The Wolverine

One of the many things that Logan, also known as the Wolverine, played of course by Hugh Jackman, did during his long and violent life, was serve time in a Japanese prison camp during the war.  This camp had the misfortune to be located across a small bay from Nagasaki.  When the second A bomb was dropped, Logan saves the life of a young Japanese guard.  All this is relayed in a dream sequence that opens the film.

In the present day Logan is suffering.  He’s so consumed by guilt over killing Jean Grey that she comes to him in his dreams and they carry on a debate.  He secludes himself in the Arctic wilderness, keeping his contact with other humans to a minimum.  As he says to Jean, he’s sworn off violence.  In other words Logan is in just the right frame of mind to listen to the proposition put forth by Yashida, played by Hal Yamanouchi, the guard he saved in World War II.  Yashida went on to become a high tech billionaire, but now he is dying.  He sends his adopted granddaughter, Yukio, played by Rila Fukushima, to bring Logan to Japan, ostensibly to thank him but in reality, Yashida has, with the help of another mutant named Viper, played by Svetlana Khodchenkova, found a way to transfer Logan’s mutation–almost instantaneous healing and therefore immortality–to himself.  He offers Logan relief from eternity.  Logan declines but in the ensuing shuffle, Viper manages to suppress his mutation and the Wolverine is vulnerable.

Which is awkward, because Logan finds himself in the middle of a complicated and violent struggle for succession in Yashida’s company.  He goes on the run from ninjas and the Yakusa with Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko, played by Tao Okamoto.  But he’s hurt, having been shot and stabbed several times.

The most monumental thing about The Wolverine is that nothing monumental happens in it.  This is not an origin story; there is no world shaking battle; at the end of the film most of the Japanese infrastructure remains intact.  This is a simple straightforward action adventure film, perhaps a little bloated, but still very entertaining.

Hugh Jackman is, of course, perfect as Wolverine.  He’s taken this character through an interesting arc over four films and here he convincingly plays a man who is questioning what his power is doing to his psyche.  Jackman is an extremely talented and versatile actor. 

The rest of the cast, mostly Japanese actors, is fine.  Yamanouchi stands out as the dying tech tycoon, and Fukushima kicks butts and displays vulnerability in equal measures.  Tao Okamoto plays Mariko as a woman trapped between her traditional role as a submissive Japanese daughter, who wears a kimono and accedes to her father’s wishes to marry a man she doesn’t love, and a modern woman who can handle herself in a fight.  It’s a good performance.

The big fight at the end gets away from the filmmakers a little.  The momentum flags somewhat and we’re left confused as to what side everybody is on.  The editing could have been tightened up a little to shave maybe a half hour off the running time.

These things keep The Wolverine from being great.  But it is still a very good film.

//

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