With strong Chris Claremont flair, The Wolverine returns us to the days when Logan (Hugh Jackman) was a ronin, a samurai without a master, in a tale set primarily in Japan. Of course, given the storyline acquired thanks to the previous X-Men movies, the film changes the chronology of things a bit, but still delivers a Wolverine tale that fans of the comics should find acceptable. Logan is faced with mortality, and in the process, finds love, justice, and purpose, in a story filled with action and rare mutant abilities.
The Wolverine isn’t great, but I appreciated the focus on hand-to-hand combat and a love story that Shakespeare would’ve loved. Called back to Japan after decades by a dying empire tycoon who owes Logan a blood debt, Logan finds himself balancing the pressures of the man’s son and granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamato). Logan is offered a chance to surrender his healing factor, giving the old man a new lease on life and discovering mortality for himself. But when the Yakuza kidnaps Mariko, Logan finds himself choosing to exert his powers as Wolverine, to defend her and to find himself.
There are a few visual tidbits that are extraordinary: the battle aboard the bullet train, the existence of Silver Samurai. But for the most part, it plays out the way you might expect. In fact, it seems to strongly resemble Clark Kent’s decisions in Superman II: do I give up my immortality to feel or do I recognize the responsibility I have because of my gifts?
The Wolverine tackles family issues, and more, but ultimately, it’s about purpose. If Logan is a soldier, then he’s constantly challenging, constantly seeking justice. Can a person really change and give up their calling, as the tycoon proposes?
Logan finds himself in a quandary at the beginning of the film, but by the end, he’s able to see his powers are a blessing, not a curse. His powers aren’t a blessing for him per se but a blessing so that he can be the savior, hero, and defender of those who cannot defend themselves. While he bears great weight for the death of Jean Grey, it’s ultimately self-pity that has driven him into isolation, and he recognizes that the world needs him.