Take one of Tyler Perry’s leading men during the first 3/4 of any of his films, give him healing powers and an adamantium frame...and you have “The Wolverine”. In this film, like a TP film, Wolverine constantly asks obvious questions while turning a blind eye to opposition against him. Arguably one of the X-men’s most complex characters, Wolverine is always standout with the rest of the gang, but average by himself. I guess it’s a gift and a curse...much like his abilities.
After the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is still in turmoil with killing her and has taken a vow not to fight. He lives like an animal in the wilderness and looks like a caveman. When the dying Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) sends for him to thank him for saving him during WW2, he is thrust into the middle of a power struggle for the Yashida empire. When Wolverine arrives in Japan, Yashida gives him the opportunity of his life times- to have his healing powers taken away from him. It’s an excellent premise since Wolverine is immortal in many ways in the comic books.
During his short time there, Logan starts to fall for Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko, who is next to take the throne, even though her father is still alive. While thinking Yashida’s proposition over, the decision is made for our hero in the form of Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a brilliant chemist and mutant herself who has the ability to suppress and take Wolverine’s power. Soon, Logan finds himself fighting with a slow healing body to protect Mariko from the Yakuza.
So a story about an immortal body with a mortal soul having the chance to equal the two is a good move by writers Christopher McQuarrie, Mark Bomback, and Scott Frank. Since so many things have been blown up and computer generated this summer, this film is a refreshing dial down on the push it to the max notch. Almost to the point that it feels flat because of what we’re used to seeing. However, it doesn’t go as dark and complex as it could or should have. Although Jean visits him every night and talks about being with him in death, we never hear how Logan feels about it. There is elusion to him wanting mortality, but never a strong push as to why. If the film had taken us deeper into Logan’s pain, then it would have made the connection to him even stronger. Instead, we must settle for “Karate Kid 2”.
Obviously, Wolverine is a better suited character for solo films. (Who wants to watch a stand alone Cyclops movie?) “The Wolverine” is better than its predecessor “X-men Origins” movie, but not by much. I give credit to Director James Mangold in that his film plays out like a western with his troubled hero in Logan, but it misses having good enemies to help with the hero’s journey. The best defined villain is Yashida, while Viper and Hawkeye-like Harada (Will Yun Lee) are barely fleshed out past their use in the story. Even Wolverine's sidekick Yukio (Rila Fukushima) has promise of being an interesting character but is cut short once Logan finds love in Japan. (Although there does seem to be an unspoken love triangle there.)
If you like films where the hero is clueless until the end, and yells “WHERE IS SHE?”. Or the hero and his squeeze yell each other’s names in “Marco Polo” game style fifty times...this one will be Oscar worthy to you. To me, it was just above average.