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A full 13 years after the first X-Men film was released, Hugh Jackman returns, more jacked than ever, as the mutant Logan for The Wolverine‘s sixth outing.
Still in mourning following the events of The Last Stand, where Wolverine had to dramatically off a mentally unstable and homicidal Jean Grey, a feral-looking Logan is living as a recluse in the Canadian wilderness with only a grizzly bear for company. He is haunted every night by his past and looks doomed to live a life of eternal loneliness. A happy start, you’ll no doubt agree. However, when a mysterious woman, Yukio (who is a dab hand with a samurai sword), tracks Logan down, she brings word from her dying employer, an old acquaintance whose life Wolverine once saved: he wishes to say thank you and goodbye. Unenthusiastically, Logan jet-sets to Tokyo where he reunites with Yashida, who has an interesting offer in way of payment for his life debt: he can end Logan’s immortality. However, a small issue with Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko, and the Japanese mafia proves a more pressing matter.
Improving on Wolverine’s last solo feature, X-Men Origins, was never going to be difficult. That film was utter tripe and nearly killed the franchise dead (the series was given the reboot treatment soon after with First Class). Origins got it wrong by throwing in too many pointless mutants and never really focused on Wolverine as a character. Luckily that is not the case here: The Wolverine is very much Hugh’s film and there are only two other mutants showcased. Logan’s insecurities and fears of eternal loneliness, personified in the lovely form of Jean’s Famke Janssen, are very much the centre-piece to this film, which has oodles more depth and emotion than a certain Man Of Steel‘s recent flick. And that can be attributed largely to the director.
Whereas the director of the latest Superman flick, Zack Snyder, hit a home-run with The Watchmen, his other offerings have tended to be loud and bright CGI fests, and disappointingly empty. The Wolverine‘s James Mangold is known for Walk The Line and 3:10 To Yuma and has proven his talent with handling a character driven story. And it’s the story that really makes The Wolverine stand head and shoulders above the other shallow superhero flicks out there. Also, a really wise decision to move the story from a prequel to the X-Men films (á la Origins) means the story is less interested at arriving at a pre-set destination and any danger is a lot more thrilling, as let’s face it, sadly Hugh can’t play the part forever. The fact we also get to see Logan finally come to terms with the loss of Jean at the end of The Last Stand really adds to the emotional punch of the film.
But don’t let the terms ‘character’ and ’emotion’ scare you. This is Wolverine after all; a natural soldier and predator, and there is more than enough action to keep even the Man Of Steel and Iron Man devotees entertained. The fights are much more intimate and visceral than previously depicted and it’s great to see Wolverine cut loose.
The largely Japanese setting is glorious and really gives the film a different tone to the other X-Men films. Whether it’s a train-top fight through Tokyo or the more tender scenes between Mariko and Wolverine in picturesque Nagasaki, the backdrop should share top billing with Hugh.
Hugh though is undoubtedly the star, and for a part he’s already played five times before, Jacked-man brings a new take on the character and feels more comfortable than ever. And, even with his shirt on, Hugh has created a character that steals every scene and is never boring; a difficult feat after six films. Even the quieter moments he has with dream- Jean (geeks will get a thrill seeing her back), are captivating. The Wolverine has very much been the star of the previous X-Men films, and as Hugh’s appeal proves more than ever, it’s easy to see why. Also, have I mentioned he’s absolutely ripped?! Because he is. Logan has never been more imposing.
Obviously there are stumbles along the way and comic fans will be up in arms over certain aspects like the treatment of characters Silver Samurai and Viper. The films have very much created their own universe (which should be respected) and now and then only loosely stick to the comics. Despite being major players in the comics, they are more non-characters in the film and occasionally smack of the bad-guys from Iron Man and Batman & Robin. However, to the casual viewer, these gripes won’t even register. What is more noticeable though is a slightly overblown ending which feels a little tacked on in order to up the adimantium-slice count.
X-Men might have lost its way a few films ago, which is sad as its success was the catalyst to the slew of superhero flicks now being released. However, it looks to be firmly back on track, proving the original heroes are not be trifled with.
To answer the question, which is stronger, steel, iron or adimantium? Well, adimantium. It’s also more enjoyable too.
p.s. For the love of Hugh, stay for the mid-credits scene!