[Digital Drift 2014]
This one kind of came out of nowhere. Since Wolverine hasn’t been an enjoyable and compelling lead since 2003 with X-Men 2 it was a surprise for him to suddenly reclaim his onscreen presence a decade later after we’d had a new Spider-Man, two new Hulks and two new Supermen, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America the rise and fall of The Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider and the entire Dark Knight Trilogy.
Wisely avoiding tying this in too heavily with the established X-Men continuity this takes the form of a stand-alone action thriller closer to something like Man on Fire than the average mutant adventure. Logan is grieving his actions in X-Men 3 and mourning the loss of Jean, exiling himself to the Canadian wilderness. He is tracked down and summoned to Japan and the lion’s share of the film is a reflective, taut rōnin story, steeped in this distinctive eastern culture, caught part way between the past and the future. Virtually no mutant powers beyond Wolverine himself, a plot filled with intrigue and hidden motivations with multiple serious, more-than-competent characters, several of them female.
It’s arguably the second-best X-Men film, but as is tradition they completely fudge the ending. And I mean REALLY fudge it. Like *tap measured, skillful director James Mangold on the shoulder and replace him with a fornicating baboon* fudged. That’s the level of bonkers tone-shift that follows a natural climax point. You know in some parallel realities the Fox executives didn’t step in as the greatest enemies of the X-Men series’, forever preventing them from achieving true greatness.