After the very shit X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Marvel has another shake of the stick at giving our clawed friend a solo outing. Fortunately it’s not bad.
Back in World War II, Logan (aka Wolverine) saves a man from the bomb blast at Nagasaki. Years later it turns out the man has built a whole business empire, and on his death bed wants to see Logan again. During the visit, it comes to light that the man wants to leave the empire to his grand-daughter instead of his son. This angers the son, prompting him to arrange the murder of his daughter. Wolverine must protect her.
This is a remarkably coherent and simple film. It’s a tale of jealousy, covering the dark side of humanity that resides in the world outside of fiction. Not something to be expected in an X-Men spin-off superhero movie. The location barely shifts; we have a brief glimpse of the US before Logan goes back to Japan, then the rest is all set over there. This gives us a great sense of place, again a rare trait for a Marvel picture.
Mangold builds the film in such a way that it feels like more than just a vehicle for some cool action scenes. The story actually makes sense, which can’t be easy when your central character is a self-healing wolf man with metal claws. He tackles the implications of living forever head-on, suggesting that perhaps life has no meaning without death. Things only exist because they end. It’s not world-shattering stuff but it does at least give the film a sense of purpose.
That’s not to say the film is devoid of action. We spend plenty of time watching Logan smash through his enemies as creatively as possible. It’s just nice to see it all fit into a narrative for once.
There are lots of things that are a little off with The Wolverine, notably the ending, but as far as superhero films go this is definitely one of the more watchable titles produced to date.