The word “Wolverine” is only used twice in this riveting entry in the X-Men saga. “I’m not him anymore,” says the man who now just wants to be called Logan (Hugh Jackman) to the very redheaded Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who locates him hiding out in the Yukon after a yearlong search. Yukio, who speaks softly but carries a swift sword, has searched him out because she’s been asked to bring him to Tokyo, where an old friend of his is dying, and wants to say goodbye. But we know it’s not going to be as simple as that.
All of this business takes place after an introduction featuring the 1945 American bombing of Nagasaki, an event that the ageless Logan witnessed, and where he first met the Japanese man who would become his “old friend.”
Logan has been portrayed as a tortured soul with a haunted past in previous X-Men installments. And he certainly still is Wolverine, the mutant with retractable Adamantium blades, a short temper, a longing for companionship, and a distaste for mankind. He’s long been haunted by bad dreams, and they continue here, but they’re sometimes accompanied by pleasant dreams – of fellow mutant Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the one-time love of his life who he had no choice but to kill in an earlier film. Hmmm, so does that mean the dreams with her in them are good ones or bad ones?
No time to wonder, since as soon as the story moves to Tokyo, and the ragged Logan is nicely cleaned up in one of the film’s few offbeat comic scenes, the action picks up. He visits his WWII friend Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), now an incredibly successful and wealthy businessman who is wasting away in a private hospital facility, then meets the man’s shifty son Shingen (Hirofuki Sanada), and his beautiful granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto).
Many more characters are introduced, including hoards of masked, weapon-wielding Yakuza; a funeral results in crowds of people wishing to pay their respects; then all hell breaks loose in an extended, terrifically choreographed sequence of bloodless violence that reaches from rooftops to crowded city streets.
The story turns into one of family/business politics gone wrong, the attempted kidnapping of Mariko, Logan’s decision to protect her – even as redheaded Yukio takes it upon herself to become Logan’s unofficial bodyguard – and of plot-twisting scenarios that introduce even more characters, each one seemingly more dangerous than any previous ones. Hint: Watch out for the hot, vicious blonde known only as Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova, who resembles a young Anne Francis) or, at the very least, don’t look directly at her.
For a Marvel comic book movie, this one has quite a lot of thoughtful, quietly delivered dialogue that helps get its stories told and its characters and their motivations understood. But action scenes are never very far away, usually in the form of big fights. A good one involves Logan going up against a big silver robot. An insane one (that deserves applause at its conclusion) takes place atop one of Tokyo’s famed bullet trains, this one tooling along at about 300 mph.
Page 2 of 2 - Jackman has convincingly taken complete ownership of this role, and brings it in new directions here when one of those plot twists saddles him with physical vulnerabilities but he figures out how to handle them. That’s a nice touch in a busy film that’s working on many levels at once.
As usual, it would be a good idea to stay for the end credits, as midway through them, we’re treated to a very cool “two years later” segment. It’s a really nice surprise, even for those fans who are already hepped up for the May 23, 2014, release of “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written by Mark Bomback, Scott Frank, Christopher McQuarrie; directed by James Mangold
With Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen