Review: The Wolverine

The Wolverine is the standalone character sequel to the X-Men franchise and the title character himself played by Hugh Jackman. Uniquely and specifically cast due to its Japanese locale and setting, The Wolverine stars Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Brain Tee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, and Famke Janssen (who reprises her role as Jean Grey).


The story for The Wolverine follows Logan/Wolverine as an unspecified amount of time has passed since the ending of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Logan has returned to the road of living alone, succumbing himself to a hermit lifestyle, as prolonged life (seemingly unable to die due to his mutant healing factor) has become a curse to him. He has grown recluse having since left the X-Men as he is constantly tormented by the memory and anguish of having killed Jean Grey, the woman he loved. Until one day, an event from his long traveled past comes back to greet him, forcing him to ultimately face his demons and his future as he begins a new journey which causes him to come out of hiding.


The Wolverine is directed by James Mangold (2003’s Identity, 2005’s Walk the Line, and 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma) who brings a concentrated yet sophisticated approach to exploring a character we have known on-screen since 2000, when the first X-Men film came out. If it wasn’t apparent how appropriately cast Hugh Jackman was then, it is absolutely apparent now as The Wolverine is the best he’s ever portrayed his long-standing character. It’s a James Bond iconic sense that Jackman brings, as for once due to the story, the centralized characterization, and the lack of “end of the world doom and gloom” are we able to see an appropriate presentation to what the Wolverine character has been missing/needing on-screen all this time. Its strict focus rounded out by a genuine supporting cast who do a fantastic job of pulling out the necessary internalization Logan’s character is dealing with and allows for the interaction that Wolverine brings amongst others. Logan is Wolverine and Wolverine is Logan and it’s a subtlety which Jackman does to highlight his character in a way only he can. He cares about his performance, the character as a whole, and the result is something that is extremely promising as the franchise continues forward. And the truth of it is – it has to be. He needs to be and the franchise overall needs to be at this level and better to find a success that the X-Men should have.


The X-Men franchise for as vast as its characters have been, has been narrow-minded in its approach given the past installments. It’s an ambitious stretch to potentially undo/fit in the dreadful events of X-Men: The Last Stand, a film which seemingly ended and crippled the franchise moving forward. But that’s what The Wolverine does in 2013. It’s a bridge to what is to come, a mandatory internal reset of tone and approach as a movie and the shock/awe of the post-credits scene which follows at the end (don’t be a fool and leave the moment once the credits roll, you do not want to miss it). We are now awaiting Brian Singer’s directorial return for the franchise with X-Men: Days of Future Past releasing in 2014. Whereby, as much as The Wolverine is a sequel to the standalone character himself, it is also a sequel to everything that has come before it. And Days of Future Past is the film that will attempt to not only tie everything together but hopefully propel the franchise to something the audience and comic book fans deserve. An X-Men franchise with a promising future in terms of its story, its characters, its otherworldly villains and a well thought out direction – something which was non-existent up until this point.


The Wolverine as a film is not perfect as it stumbles in its final act in a typical comic book style/studio marketing approach (without getting into spoilers, the villains lacked that final punch despite the genuine tension presented throughout the film). Yet despite this (or perhaps it has been previous X-Men film conditioning) the faults of the finality weren’t enough to sway my overall enjoyment of the film. I felt The Wolverine was rooted and charismatic enough that its setting of Japan and the overall story it presented left a strong impression. There was simplicity with its deliberate pace and there was a definite elegance in its exactness of dark tone. Mangold does a solid job with his camera work, giving the film a visual scope in regards to always letting the audience be aware of the film’s setting and capturing the action in an engaging manner. The one negative is the quick cuts can at times feel abrupt and frenetic and that perhaps ultimately a lot was left on the editing room floor. (There is an expected directorial cut to be released with an inclusion of several more minutes of footage, which was rumored to have been removed due to the PG-13 rating.)


