A Canadian Wolverine in Japan

The Wolverine is the most underrated film in the X-Men franchise. Probably because it’s the first one without X-Men in the title. Every other 20th Century Fox production had to have any number of Mutants they could fit into the story. Much to the detriment of Wolverine’s first solo outing X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Along with a weak CGI filled take on his famous origin and overly sanitized bloodless PG-13 rating. While X-Men: First Class was a return to form for the team, The Wolverine was the same for the fan favorite Mutant. It was easily the least complicated movie made and that’s probably why people forget about it. It was even the first X-Men movie my brother and I saw by ourselves.

As I said before, Wolverine has a surprisingly extensive history. One of his most well known storylines is his time spent in Japan. The 1982 limited series was written by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. Since it was Hugh Jackman’s favorite storyline, it was only a matter of time before it got made. The only problem was director Darren Aronofsky dropping out and Japanese earthquakes delaying production. James Mangold was later hired to direct and the rest is history. He may have appeared in every other movie before, but this was truly the first genuine Wolverine movie…

11. The Wolverine

Wolverine in Japan

The Wolverine for the most part ignores X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but it does begin with a flashback to one of the many wars Logan’s fought. Specifically the World War II events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Logan is in an underground Japanese prison, but he saves a frightened enemy soldier and takes the impact of the atomic bomb. His graphic healing process makes it clear that this is a Wolverine movie that isn’t afraid to get violent. It’s still PG-13, but there’s definitely more blood and claws cutting through people. As well as the now traditional F-bomb. The Unleashed Extended Cut is R rated, but it’s mostly just additional CGI blood splatter. The Wolverine is the first X-Men movie to reference X-Men: The Last Stand. Since the repercussions of its controversial ending couldn’t be ignored forever.

Despite X-Men Origins: Wolverine having an alternate after-credits scene of Logan drinking in Japan, The Wolverine takes place after Logan leaves the X-Mansion. Where he’s become a hairy mountain man living in the Canadian wilderness. Logan stays out of conflict after he was forced to kill his beloved Jean Grey. He also deals with the existential crisis of outliving everyone he loves. Hugh Jackman turns Wolverine into more of an outsider than he already was. This was also when he finally became a huge jacked man. Since superhero actors had just been getting more and more muscular since Jackman first began playing Wolverine. Although her heavenly dream sequences are strange, Famke Janssen is a welcome return. Jean helps Logan better accept his actions over the course of the film.

When a group of hunters illegally poison a grizzly bear, Logan returns seeking justice. That’s when he’s greeted by Japanese assassin Yukio. In the comics, she’s just a human ninja, but here she’s a precognitive Mutant badass with a samurai sword. Yukio speaks on behalf of the soldier Logan saved. Wealthy industrialist Ichirō Yashida wishes to personally thank him in Tokyo, Japan. The Wolverine has a very small cast almost entirely made up of Japanese actors and actresses. Some are established stars in their home country like Hiroyuki Sanada and Haruhiko Yamanouchi. While others are newcomers like models Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima. As Logan learns Japanese customs, he also receives a shorter haircut.

A dying Yashida makes him an offer to remove his healing factor in order to save his own life and give Logan an honorable death. He refuses, but Yashida’s American doctor poisons him with a device that slows his healing. For the first time leaving Wolverine more vulnerable. The doctor is poisonous Mutant Viper. A jointly owned Marvel villain affiliated with Wolverine. They just couldn’t refer to her as Madame Hydra. Although she could have been played by someone more high profile, a lesser known Russian actress plays her instead. Yashida dies unexpectedly and the Yakuza attack his funeral. Logan claws his way through them, but his decreased healing slows him down. When the Yakuza try to capture Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko, Logan goes on the run as her bodyguard. Mariko is one of many Wolverine love interests. She stands out a bit more than the comics since she occasionally uses martial arts. Their relationship develops over time.

While on the run, Wolverine fights a handful of Yakuza in an exhilarating bullet train sequence. His wounds are tended to, but it’s not long before Markio is captured. Logan rejoins Yukio, who mentions a cryptic (but very important) vision of how he dies. After confronting Mariko’s sleazy arranged fiancé, he discovers Yashida’s son Shingen arranged for his daughter to be killed after his father promised his wealth to her. Markio is then taken by the noble Black Ninja Clan lead by Kenuichio Harada. Will Yun Lee is in perfect fighting shape, but he’s not the Mutant Silver Samurai like in the comics. After violently removing the poisonous device from his body, Wolverine engages in an excellent claw to sword fight against Shingen dressed in Silver Samurai armor. It’s one of his best fights made better when he calls himself the Wolverine. Logan and Yukio track Markio down to Yashida’s village where they fight literal ninjas. Followed by a climax that’s honestly the only thing holding the movie back. It turns out Viper intends to chop off Wolverine’s claws in order to take his healing. Instead of a simple Mutant samurai, the Silver Samurai is an overgrown CGI mech suit.

Both the ridiculous inaccuracy and Viper peeling off her skin before fighting are tonally different than everything else in the movie. I was extra mad when the energized Adamantium sword cut through Wolverine’s indestructible claws. The suit somehow drains his healing and it was obvious that Yashida was in the suit all along. Luckily Markio stabs her grandfather long enough for Wolverine’s bone claws to come out. In the end, Logan leaves Japan and Markio to find his way in the world. A deleted scene shows his comic accurate mask & gloves in a suitcase, but what ends up in the movie is just as cool. In a mid-credit scene, Wolverine sees an advertisement for Trask Industries on TV and is greeted by a repowered Magneto and living Professor X. It’s an unexpectedly awesome tease for what came next. The Wolverine is somewhere in the middle when it comes to X-Men. It’s neither critically panned like X-Men Origins: Wolverine nor critically acclaimed like Logan. But The Wolverine deserves more credit for slowly taking chances with such an intense superhero.

12. The Wolverine

Wolverine vs. Silver Samurai

Preceded by: X-Men: First Class & Followed by: X-Men: Days of Future Past

2 thoughts on “A Canadian Wolverine in Japan

  1. To tell the truth, I haven’t watched a superhero movie since Guardians of the Galaxy, which I loved. That was the first one I watched since the ordinal Spiderman. No, I take that back, since The Dark Knight. Loved both of those too.
    That “said,” I respect your writing. I also admire your top 10 movie list.
    –Pam

    Liked by 1 person

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