Despite my reservations, I dragged myself to see The Wolverine this weekend, and I am glad to say this movie greatly exceeded all my expectations. I have been on an X-Men kick recently, revisiting Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men and Chris Clairmont's run dealing with Days of Future Past. Oh and playing the Deadpool game which I picked up during the Steam Summer Sale. It has been all mutants, all the time. Despite all of that, I am not a huge fan of Wolverine. He was a fun character back when I was an adolescent, but I have out grown anger as an output for my emotions. This movie, thankfully, wasn't about an angry Canadian with stabby issues, it was about a man regaining hope and purpose. Spoilers to follow.
The opening scene is a harrowing depiction the dropping of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki during World War 2. After being freed from a locked in a bunker in the ground Logan saves a Japanese infantry man about to commit seppuku instead of being melted by the heat from America's biggest mistake. Mr. Yashida then goes on to become a very successful technologist in Tokyo. But no amount of money and success can stave off death.
One thing that is made clear very early on, in trailers even, is that Fox has accepted that X-Men: The Last Stand is considered canon. Logan must have seen the same movie we all did because Wolverine is living off alone in the woods, visiting town to pick up batteries for an old radio and more liquor than any one man should consume. After a scuffle in a bar about the ethics and honor of the hunt, a mysterious woman approaches Logan with the story of Mr. Yashida, and how he wishes to see Logan one more time before dying, to gift him with the samurai sword of his family.
Logan decides to go to Japan and then meets up with the entire Yashida family, learning that the Yashida's have made quite a few enemies over the years, including the Yakuza. Mr. Yashida has also developed a curiosity with mutants and has been trying to extend his life. He offers to take away Logan's eternity, but Logan decides against it. That doesn't stop Viper from siphoning some of his healing factor during an acid laced tea time.
Shortly afterword Mr. Yashida dies and the funeral precision starts. At Mr. Yashida's funeral, there is an attempted assassination on the heir to the Yashida empire, his granddaughter Mariko Yashida. Logan catches on to this, and with the assistance of the Black Hand Ninja Clan, who was sworn to protect the Yashida line, keeps Mariko safe from harm. Thankfully the action scene on the train that looked so-so in the trailers was actually highly entertaining and well thought out. Logan and Mariko escape the Yakuza and hide away for a day or two, Logan learning about Mariko and eventually falling for her.
Mariko is then captured by the Yakuza, despite Logan's best efforts to protect her. After beating out their employer's name, Logan learns that the Yakuza were actually hired by Shingen Yashia, Mariko's father, to kill her so he can collect the inheritance. Logan restores his healing power by purging himself of Viper's poison distributing nanobot and attacks Shingen in one of the coolest fight scene's in modern film. Samurai versus Ronin. Claws versus sword. Logan regaining his honor. Great lighting, awesome fight work. Really solid scene. During the chaos the Black Hand snatches Mariko up and takes her to the first Yashida complex.
This is where the plot starts to get muddled, but thankfully not to the point where it becomes tedious. It pretty much becomes a game of memorizing the Yashida family tree. First off you have Yashida, the man with all the money and on his death bed. Then you have Shingen Yashida, his son. Next is Mariko Yashida, the heir named by Yashia's will and Shingen's daughter. The two other that play a role are Harada, a member of the Black Hand Ninja clan who was Mariko's first love, and then there is Yukio, Mariko's adopted sister and a mutant who can see anyone's death.
Yukio and Logan mount an assault on the complex, only to find out Mr. Yashida is alive and well inside a mechanical samurai suit made of adamantium, a very cool modern way to do the Silver Samurai. The Black Hand was working for Yashida the entire time, working to capture Mariko so Mr. Yashida wouldn't have to give up his fortune. Wolverine ends up getting his ass kicked by the Silver Samurai, but eventually wins out the day. The Yukio versus Viper fight was really cool to see too, with excellent stunt work and use of space. The ending was very heartfelt and ended with Yukio and Wolverine in a master and an apprentice sort of mentality.
The stunt work and fight scenes really brought this movie alive and made me care about the journey of Logan post Jean Grey's death. While it did run about twenty minutes to long, it was still entertaining. I would easily rank it as the third best X-Men movie, behind X2 and X-Men First Class. Which is saying a lot considering how bad Wolverine Origins was. Seems like the secret to solo mutant movies is to make it about the heart of the character and have as few mutants as possible. Oh, and Hugh Jackman's glorious charm.