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The Wolverine – Review
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The Wolverine – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

The Second World War is nearing an end. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is being held at a Prisoner of War camp just outside the Japanese city of Nagasaki. American bombers can be heard overhead. Suddenly, an explosion across the water destroys everything around it. Logan, whose body can heal itself, protects his guard Yashida. They’re the only two survivors.

Decades later, unworn by time, Logan is living as a hermit when a young Japanese girl, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), turns up and whisks him off to Japan to say goodbye to a dying Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), who wants to thank him for saving his life, all those years earlier. His second chance at life gave him the opportunity to found a company that’s grown into Japan’s most successful technical multinational.

When he arrives, Logan discovers that Yashida wants more than just to say thank you and goodbye; his doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova) has devised a way for Logan to pass on his healing power to Yashida, giving the mogul the immortality he craves and relieving Logan of the burden of eternal life that he’s tired of carrying. But when he’s given the chance to live a normal life, he’s not so sure that he wants it. Before he can make up his mind, Yashida loses his fight for life.

Even as Yashida is being buried, Logan gets caught up in the vicious battle that begins for his legacy. Yashida left the business to his grand-daughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), but his son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) – her father – believes he should be the rightful heir.

With everyone from ninja archers and yakuza gangsters to a venom-spitting mutant trying to stop Mariko taking the reins, Logan is the only one she can trust – but even his own powers are challenged by the forces gathering around them.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

That plot description, of course, will mean nothing to anyone not already familiar with Logan. He’s most familiar as The Wolverine, one of a group of mutant heroes known as the X-Men in Marvel’s comic world. His body heals itself, slowing down the ageing process, and he’s most notable for the foot-long retractable metal claws, attached to knuckles.

So this is, essentially, the latest in a long line of superhero comic-book adaptations, as along with the current trend, it’s about a miserable loner, a brooding presence who finds it difficult to relate to society at large. As such, once again, we have a superhero film with little humour.

The director James Mangold has handled drama in films such as Walk The Line and 3:10 to Yuma and in Knight and Day he dabbled in romantic comedy action, and this time, he’s aiming for full-on action – and whether it’s a bar-room brawl, or a fight with a giant robot in a Japanese mountain-top villain’s lair, not to mention an A-bomb in the opening scene, this is certainly a thrilling ride; a chase scene on the roof of a speeding bullet train is among the most exciting action sequences that you are likely to see this year.

The scope of the plot seems a little underwhelming. While most superhero films are about saving the world, The Wolverine is basically about resolving a family dispute over a will – with a little bit of villainous megalomania and self-examination thrown in for depth. The story itself, while coherent and consistent, is riddled with plot holes, but the action is imaginative enough to keep you on board, despite the narrative failings.

You don’t need to have seen the previous Wolverine film or even the X-Men franchise, but The Wolverine is a typical case of film that’s unlikely to draw in viewers unfamiliar with the character. However, anyone who chooses to pay to see giant metal claws pop out of Hugh Jackman’s fists as he’s forced into trying to restore justice, won’t be disappointed.

By setting the bulk of this film in Japan, we have the interesting prospect of the majority of English-speaking audiences recognising only the main character – and one of his former X-Men colleagues who appears to him in a dream. This is, presumably, a clever way of bringing down the budget of a summer blockbuster and it certainly keeps the action centred on the protagonist – Logan appears in almost every scene and there’s almost no other single character who can hold the screen.

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