I’m feeling a little lost on the logic behind the X-Men movies, just a bit. I mean there’s the original X-men trilogy, then there’s the new timeline X-men, then there’s these Wolverine movies sprinkled in. The Wolverine definitely takes place after X-men 3, since there’s these little flashes of Famke Janssen as Jean Grey and references to X-men 3. What it doesn’t really reference at all is Origins: Wolverine, which is sort of the actual predecessor film. Actually aside from the few almost unneeded references to X3, The Wolverine feels really isolated from the rest of the X-men universe. The setting, all of the other mutants, the villain, it all feels like it exists in a vacuum.
This kind of hurts this movie quite a bit. It’s an interesting setting and story, but there’s this little back of the mind nag that says “Where is everyone else?” There’s no Sabertooth, though technically he died in X1, something that could have been explained away. I mention Sabertooth because he would have been the obvious thread to tie this film a bit to Origins: Wolverine, since he was such a centerpiece of that movie’s plot and character development. Still, there’s also not really any mention of Xavier’s school, or Storm or Rogue or anyone Wolverine has been fighting with for years. Instead we get a little opening bit involving Wolverine getting pissy at some hunters for poisoning a bear. This all felt like a wasted chance to tie this into the bigger picture better. It would have been expensive to drop cameos from everyone in the X-men universe but dropping in a couple of the lesser know (cheaper) actors for a bit at the beginning at the school then having Yukio pick him up from there would have worked much better.
Instead we get hunters and a story in a vacuum despite having all these little bits happening around it.
Aside from that issue, what about the film itself. There’s definitely a different tone to these single character movies than the larger X-men films, The focus is Wolverine, all the way, he’s always present and the whole plot revolves around his burdens and life and what makes him tick. Most of the film takes place in Japan, as Logan is invited by an old friend who is on his death bed, wishing to thank Logan for saving his life many years ago during WW2. There’s a lot of fish out of water element to this story, as the rough and tumble Wolverine navigates through the orderly Japanese landscape.
There’s a lager plot at work however, and Wolverine gets a bit of a taste for life without his healing ability, which makes things complicated during his battles. The fight sequences are probably the best part of this film, and they are numerous. There’s definitely a very Asian cinema style creeping into things here, and not just because of the setting. The camera work and choreography of the fights are all much more stylistic in nature. Wolverine’s feral fighting style definitely shows it’s difference from the much more fluid martial arts methods employed by his opponents. It’s a nice chance of pace in these films really and is handles pretty nicely given the different fighting techniques.
Really the entire movie kind of feels like an excuse to get Wolverine to fight Ninjas.
There’s also the romance sub plot. It seems a bit relevant to mention the plotline of this movie is lifted a bit from a comic plot line, though it involved a few more other X-men, a lot of the surrounding characters are there. Mariko in the comics is one of Wolverine’s sometimes love interests. In fact the comic some of the events of this film are inspired from draw involved the X-men gathering for a wedding between the two. In this movie however, their romance feels, and is, really rushed, especially considering the climax amounts to Wolverine staging a rescue of his captured love. Considering he didn’t even want to come to Japan originally and only planned to stay for a day originally, it seems a little out there that he essentially is willing to run somewhat recklessly into this rescue attempt.
This is compounded more by the really pointless Jean Grey scenes spliced in randomly.
Which also brings up another dodgy bit on the plot side, it’s never really shown well what connects Logan and Yashida Wolverine is just sort of in Japan during Hiroshima, for unclear reasons, saves this one random Japanese soldier from a nuclear blast, for which he is clearly grateful, and then as near as the story tells us, they have not seen each other since. Its understandable Yashida would want to thank Logan one last time before his death, it’s not super clear why Logan should or would care. Not to mention that part of Logan’s character is that he can’t really remember anything from his past, which presumably would include that time he saved some random Japanese guy. I mean he didn’t seem to remember his actual blood brother during the first X-men movie, one whom he fought along side during WW2 if the Origins opening is to be believed, but hey, random Japanese business guy.
So yeah, there’s a lot of off points on the plot, and the film feels like it is completely disconnected from the X-men universe, aside from the one thread that feels like a random after thought. I will give it a good point though, the effects are much better than Origins: Wolverine. The action is also really great with a good Asian style going on with things. One thing I will also add, there could be some redemption with the upcoming Logan film, if it bothers to reference anything in this film. Part of the plot involved taking Logan’s power away and transferring it to another, now we get Logan, with Old Wolverine, maybe he has aged as a side effect of what happened during this film? I’m not sure if they are organized enough on these movies to make the pieces feel like part of the same puzzle unfortunately.