What took so long? Stuff. Also the fact that the previews had impressed upon me that the film’s plot would revolve around a bit of false tension that I found completely uninteresting. Namely the fact that they gave off every indication that the main story would involve Wolverine giving up his healing factor to experience what it was like to be a normal human before killing a whole lot of people in order to get it back. Basically the plot of “Superman II” only with more killing, and ninjas. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to a story with such a foregone conclusion, but I went anyway because the reviews were a lot better than the first movie and I’ve seen all the “X-Men” movies so far. Not the best reasons, but there you go.
To my surprise, that isn’t what the plot revolved around. Yes, Wolverine loses his healing factor at a certain point but it’s actually part of a nefarious plotTM by the bad guys. Who happen to be led by a very bad mutant named Viper, played by Svetlana Khodchenkov who was clearly enjoying herself here. Once I realized that was the direction the film would be going in, it became a lot easier to enjoy things and get caught up in the story’s momentum. Granted, the plot is fairly predictable and mechanical in its progression at times, but it provides a clear arc for Wolverine and plenty of moments for him to be a complete badass. Hugh Jackman owns the role like he has in every film where he plays the character and the film would certainly be less entertaining without his magnetic presence.
The rest of the cast acquit themselves fairly well even if some of them aren’t given all that much to do. Rila Fukushima gets a lot of the best scenes as the red-haired Yukio due to her sweet fighting skills and repartee with Jackman. Her “power,” however, feels shoehorned into the script as an awkward MacGuffin that serves no other purpose than to spike tension at the necessary points. The role of Mariko, Logan’s star-crossed lover in the comics, could’ve been a thankless one-dimensional task, but Tao Okamoto makes her more than just a damsel in distress, particularly at the end. Hiroyuki Sanada and Will Yun Lee play two more characters from the comics, Shingen and Harada, though they don’t get to do much besides acting “gruff and mean” and “showing lots of puppy love” respectively.
Famke Janssen also returns as Jean Grey for a few key scenes that spotlight Wolverine’s character arc and provide continuity from “X-Men: The Last Stand.” On one hand, I definitely get where they were going with her role and there’s a nice bit of closure at the end. That doesn’t excuse the fact that a lot of these scenes come off as really CREEPY, particularly after the opening one sets the tone. I kept expecting her to turn into some dream demon at some point that Logan would have to fight off in order to return to the realm of the living, based on how her scenes and dialogue were pitched.
The action scenes were also pretty decent, though the fight on top of the bullet train was as good as I had heard. Seriously. It’s surprisingly tense and strategic for a battle that’s taking place over a hundred miles an hour. Fans of the comics should know that there’s a moment during the fight that represents the closest we’re likely to see of the character’s “fastball special” making it into the movies.
Overall, it was pretty good. Middle-of-the-road when it comes to quality when it comes to the “X-Men” movies, but a clear step above its predecessor. It also leaves us with a mid-credits scene that teases the next one “Days of Future Past” due out next year. Given how it’s aiming to bring back just about everyone from the previous “X-Men” movies, and features the return of original director Bryan Singer, I’m very much looking forward to it. After that, who knows what’s next for the franchise. Given how “The Wolverine” turned out, I’d certainly be amenable to a third solo adventure from the Ol’ Canucklehead.