio persuades him to fly with her to Japan, to say goodbye to a now successful business tycoon whom Logan saved from an atomic explosion decades back in Nagasaki. Logan grudgingly travels to Tokyo, gets a bath and a shave (a film highlight, if I say so myself), and meets the dying Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), simultaneously getting embroiled in a heightened, conspiracy-laden anti-heroic drama that is distinctly and richly Japanese.
This, I feel, is where the disconnect begins with most X-men fans and American comic book fans in general. The moment the setting was moved to Japan, Wolverine becomes a gaijin, a foreigner, just like the rest of the audience. His presence is jarringly un-synchronized to the quiet secrets and justified violence permeating the surface of the tradition-bound society. Logan is not Japanese, as Mariko (Tao Okamoto) simply puts it. And the director helms the film in that vein. Ninja action, family betrayals, sweeping scenery, understated romance, katana fight sequences. There were no giant explosions nor giant guns, just a adamantium giant robot.
As a fan of both Wolverine and the Japanese culture, the final product is a strange pairing that interestingly, works. Ripped from his usual setting where levitation, lasers and explosions told the story, Wolverine was clawing gracefully atop a bullet train, toting a long thin sword and struggling with things lost in translation. And for me, what better way for a lost man to find himself than to pull him out of his comfortable bunk and toss him into a completely polar setting. Forced to rely on his intuition more than force, his humanity more than his abnormality, Logan realized that his curse is indeed a gift, and the only thing he lost — and now regained — is a true sense of purpose.
P.S. It is humanly impossible to write a review for the Wolverine and not mention the post-credits scene. This one tops my most favorite clips off the film, right up there with the bullet train fight sequence, and the Yukio vs. Shingen fight scene while Logan, um, “operates”, which are both heady shots of adrenaline. Let’s have a recap.
Two years from the events of the film, Logan lands on American soil, his metal skeleton driving the airport detector haywire. Things–metal things– around him start to shake. Logan stands his ground – recognition etched on his brow – , turns to meet an old acquaintance. Magneto tips his hat at him, extending an invitation, as airport TVs flash news of the booming Trask Industries. Logan questions such an alliance, understandably so. He notices everyone has frozen except for them, a familiar scene that has happened before only due to the powers of one man. Logan turns. Professor X wheels himself to view, utters a few choice words of confusing promise.
End scene. Fans clutch their chests in agony until X Men: Days of Future Past hits theaters in 2014. The meanies at Marvel succeed yet again.
Photo credits to owners.