Can Jackman heal the wounds of X-Men Origins?
We’ve been here before. Fans were overjoyed that their favourite character was getting a spin-off movie when the X-Men trilogy came to an end. But they soon showed their claws when they saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hampered by a prequel plot that needed to fit in with what had gone before, Origins also hugely annoyed the Marvel fanbase with its portrayal of Deadpool. And while it more than doubled its $150m budget at the worldwide box office, the reaction was enough to kill a proposed Magneto movie stone dead.
Four years on, and Marvel is trying again. But this time you get the feeling that both it and actor Hugh Jackman know what’s at stake. Appearing to have learned from the mistakes of Origins, The Wolverine has plenty of people bringing their A-game. Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) has had a hand in the script, which takes its inspiration from the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller miniseries from the 1980s, dealing with the character’s adventures in Japan as he fights ninjas in the ceremonial garb of a samurai. During the shoot Jackman said, “I feel very confident about The Wolverine,” even adding, “Darren Aronofsky [The Wrestler, Black Swan] said it was the best script he’d ever read.”
The story is certainly a lot better than Origins. The scriptwriters have crafted a much more personal tale, which uses its Japanese setting well to blend dynastic squabbles, ninjas, samurai and shades of a Yakuza crime drama together. It also helps that director James Mangold doesn’t spray the screen with CGI. Instead, stunt team 87eleven (300) help deliver a physical, grounded world for Wolverine to ply his trade.
Jackman – who served as producer – also shows a commitment to the role that fans will appreciate. It’s clear he’s enjoying the chance to stretch such a unique and interesting character and the audience can’t help but be carried along with him. Having nailed the Canadian mutant’s anger issues in previous films, Jackman gets to explore more of Logan’s emotional side – and there’s enough baggage there to clog Heathrow. After all, this may be the third X-Men film since The Last Stand but the last two have been prequels, so this is the first time an audience has been shown the pain of an eternal life lived without the woman he loves.
It’s not the biggest film of the year, or the most action-packed, but The Wolverine proves to be sharp return to form for the X-Men’s greatest hero. Now how about that Deadpool movie?
The Wolverine opens today in UK cinemas and tomorrow in the US.