In anticipation of Logan, which comes out a couple of weekends from now, I chose to rewatch 2013’s The Wolverine.
Coming in the wake of 2009’s awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film which seriously damaged the credibility of the X-Men franchise, The Wolverine had a lot of work to do in re-establishing the Wolverine character and bringing the storytelling back to its roots.
In The Wolverine, the titular character, played by Hugh Jackman, is more damaged and troubled than ever before; he’s clearly battling some personal demons; we find him living on his own, unshaven and very animal-like, waking up from nightmares and seeing visions of his former lover, Jean Grey. In some ways, he has chosen to become the animal that he named himself after. All of this setup perfectly establishes the main questions of The Wolverine:
Does Logan even still want to live? What is his purpose? Has he truly lost his humanity?
The Wolverine proves to be an effective exploration of these questions while still managing to be a stylish and thrilling action film. The action sequences, set against a Japanese backdrop, and filled with references to Japanese culture and films, with Logan battling against Yakuza and ninja, in the aftermath of a Japanese funeral, and atop a bullet train. It’s an effective use of the setting, and even more effective thanks to the fact that nearly the entire supporting cast is made up of Japanese actors – no whitewashing here.
In Logan, director James Mangold will return to direct Hugh Jackman in what appears to be a post-apocalpytic setting. The Wolverine serves as a promising indication of what’s to come – Mangold clearly has a handle on the theme and core questions that make Wolverine such an effective character, and if his use of the Japanese setting is any indication, I believe that he will also be able to effectively bridge the post-apocalyptic setting with the film.