THE WOLVERINE. Exaggerated, but in the style of cult action films from the 80s.

The first 20 minutes of “The Wolverine” are a piece of a great story about a guy who has to deal with his demons.

Radosław Pisula

16 February 2024


Wolverine has had great misfortune with solo films. “Genesis” turned out to be a softened cartoon that mercilessly violates the more important elements of the clawed berserker’s mythology, and some time later, Darren Aronofsky – a director seemingly perfect for making a more serious film with this character – withdrew from the planned adaptation of Logan’s adventures in Japan.

Attempts to revitalize the project were painfully drawn out. However, in the end, the director’s chair was filled by the skillful craftsman James Mangold, who adeptly navigates between different genres, and Hugh Jackman – after a phenomenal cameo in “First Class” – once again received claws from the producers. As the ending of the previous individual film promised, the mutant finally went to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Once again, we meet Logan as he wanders through the Canadian forests, unable to cope with the consequences of the “final solution” to the Phoenix problem in “The Last Stand.” One evening, while dealing with poachers in a bar, he meets a red-haired Asian woman named Yukio, who explains to him that a certain old friend – whom the hero saved in Nagasaki – wants to bid farewell before dying. So Logan heads straight into the embrace of the Orient, where he encounters family intrigues, ninja warriors, strange experiments, and even robots. And the seemingly indestructible mutant will have to come to terms with his own mortality when suddenly his healing factor is drastically slowed down.


The biggest flaw of Mangold’s film is actually that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. The first 20 minutes – which made a splash at closed press screenings – are a piece of a great story about a guy who has to deal with his demons. It’s a bit naive, but very atmospheric. The problems begin after arriving in Japan, which should be the tastiest morsel of all. And yes, the country looks beautiful, the cinematography is flawless, and orientalism pours out of the frames – often unfortunately painfully stereotypical. However, this does not translate into the story itself. The narrative is saturated with painfully naive solutions, entanglement of family animosities reminiscent of soap operas, and poorly written dialogues that at times treat the viewer painfully didactically (for example – a line directed towards the main character: “You are a ronin – a samurai without a master.” 20 minutes later, the character himself says to a native Asian woman: “He said I’m a ronin – a samurai without a master.” The same happens with the yakuza, or gaijin), and Logan himself does not appear at all as a contemporary samurai – which is after all the basis of his comic lineage, brilliantly presented in Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s miniseries (which, by the way, the film heavily relies on). Here, everything boils down mainly to jokes related to his lack of cultural competence. This would still be bearable and would still present the film in a good light if not for the completely butchered third act. Then all the clichés start to accumulate, it becomes terribly clichéd, and the hardly surprising plot twists only amuse – although they shouldn’t.

And this is not a film that adds anything to the genesis of the character himself or the X-Men cinematic world. Apart from a really interesting scene between the credits that connects this film with “Days of Future Past,” the whole thing gives the impression of aimlessness. It’s really a pity that the studio executives still haven’t understood what Wolverine’s phenomenon is based on – it’s a wild beast that, paradoxically, has embraced samurai values. Why wasn’t the focus on this intriguing thread and instead delved into strange power blocking, which is actually completely unsatisfactory? Additionally, blood should flow here in torrents, but instead, we have a disco for editors, where some fan of a strobe light goes wild – the more brutal scenes are skillfully masked with cuts – unfortunately, not with claws, and some fight scenes are filmed by a person who really should see a doctor because his hands shouldn’t fly like that. Showing once bloody claws or healing a wound is like throwing scraps in the face. This film should be as unpretentious as “The Punisher: War Zone” (although not exaggerated at the same time).

The brightest point of the production is undoubtedly Hugh Jackman. Once again, he enjoys himself splendidly on set. He has perfected Logan’s facial expressions, and additionally, he has a body probably carved by The Rock. It’s enjoyable to watch his on-screen antics, and it’s easy to forget about the huge number of weak elements in the film. Rila Fukushima also makes a good impression, who despite initial pigeonholing quickly takes the initiative and skillfully develops her character, so alongside Jackman, she’s the only person you somehow care about. The rest of the cast is unfortunately poorly written or usually overdone characters, quickly forgotten (poor Svetlana Khodchenkova…). And there’s Famke Janssen, who at first is quite well introduced but quickly becomes terribly annoying.


Interestingly, despite all these flaws… I had quite a good time at the screening. Mangold’s film definitely surpasses “Genesis” in quality and provides quite decent entertainment. It’s exaggerated, but in the style of cult action films from the 80s. Everything here is exaggerated to the extreme, the Land of the Rising Sun is as American-Japanese as the Yankees were the USSR during Hollywood’s Cold War and Ivan Drago. The characters are developed enough to push the plot forward but not become flesh-and-blood heroes at the same time. Wolverine has a vast arsenal of one-liners that he doesn’t hesitate to use, and additionally, we have mechs, katanas, and totally absurd action scenes – the filled with slapstick fight on a speeding shinkansen is particularly impressive, resembling a tribute to Buster Keaton. It seems to me that at some point (after the prologue) the creators realized that with limitations and without the “R” rating, they wouldn’t do anything more ambitious here. That’s why they went for a slightly kitschy story about a wild man falling in love with a Japanese woman and tearing apart “the bad guys” (ninja or yakuza members with bare chests and tattoos). There’s no great love here, the action doesn’t tear your heart out, but it’s comforting and cheerful.

A film with great potential that ultimately turns out to be simply mediocre. Fortunately, it doesn’t harm anyone and you can spend two hours at the screening pleasantly. Jackman has a great time, Japan is beautiful, a few dry jokes make you smile. It’s worth watching with a Coke and a hamburger rather than sushi and sake.