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The Wolverine: The Man of Many Names 

Mr. Jackman looking the part.
Photo: DPA

‘The Wolverine’ was released in Germany on July 25th, 2013

The Wolverine is the sixth movie in the X-Men franchise, perhaps the best superhero film franchise save The Dark Knight Trilogy.  The story began way back in 2000 when Bryan Singer’s critically acclaimed X-Men hit the big screen; arguably prompting the surge in masked-crusader movies. Since, there has followed 2003′s X2; 2006′s X-Men: The Last Stand; the first Wolverine film, 2009′s X-Men Origins and 2011′s revamp of the series, X-Men: First Class.  Although The Last Stand and X-Men Origins were relatively slated by critics, this franchise has managed to keep its movies fresh and different for over 12 years and across six films. The Wolverine is something completely different from X-Men Origins: Wolverine and from each other X-film. It delivers fantastic fights, amazing stunts, superb special effects and, as always, a cool performance by Hugh Jackman in the lead role.

I have seen all of the films, read many X-Men comics and watched a great deal of TV’s X-Men Evolution and, no matter how the story is told, through whatever medium, Wolverine is always the coolest, most bad-ass and most interesting of the X-Men. I would be sceptical of many of the other characters leading their own franchise, but fans can always be confident that Wolverine will deliver.

Hugh Jackman delivers again. Mind you, with that beard and smile... Photo: DPA

Hugh Jackman delivers again. Mind you, with that beard and smile…
Photo: DPA

Origins was a prequel, set before all the other X-films and explored the beginnings of the Wolverine. Despite its poor reviews, I actually believe that it contained a lot of highly entertaining material, such as Logan’s mysterious background – something made intriguing by Hugh Jackman’s fantastic performance.  The Wolverine is an even stronger attempt at a lone Wolverine piece.

It takes place after the events of The Last Stand and deals with Logan’s grief over losing the woman he loved and his desperate attempt to shed his soldier persona of “the Wolverine.” After mysteriously losing his power to heal, he becomes embroiled in an attempt to rescue the granddaughter and heir of Japan’s wealthiest businessman, who has been kidnapped by the Yakuza (the Japanese mob).

The X-Men movies, 1 and 2 especially, are relatively serious in tone for super hero pieces: somewhere in-between the camp fun of The Avengers and the morbid tones of The Dark Knight. They are as much about story and character development as battles and powers. The Wolverine films are somewhat lighter, and The Wolverine is a fast-paced adventure; its scenes of combat are clearly its greatest strength.

Set in modern day Japan, the fights vary from mutants using their unusual and unique powers to battles using martial arts, sticks and samurai swords. There is no time for a dull moment with all the enemies Logan must face. My favourite scene, in which Wolverine battles a Yakuza agent atop a bullet train, has shades of Mission Impossible, Speed and Skyfall in it. Accompanying Logan in his fight against evil is fellow mutant, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who attacks with traditional Japanese weapons rather than her mutant abilities. Yukio is a highly entertaining addition to the X-cast and will hopefully turn up in later films.

The more unusual, un-X-Men and un-Wolverine elements of this story are Logan’s relationship with the woman he must save, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), and his dreams of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the woman he could not save. This, laboriously at times, dominates the focus and tone of the movie and perhaps fits with the more serious overtone of the X-Men franchise rather than this action film.

What really excited me in this newest X-Men film were the moments where The Wolverine was clearly bridging the gap between the modern story of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class, which is set in the 1960s. The Wolverine is clearly opening the way for the much-anticipated X-Men: Days of Future Past. The latter will reach our screens in 2014 and will see the modern-day Wolverine travel back in time to the 1970s, 10 years after the events of First Class, to enlist the mutants (such as young Professor X (James McAvoy) and young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to help his team fight a giant robot foe. The hopeful critic in me believes it could be the best film of 2014; the excited fan believes it could be the best X-Men film to date.

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