‘The Wolverine’ scratches, claws and fights to succeed and does

Hugh Jackman bares more than his claws in 'The Wolverine'
Hugh Jackman bares more than his claws in ‘The Wolverine’

For the sixth (and certainly not last) time, Hugh Jackman has donned the twin sets of adamantium “claws” of “Wolverine”, aka “Logan” although he was born James Howlett.  The Wolverine takes place following the events of the 2006 film X-Men:  The Last Stand.  Logan is living alone near a remote town in the Yukon.  He comes to town to take care of something and encounters “Yukio” (Rila Fukushima).  She has been searching for him at the behest of “Ichiro Yashida” (Haruhiko Yamanouchi).  He is the head of the largest corporation in Asia and it turns out that Logan saved his life during World War II.  Yashida is dying and wants to thank Logan for the life he has led, and to give him a gift.

Yashida claims his company has developed the ability to take Logan’s healing power and transfer it to someone else.  Then he would no longer heal rapidly, would age normally and then could die.  Logan seems ready to die, as he has dreams in which “Jean Grey” (Famke Janssen) appears and tries to entice him to join her in the afterlife.  But he refuses the offer and Yashida dies.

At the funeral Yashida’s granddaughter “Mariko” (Tao Okamoto) is kidnapped by Yakuza but Logan intervenes and rescues her, aided by the martial arts skills of Yukio and by “Harada” (Will Yun Lee), a member of “The Black Clan”.  They are ninjas who have served the Yashida family for seven centuries.  Eventually Logan and Mariko hide out at a family home.  During the struggle to save Mariko, Logan was wounded and discovers that his almost instantaneous healing power isn’t working.

The woman who was serving as Yashida’s oncologist is really a mutant named “Viper” (Svetlana Khodchenkova) who wields all sorts of poisons (and she’s immune to all poisons) and is also an expert in biochemistry and physics.  She has plans, Harada has plans, Mariko’s father “Shingen” (Hiroyoki Sanada) has plans and the ultimate outcome involves major stakes.  They include control of the Yashida Corporation and whether or not Mariko will live.  Can a weakened Wolverine save the girl?

James Mangold directs a fine script from writers Mark Bomback and Scott Frank.  While fans of the franchise have witnessed much of the Wolverine’s journey, they are treated to more information and further growth of the character.  Given that his powers, if restored, guarantee a very long life for him, he must find a purpose for that life.  This portion of the story is very well told.

Jackman is a major talent and he seems to improve in this role with every film.  Most of the rest of the cast is new or nearly new to American film but they carry off their parts with panache.  Particularly the two main women in Yashida’s life, Mariko and Yukio.  Choosing Yukio as the granddaughter’s name is an interesting choice, since it is a name usually associated with Japanese men.

Good acting, a strong story and tremendous fight/action sequences make The Wolverine a ‘must see’.

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