Probably the most successful superhero film franchise of the past 14 years, the X-Men films, which are credited with kick-starting the modern superhero film genre with Bryan Singer's X-Men in 2000, are still going strong with Bryan Singer set to return next year with X-Men: Days of Future Past, Singer's first time in the director's chair of an X-Men film since X2: X-Men United in 2003. This year, however, saw the release of The Wolverine, a somewhat follow-up to 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and a direct sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand. Loosely based on the fan favorite 1982 Wolverine miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine was directed by James Mangold and sees the return of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, a role he has reprised for all six X-Men films, including a small but memorable cameo in 2011's X-Men: First Class.
The Wolverine brags about being based on the 1982 miniseries, commonly referred to as "The Japan Saga", though truth be told it is a very unique and original story, much like most X-Men films that have taken their storylines from the comics. The characters are all here, including Mariko, Yukio and Mariko's father, Shingen, as well as The Hand, and there are even a few scenes taken directly from the comic book, but for the most part The Wolverine tends to go its own direction with the characters and the story, veering into the realm of being an almost completely original story.
The Wolverine finds our hero, still distraught over having to kill the woman he loved, fellow X-Man Jean Grey, in X-Men: The Last Stand. Logan has given up superheroing and moved back to his native Canada, living as a hermit and being haunted by visions of Jean who appears to him in his dreams. While in Canada, Wolverine is sought out by Yukio, a mercenary and employee of Master Yashida, a young Japanese soldier whose life Logan once saved while he was a POW during WWII when the US dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Master Yashida is now a wealthy businessman and has sent Yukio to retrieve Wolverine so that Master Yashida can thank him once again before he dies, but, of course, Master Yashida has an ulterior motive for bringing the mutant to Japan.
While I enjoyed X-Men Origins: Wolverine immensely, that film was mostly panned by critics and outright decimated by fans, who also hated X-Men: The Last Stand. The Wolverine is a completely different solo film than Origins was, so if you hated Wolverine's last solo outing there is a very good chance you might like his latest solo outing. The Wolverine and very much darker and more serious than Origins was, however it does still have its lighter moments and his very good about bringing in the trademark X-Men movie humor in all the right spots. Another difference between Origins and this film is that this is very much a Wolverine solo movie, and not an X-Men movie with a heavy emphasis on Wolverine like last time. There are no other X-Men in this movie at all, other than the ghostly Jean Grey, who appears to Logan quite frequently, but she is only every an hallucination. In fact, there aren't even any other mutants in the film, except for Viper (whom some of you may know as Madame Hydra), though she is very much changed from her comic book counterpart.
All in all, The Wolverine is a great standalone film as well as a wonderful addition to the X-Men film franchise. The acting, and not just from Hugh Jackman, was fairly top-notch and the storyline, while being quite a bit different from the comic book story it was based on, is quite a good Wolverine story. I was a little disappointed that Wolverine really had no Japanese ties in the movie universe like his comic book counterpart has. The failed Samurai aspect of Wolverine has always been quite interesting and I was a little sad to not see that aspect of the character used here, but we can't always get everything we want out of a comic book movie and this one definitely more than makes up for its few shortcomings. Oh, and by the way, make sure you stay in your seats during the credits as there is a mid-credits scene that sets the stage for next year's Days of Future Past, which I am starting to believe may end up being the best film in the franchise.
Will Conservatives Like This Movie?
For the most part, this movie is very apolitical, except for the fact that the mob ties in the comic book are virtually non-existent here. The Yakuza do play a role in the film, but instead of the Yashida clan being a crime family, they just seem to come off as evil and greedy businessmen, which I kind of took as being a thinly veiled attempt to attack free-market capitalism, but it works in the movie and I didn't feel politically attacked, so yeah, most conservatives should find The Wolverine to be thoroughly likeable.