By Michileen Martin | Published
The solo Wolverine movies Hugh Jackman made before Marvel and Fox were both under the same corporate umbrella have an interesting place when it comes to the critical and fan reaction. On one end of the spectrum there’s 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which often finds a home on any Worst Superhero Movies Ever list. On the other end there’s 2017’s Loganwhich will usually be mentioned alongside The Dark Knight and Iron Man as potentially the absolute best superhero movie ever. Often forgotten in the middle is 2013’s The Wolverine, though some HBO subscribers seem to be discovering it. The movie just entered HBO’s Top 10 list of movies streamed this week.
In the wake of the events of 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand — which ends with Hugh Jackman’s Marvel hero being forced to kill Jean Gray — Logan lives as a hermit in the Yukon. He surfaces from his wilderness isolation only to punish some hunters after their poison forces a bear to go wild, and soon afterward finds himself on the other side of the world. The mutant Yukio finds Logan and brings him to Japan at the behest of the powerful tech CEO Ichirō Yashida, whose life Logan saved during World War II. Ichirō is dying of cancer, and he has an interesting gift to both ask of Logan and to offer him. He wants to use a process to take Logan’s healing power to save himself from cancer, and to save Logan from the immortality he does not want. Wolverine refuses, and soon afterward Ichirō dies.
Ichirō’s death is not the end of the drama. Logan is forced to pop his claws at Ichirō’s funeral when yakuza show up to kidnap the late CEO’s granddaughter Mariko. Together Logan, Yukio, Marika are forced to go on the run; and to make a bad situation worse Wolverine’s healing abilities stop working the way they’re supposed to. For the first time since Jean Gray’s death, Logan allows himself to fall in love, while at the same time fighting off ninjas, the mutant villain Viper, and the powerful Silver Samurai.
Hugh Jackman’s fifth Marvel movie was directed by James Mangold; the same director who would later helm the game-changing Logan. It was written by Scott Frank — who would go on to co-write Logan with Mangold and Michael Green — and Scott Frank (War of the Planet of the Apes). Playing the young Ichirō Yashida was Ken Yamamura (godzilla) while his older counterpart was played by Hal Yamanouchi (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). Playing the future seeing mutant Yukio was Rila Fukushima (arrow) and Logan’s love interest Mariko was played by Tao Okamoto (west world). Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat) has the role of Mariko’s villainous father Shingen, Svetlana Khodchenkova (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) is the mutant Viper, and Brian Tee (Jurassic World) plays Mariko’s fiancee Noburo. Famke Janssen reprized her role as Jean Gray for hallucination scenes. To set up the following year’s X-Men: Days of Future PastPatrick Stewart and Ian McKellen appear in a post-credits scene.
The Wolverine is by no means Hugh Jackman’s best Marvel flick — Logan rightly boasts that title — but it also doesn’t deserve to be as thoroughly forgotten as it has been in the past decade. While it doesn’t have the benefit of the rest of the X-Men to back Logan up, it’s a solid and fun superhero adventure movie. Plus, when you think of it, most of Singer’s pre-Apocalypse movies were just Wolverine and His Amazing Friends, so the fact that most of the other X-Men don’t show up isn’t that big of a deal.
In most likelihood, the main reason The Wolverine remains an underrated chapter of the X-Men franchise is due in no small part to Days of Future Past. And no, we don’t mean because Days of Future Past was just so good it made everyone forget the previous movie. Days of Future Past seemed worked very hard to ignore the events of The Wolverine. Even though in the earlier movie Logan loses his metal claws to the Silver Samurai, in Days of Future Past they’re back without explanation. Not to mention that the later movie is set in the future while Professor X and Magneto grab Logan in the present day. The discrepancies put The Wolverine in a dead zone where nothing in the movie seems stuck.
If you’ve yet to see The Wolverine, your chance is here. It’s streaming on HBO’s various services right now.