This year’s Marvel blockbusters seem to be heading toward a grittier direction. We previously saw Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.) battle with his inner demons in Iron Man 3, which presented audiences a deeper understanding of the man behind the machine.
The Wolverine is also created in the same vein, as we are given a more thorough depiction of a lone soldier struggling with his dark past and the uncertainty of his future. In the movie, we see Wolverine as a solitary figure: he is no longer part of the X-Men, and he has cut himself off from the rest of the world as he battles with his guilt and paranoia. He is constantly dreaming about the past (such as saving a Nagasaki soldier from the atomic bomb during World War II), and most especially, Jean Grey—the woman he loved but can never have—a subconscious reminder that perhaps, he will never find happiness in his immortal lifetime.
We see him wandering in a remote area in the woods: rugged, filthy, and unsettled. He’s a far cry from the imposing Wolverine we have become accustomed to.
It takes a wounded grizzly bear to jolt him back to the present. He finds the latter in agony one night, pierced through the heart with a poisoned arrow by unfeeling hunters who just wanted to get an adrenaline kick as they traipse in the woods. Perhaps Logan saw a bit of himself in the grizzly, as it moved him enough to avenge its death.
Soon enough, he raises hell in town to seek justice. He then meets Yukio, a mysterious pixie of a woman, who whisks him off to Japan to fulfill her dying master’s wish. It is then revealed that her master is Yashida, the same soldier whom Logan saved during World War II. Logan then embarks on a rough-and-tumble adventure in Japan as he fights yakuza (the Japanese mafia), ninja (assassins), a fellow mutant, and even an adamantium mecha samurai. He falls in love with the soldier’s granddaughter Mariko, whom he vows to protect at all costs.
Hugh Jackman is a natural Wolverine. He’s completely in his element as the haunted Logan, as he brilliantly captures the character’s struggle with his past (being a mutant, his feelings for Jean Grey) and his future (his immortality). At the same time, he’s intimidating as Wolverine the mutant, and he plays the action scenes with ease.
But while Jackman is an obvious scene-stealer, his supporting cast unfortunately falls short. Both Yukio and Mariko seem to be struggling with the English language. They’re strong female characters who could easily protect themselves—Yukio is a capable fighter and Mariko herself admitted that she’s good with knives—but they also have a gentler side as revealed in several emotional scenes. This duality could have been better explored acting-wise, but the actresses’ mechanical portrayals gave a more scripted feel to the characters instead (perhaps the language barrier was the issue here).
Language seems to be a problem all throughout the movie. The majority of the scenes was shot in Japan, but the Japanese nationals themselves flit back and forth between English and Japanese. In real life, it is quite rare to see Japanese men conversing with each other in a foreign tongue while they’re in their motherland, but it was a common occurrence in the film. The subtitles were also not consistent when the characters did speak Japanese, and there were times when the audience had to deduce what was happening through context clues. Perhaps it was the filmmakers' way of adding mystery to the film since moviegoers are left just as clueless as Logan who could not understand what the Japanese were talking about.
The construction of the plot is also a big problem, as it doesn’t seem to know which conflict it should focus on: the Yashida family struggles or Wolverine’s personal problems. While the movie starts with a promising premise, the movie shifts its focus away from Logan the minute he lands in Japan. Viewers are afforded a closer look on Yashida, Shingen (Yashida’s son), Mariko, and Yukio (who, although not related to the Yashida clan by blood, was taken in by the patriarch when she was young), at the expense of making Logan’s story fade into the background. It wouldn’t have been a problem if the movie wasn’t titled The Wolverine.
The movie makes up for its plot loopholes by generously serving a lot of memorable action scenes that were shot beautifully in Japan. We see Wolverine fighting off a yakuza group in a Shinto shrine, and on top of a speeding bullet train, as well as a horde of ninja assassins in a quaint, snow-capped village. There’s a hefty amount of blood and gore—even a scene where Logan does surgery on himself—which might be disconcerting for some kids.
Overall, The Wolverine is a huge leap from its 2009 predecessor (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), but there’s still room for improvement. Having that said, we can’t wait to see where will Logan will head off to next.
By the way, don’t forget to stay for the after-credits teaser!
(Read: The Wolverine after-credits scene teases about upcoming movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past)
The Wolverine is currently being screened in Philippine theaters nationwide.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.