One of the most confusing things for me was just when was this story, “The Wolverine,” taking place? Winter? Fall? Spring? Summer? There are harsh winters in Japan, but winters don’t become summer by just moving from up north to Tokyo. I’ve been to Hokkaido in late summer, twice and then gone back to Tokyo. I don’t think the environmental change over the last few decades have been that drastic.
For those who haven’t been counting, this is the sixth movie in the “X-Men” film series but only the second film focused on the character Wolverine. Wolverine has the ability to heal his wounds, a good superhuman quality since he has the almost indestructible metal alloy called Adamantium bonded to his skeleton. Like a cat, the claws of Adamantium retract for him to lead a fairly normal life, only to come out when he’s upset.
In the 2009 “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” we learned that Wolverine has a half-brother, Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) and that he learned of his mutation after witnessing the murder of his father in 1845 by a man, Thomas Logan, the groundskeeper who turned out to be Wolverine’s real father. Wolverine and his brother become soldiers fighting in the American Civil Car, World War I and World War II and even the Vietnam War. Wolverine and his brother become members of Team X, a group of mutants working under a Major William Stryker. Logan leaves but six years later while working as a lumberjack in Canada and living with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox, and is tricked into working for Stryker again and have Adamantium bonded to his skeleton. During this film he is rescued by Charles Xavier.
Charles Xavier doesn’t appear in “The Wolverine,” not in a way that counts. The movie begins in 1945 when Wolverine is being held at a P.O.W. camp near Nagasaki. Wolverine now know as Logan, saves a Japanese officer named Yashida (矢志田信玄) who attempted to save him when the atom bomb explodes. Years later, Wolverine has secluded himself to the wilds of Canada again. He has dreams of Jean Grey, a woman he was forced to kill during “X-Men: The Last Stand.”
A mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima as 雪緒) finds him supposedly because Yashida is dying and wishes to thank Logan for saving his life during his last days. Yashida is dying of cancer. In sunny Tokyo, Logan meets Yashida’s son, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada as 信玄), Shingen’s daughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and Mariko’s fiancé, Noboru Mori (Brian Tee).
Mariko doesn’t love Noboru, but is marrying him about of duty to her family. She broke off her relationship with Kenuichio Harada (Will Yun Lee) who is the leader of Black Ninja clan. The ninjas have sworn to protect the Yashida, but, of course, Wolverine is much better at protecting Mariko who is, when the plot needs her to be, able to throw knives and perform some karate.
The real reason Yashida invited Logan to Japan is he wants to cure his cancer via Logan’s ability to heal his own body. Logan refuses and Yashida dies. But there is a sexy mutant woman named Viper lingering in the shadows as Yashida’s doctor and Logan has a dream that she visited him during the night. But was it a dream?
Yashida dies during the night and at the funeral, yakuza attempt to kidnap Mariko, but Kenuichio and Logan manage to prevent this with Logan suffering wounds that take longer to heal than they should. Logan and Mariko hide in a love hotel and travel to the Yashida family home in Nagasaki where they begin to fall in love.
At this point, you might be feeling sorry for Kenuichio but he’s conspiring with Viper and Mariko’s fiancé is the corrupt Minister of Justice. Poor Mariko can’t even depend upon her father.
Viper is working on a secret project in Northern Japan–somewhere that it’s snowing. The big reveal isn’t a surprise to Wolverine fans (the Silver Samurai). At this point, however, I began to think of the weather. We’ve already had rain and the rainy season in Japan is the hot and muggy summer. The winters are so dry that the news has a dryness report. From the clothing the people are wearing at the funeral, it looks like summer or at least early autumn, but the leaves haven’t begun to turn color. Up north as far as Hokkaido, the summers are cool and fine weather. Eventually, the weather will change and there will be snow deep enough to make roofs collapse under the weight of snow and the air will be cold enough to maintain large ice structures for snow festivals, but not during the summer. For this reason, the snow covered village where the lab of the diabolical Viper seems out of sync with the seasonal logic set up in previous scenes.
Other problems include having women scrub down our hero in the tub because in Japan, you wash yourself and rinse off before you soak. It’s highly unlikely that the woman would magically be able to give Logan his trademark Wolverine ‘do. Then I thought I heard the clatter of shoes inside the home–where most Japanese would be wearing slippers.
Yashida doesn’t seem to be a real Japanese name and Yukio sounds more like a man’s name than a woman’s. Those ninjas may have had centuries of practice (and one wonders where they were in 1945), but they do a rotten job of hiding at the funeral.
Hugh Jackman is 44. Tao is 28. Ah, Hollywood is still in love with that 10 to 20 year difference between leading man and the girl. Of course, Wolverine is supposed to be over 100 so that makes their romance trickier than usual. What else is an immortal to do, but to find a young beautiful girl in her prime?
East Asian men might be gnashing their teeth (my husband did) because none of the East Asian men are competent–as ninjas, as boyfriends, fathers or grandfathers. That totally explains why Mariko falls for Logan, despite his anti-social behavior, lack of manners, money and fashion sense. And it also explains why, on Mariko’s dime, Yukio decides to tag along with Logan. That brings up another logic problem, if all that company money has been spent on the development of the Silver Samurai, just what is left of Mariko to become CEO of and how does she afford to provide Wolverine and Yukio with a private jet?
You might think I quibble about minor details that might bother those who aren’t distracted by the number of times Hugh Jackman takes off his shirt to reveal those fine six-pack abs.
Wolverine is out of the theaters and now available on DVD/Blu-ray. There are two versions: the extended cut and the one that this review is based on–the theater release.