When Mangold’s film begins we meet a bearded, long-haired Logan living in the Alaskan wilderness. He’s tracked by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and summoned to Japan, where her dying employer, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), wishes to say good-bye to an old friend.
The film offers much of Logans history as well as a back story to the film via flashbacks. In one particular scene we are shown war torn Japan, circa 1945. Logan – a prisoner of war – saves Yashida from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, exposing his regenerative abilities to the young Japanese soldier. Nearly seventy years later, Yashida wants to reward the Wolverine with what he seeks most: death. The elderly Japanese mogul wants Logan to transfer his mutant powers over to him, so that he can live to run his empire in perpetuity, and so that Logan can finally shed his mortal shell and be reunited with his late love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).
When Logan not-so-politely declines, he becomes embroiled in a family drama involving Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and her father Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), a yakuza crime boss with plans to murder his own daughter and inherit his dying father’s power and wealth. Now the Wolverine must protect Mariko from gangsters, ninjas, samurai, and Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a venomous mutant who has developed a toxin that suppresses Logan’s healing factor !
The Wolverine is a surprisingly impact-ful, emotional piece of inspired filmmaking by Mangold that provides Hugh Jackman with a compelling character arc to sink his adamantium claws into.You can definitnitly see how it is Influenced by films like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Chinatown, and Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy, The Wolverine deviates so far from the conventional comic book format that it doesn’t even feel like a superhero movie.
The film is less concerned with super powers and explosions and more with exploring Logan’s tortured condition, plagued by visions of the deceased Jean Grey who beckons Logan to join her in the afterlife. Here Logan is a rōnin: a wandering samurai without a master; a man with no purpose. When he meets Mariko, he finds a reason to live, to fight – and he slowly recovers not only his mutant abilities but his heroic potential as well.
There are numerous skillfully choreographed action sequences in The Wolverine but none of them overpower the film’s focus on Logan’s internal struggles. Wolverine combats a gang of yakuza thugs atop a speeding bullet train, uses his claws to battle sword-wielding samurai, and goes toe-to-toe with mutant baddies and ninja warriors, but it’s all in service of protecting Mariko.
The film’s main problem is the third act, where too many villains with muddled motivations converge in a rather unimaginative, stereotypical futuristic laboratory for a final showdown. Silver Samurai, one of Wolverine’s most iconic foes, has been reduced to an Iron Man villain – just another egomaniac in a big metal suit.
Still, The Wolverine is a solid improvement over Brett Ratner’s misguided X-Men: The Last Stand and Gavin Hood’s silly, downright insufferable X-Men Origins: Wolverine, both of which nearly destroyed Fox’s X-Men franchise. Luckily, Mangold’s film acts as an adamantium bullet and erases the memory of Hood’s film, and while Silver Samurai is more Iron Samurai, The Wolverine‘s missteps are less severe than its predecessors.
The Wolverine is not the best superhero movie of 2013, but it is a fantastic lead-in to Fox’s upcoming apocalyptic mutant mash-up, 2014′s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Nothing is without meaning in Mangold’s straight-faced film, a reminder that everything finds peace, even the tormented soul of the immortal Wolverine. The Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman, will be available On Digital HD download on Nov. 19 and On Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 3.