The Wolverine is the best X-Men related film to date, by far. Like The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall, it finds its central character at his lowest point, breaks him down even further, and finally, gradually builds him back up into something greater. This is Logan at his rawest, his most human—haunted by his violent past (particularly the death of Jean Grey), lost in a hostile foreign land (where he is reviled as a gaijin as well as a mutant), adrift in a sea of political intrigue and betrayal, and stripped of much of his healing power. In order to survive this brutal gauntlet, he must find the will to live again—or be swallowed whole by despair once and for all.
If my bare bones synopsis makes the overarching plot sound unbearably pessimistic and bleak, don’t worry: while it doesn’t shy away from the darkness, The Wolverine is, at its core, a hopeful and heartwarming story of redemption. In the opening scenes, Wolverine, in an effort to uphold his vow that Jean would be his final victim, has withdrawn from society completely. But after traveling to Japan at the behest of Yashida, a dying businessman whose life he once saved, he rediscovers something worth fighting for: love, personified by Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko. As Logan slices his way through armies of ninja assassins to protect this innocent young woman from the schemes and machinations of corrupt politicians, evil corporate executives, yakuza hitmen, and one deadly femme fatale, he slowly realizes that his berserker rage can be utilized for the greater good.
“What kind of monster are you?” one foe breathlessly asks as Logan casually pulls a katana out of his own stomach.
“The Wolverine,” he growls in reply, at last embracing his long repressed nature and attaining a modicum of the inner peace that has eluded him. What he does may not be pretty… but at least it can done for a worthwhile cause.
[Originally written July 27, 2013, prior to the release of Logan.]