When X-Men: First Class (2011) was first released it was viewed seemingly as a reboot for the franchise as a whole, leaving a level of skepticism of relevancy for The Wolverine as a film itself. It’s the idea that as an audience we’ve had enough, especially given the lackluster outing for X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) which started out promising and ended altogether differently and virtually unwanted. (Plus I think in general there is a sigma for fans with Fox Pictures having held a vice-grip on this franchise for so long and never really ever getting it completely right.) Yet despite the past, it’s the future which is what matters moving forward. And for the current present, The Wolverine is solid entertainment and a welcomed much better film and inclusion to the X-Men franchise overall.


I give The Wolverine a 8 out of 10.



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3 thoughts on “Review: The Wolverine

  1. I definately agree the Wolverine lacked any special villains and the finale fell flat on its face in a boring battle but as you said it is one that even non-fans will find themselves enjoying.

  2. First and foremost I must say that I absolutely loved this movie. But as I will cover in my review it may largely be due to the fact that I have always held the source material of this film in very high regard. Having said that, I do recognize that their may be a sliding scale of enjoyability for this film. If you are a fan of the 1983 Claremont/Miller miniseries of Wolverine then this is the movie you have been waiting for. If you are fond of the character Wolverine and interested into delving deeper into his chronology and exploring his inner conflicts, you will certainly enjoy this movie. If however, you have no familiarity, or no desire to familiarize with the character of Wolverine, you may find yourself not caring about many of the slower moments and longing for a more evenly paced action film.

    Fans of Claremont’s Wolverine rejoice, this Wolverine does it right. The film does its best keeping characters intact while deviating from the comics in the sake of a self contained story and grander character development. There are several of the shots in this film that are near recreations of the comic’s original panels, and although story lines have been shifted and shuffled in some places, its all there. Mariko, Yukio, Harada, Shingen and Viper may develop differently than in the comic series, but their relation to each other and contextual significance is intact. As a Wolverine fan it was also nice to see a meaningful relationship blossom between Wolverine and Mariko, unlike the comics where it really is love at first sight. Instead here Wolverine falls in love not entirely with the character of Mariko, but rather with the idea of being a protector, a take that is a welcome addition to the Claremont storyline. The characters of Silver Samurai and Viper undergo the largest facelift in this film, but it isn’t entirely out of place. Let us not forget they were involved in the X Men issues directly connecting to the Wolverine miniseries. Although their characters have undertaken slight adjustments in order to incorporate ideas from the Fatal Attractions storyline, the plot does well to take from Wolverine’s side of this storyline because it was one of the few times in the series where Logan did feel vulnerable. Many fans will recognize that the plot device and character of Master Yashida cannot be found in any of the original comics, but one must keep in mind it serves as a useful device to connect all the developments of Logan’s journey. All in all I think its the best character study of Wolverine that any fan could ask for. Wolverine struggles with his animalistic urges and his commitment to reform, he grapples to find meaning in his endless immortality, and he ultimately finds purpose and resolution that he had not before. None of these developments are significantly or profoundly discovered, rather they are slowly revealed, which may turn casual movie goers off from enjoying this film. As a thoughtful exploration of Wolverine’s character and a grand homage to incredible source material though, how can any Wolverine fan say no to this movie? It is the best X-Men movie and one of the best comic based movies.

    For those who would not consider themselves fans, but are rather moviegoers intent on enjoying a superhero epic, be warned. This film is a character study, it does not grapple with any conflicts outside of Wolverine’s internal struggles. The world is not being threatened, and not many lives outside of Logan’s are even being threatened, so the storyline does not crescendo in epic suspense like the Avengers or the Dark Knight. So for those not invested in Wolverine’s personal self discovery, some of the action can seem unmotivated and the pacing an obstacle to satisfaction. The film does its job in providing action sequences, but it intersperses several moments of symbolic soul searching, cryptic metaphors and relationship building that serve as pavement for Wolverine’s self discovery. This movie can still be enjoyable without interest in Wolverine’s inner conflicts however. With an outstanding supporting cast, a beautiful setting, and gripping and intense action sequences, it plays a lot like a token Bond film for those unfamiliar with Wolverine.

    Whether you are familiar with the original comics or not, this movie will certainly provide entertaining thrills and intriguing themes. If, however, you are a fan of the original comic books, this film is a wonderful achievement.

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