At some point in the past few years, the summer blockbuster season morphed into the summer comic book adaptation blockbuster season. This year, we’ve had X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And the new Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy is still coming and is also one of the few non-sequel Hollywood releases in theatres.
One of last summer’s biggest comic book film releases was The Wolverine, the most recent installment in Fox’s X-Men franchise which first hit big screens back in 2000. It was also the sixth film to feature Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, if you count his cameo in X-Men: First Class. Which I do.
The Wolverine was a hard sell to fans, geeks, and movie goers when it was first announced. The previous solo outing for one of Marvel’s biggest characters, 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was terrible as was the 2006 entry into the X-Men team films, The Last Stand. The franchise gained some credibility back in 2011 with First Class, arguably the best movie in the franchise up to that point, which took the story back to the beginning when core characters met and connected. It was an origin story without being a typical origin story. But X-Men Origins had left a bad taste in the mouths of producers and fans; no further solo X-Men films were produced despite plans for solo Magneto and Deadpool outings.
Until The Wolverine.
This film is about Logan, aka Wolverine, dealing with the fallout of his past, both from World War II and the events of The Last Stand. He has removed himself from society after the deaths of some close friends and is dragged back into it by choices he made decades earlier in Japan. The story is very loosely based on a 1982 miniseries by comic book legends Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, and is Japan-focused. It has basically nothing to do with the X-Men or mutants in general. The Wolverine changes that story up a lot, bringing mutants to the forefront.
There are some great parts in this movie through key people in Wolverine’s life, like Mariko and Yukio, two women who play a large role in defining both Logan and Wolverine in the comics. That being said, don’t look for a faithful adaptation of the Claremont/Miller story. It diverges frequently and drastically.
Overall, this is a solid movie and is closer to the type of film Wolverine deserves, though it still has issues. While the story is, for the most part, great, the final fight is ridiculous and leaves a lot to be desired. There’s a much better fight versus the Yakuza earlier in the film that trumps the final faceoff thoroughly. There was a lot of build up to a faceoff between Wolverine and a pack of ninjas that never materializes, and would have been far more satisfying than what we got.
Frankly, it’s a little anticlimactic.
Still, The Wolverine does a far better job of showcasing Logan than X-Men Origins did. You do get a real sense of who the character is and what he’s about in the context of the Fox film universe. It also played its part in setting up the recently released X-Men: Days of Future Past, another good X-Men film currently in theatres.
This is a solid movie and well worth watching for fans of the character and franchise. That being said, there’s still a truly great Wolverine movie out there waiting to be made. The Wolverine is a good step in that direction.