The hero’s journey is the most traditional depiction on the silver screen. In these types of films, the protagonist will often start out at a bad point in life or have extreme character flaws that make him/her look like a bad person. But as the film progresses, our hero goes on a quest of some large goal, while also learning how to be a better person.
That last part is one of the most important pieces. The hero must change something about himself/herself, or at least learn a valuable lesson that can be passed on to the audience. It’s known as a character arc.
Our hero in “The Wolverine,” Logan (Hugh Jackmon), has no resolution or change to his character at the end of the film. He is the same person when it began as he was when it finished. After going through countless hordes of ninjas and assassins, fighting for his life and honor, he doesn’t go through any sort of life-altering decision.
Building off of the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), Logan has gone into hiding and every night has nightmares of his lost love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) haunting him about joining her in death. Until a Japanese assassin, Yukio (Rila Fukushima) visits Logan, saying that an old friend of his is dying and that he must return to Japan.
Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanda), a WWII-soldier that Logan saved from the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, wants to return the favor and give him what he’s always wanted: the removal of his immortality, allowing him to live a normal life. When Yashida unexpectedly dies one night, the Yazuka begin to target his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). It is now up to the famed Wolverine to protect Mariko as his powers begin to wane.
I’ll give the film this much: When it comes to performances and cinematography, they nailed it. Hugh Jackmon continues to capture both the intimidating “badass” side to Wolverine, while also showing a sensitive underbelly as Logan. In a film like this, it would be easy to get all the sword-wielding ninjas confused, but they manage to give enough of them distinct personalities, such as Yukio with her ability to predict deaths while also having a strange sense in fashion.
The film is also very beautiful to look at, especially during the many action sequences. There is one fight scene that takes place on the outside of a speeding bullet train, yet it never becomes disjointing or confusing to look at. One reason the film might look good to me is because I just find the Tokyo landscape so unique and captivating to see at any point in the day. Japan has some of the most eye-catching landscapes in the world and this film uses that to its advantage.
The film starts to fall apart when it comes to the writing. Actually, to be more precise, it seems like a double-edged sword. At times, the writing is wonderful and consistent, but other times it really drags the film down.
For example, many of the early scenes with Logan trying to survive don’t have much dialogue, but manage to get the point across as to what they’re trying to say. The film speaks only when it absolutely has to and lets the images tell the story.
Another would be the story of Yashida and his reasons for doing everything he does. Without going into too much detail about it, Yashida witnessed first hand the devastation of watching his homeland burn and promised never to make that happen again. This would lead him to become the biggest technological innovator after the war. Yet, in the face of mutants, like Wolverine, he still felt inferior.
That’s a story I can get behind and understand every action that he takes. Not only is it relatable but it’s heartfelt.
As I mentioned, the story I cannot get behind is the story of Logan. Specifically, that there is no resolution to his character arc. He of course does the tasks that dealt to him, all the while he is suffering from the emotional trauma of losing the woman he loves, and even the possibility of becoming mortal. Yet by the end, both of these plot points are just dropped rather than resolving them.
When the protagonist of the film goes on this great journey of coming to grips with lose, regret and sadness, but ultimately brushes it all off like it was nothing, then I don’t see any reason to care the character. Thus, the film suffers.
Overall though, I enjoyed “The Wolverine,” even with a lack of conclusion to Logan’s character arc. The action sequences, other interesting characters and beautiful cinematography was enough to keep my attention throughout the film. The writing and story was hit-and-miss throughout. But when it wanted to be good, it was very good.
If you enjoy super hero films or liked any of the previous X-Men movies, then you’ll certainly enjoy this film as well. If you’ve had enough of the constant super hero films out there right now, then this film will not change your mind.
Final Grade: B-