It pains me to no end that some of Marvel’s biggest titles are still owned by other studios: Twentieth Century Fox has The Fantastic Four and The X-Men, and Sony has Spider-Man. Marvel’s single-universe continuity was always my favorite aspect of the comics and I’m enjoying the way that they’ve made that continuity work for them (so far) in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, I just really wish they had all of their characters to play with. In the last year we’ve seen Punisher, Daredevil, and Blade all revert back to Marvel, so there’s hope that one day all the kids will return home (having big Disney cash and lawyers on hand will also help).
On the plus side, though, Fox has clearly learned a lesson from the way that Marvel Studios is handling the Avengers franchise. The X-Men started off strong out of the gate with two fantastic Bryan Singer-directed X-films and then fell on their face with X3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And you could see them start to put the pieces together with X-Men: First Class. With this summer’s The Wolverine it’s clear that Fox is trying to establish an X-Universe that’s as solid as Marvel’s Avengers films. And they seem to be succeeding.
The Wolverine uses the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller 1982 mini-series for it’s source material; a comic that many still consider to be the definitive Wolverine story. Wisely, they stay pretty close to the original, deviating only to update the story and to fit it into the movie continuity (i.e. since Fox doesn’t own Daredevil, they were unable to use the Hand as villains).
The movie starts with Logan living a solitary lifestyle in the Yukon, still haunted (literally) by his actions in the last X-Men film. When he’s summoned to Japan as the dying wish of a man whose life he saved in Nagaski at the end of WWII, Logan is offered the chance to give up his immortality. Thus begins the rollercoaster ride of ninja battles, street chases, an amazingly cool fight on a moving bullet train, and the inevitable CGI-heavy climax with an adamantium-clad Silver Samurai. The story arc begins with Logan giving up on the idea of being a hero and proceeds to ask the questions necessary to bring him back to that world. It’s neatly done and ties up with a teaser for the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past (another lesson learned from The Avengers).
Of the new characters added for this movie… Yukio: Japanese mutant who acts as Wolverine’s self-appointed bodyguard; an excellent performance and great chemistry with Hugh Jackman, I will be deeply disappointed if we don’t see more of her in future films. Mariko: Strong-willed and independent; a believable enough love-interest, however the actress seemed overshadowed by the other performers at times. Viper: Sinister, sexy, and creepy all at once; an excellent addition to the Rogues Gallery.
True believers will have already seen this movie, but if you’re just a casual fan I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as well; the bullet train sequence alone makes it worth watching on the big screen.