The Wolverine is another shot at giving the famous Marvel superhero the solo film treatment. We can all agree that their last (inferior I may add) effort of doing so was not the best attempt in giving the character a proper solo film that happens to explain his origin and his struggles. This film on the other hand, was basically everything X-Men Origins: Wolverine should’ve been. It’s an entertaining, interesting and serious character study of the character himself.
The Wolverine takes place years after X-Men 3: The Last Stand (unfortunately) where Logan a.k.a. Wolverine isolated himself from the X-men to the wilderness where he is tormented from his memories of murdering the love of his life. He is meanwhile scouted by Japanese “assassin” named, Yukio who happens to be working by the man he once saved during the Hiroshima bombing in WW2. She brought him to meet her employer at Tokyo to give thanks to him for saving his life and at the same time grants him the wish Logan’s been wanting his entire life, Mortality.
I had low expectations as I go in to this film, after seeing the last Wolverine film it did discourage me to even bother with this movie and all the trailers and clips for this film didn’t really impress me that much (but that bullet train scene in the trailers was pretty cool though). Maybe it was the right thing to go into this movie with low expectations because I left the theater saying that Wolverine finally has a decent solo film, though that is not saying much after all.
If there’s one thing that I am getting tired of in superhero movies nowadays is the fact that they keep using the “vulnerable superhero storyline”. I am fully aware that not all superheroes can’t be perfect at the time but from past movies there were a few films that wasn’t properly executed, It did work in The Dark Knight Rises, It did work Spider-Man 2 (for what it is), but didn’t work very well in Iron Man 3. But on the other hand, this film used that storyline effectively (enough) as it did bring out a strong performance from Hugh Jackman as the metal-clawed hero himself.
It seems to be impossible to even give a character-driven live action film to a character like Wolverine, especially when he is more known to be this almost-invincible badass who can hack and slash bad guys with his claws without breaking a sweat under that yellow spandex of his, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for this film. Director, James Mangold was able to deliver a film where the character of Wolverine is finally done right (I still think that it would be interesting to see what Aronofsky had on the table for this movie), he is more than just a growling-shouting-hacking-and-slashing guy, the film shows a different side, a side that we have never seen from the character before and it does show how tormented he is for being that guy in the past. One would say “But I’m here for the hacking and the slashing! Not some guy whimpering in the woods”, If that is what you are looking for then you will definitely get that. There are tons of action scenes where Wolverine actually gets blood on his claws (this time you can actually see blood on his claws) along with big action set-pieces of ninjas and samurais in the Japan setting and there’s even a ridiculously entertaining fight scene on top of a bullet train between Wolverine and a few Yakuza gang members. I'm always a sucker for really silent action sequences with no score being played during an intense fight scene and you pretty much get a lot of that in this film as it does genuinely give intensity in that one exhilarating fight scene. The special effects are definitely better than the last one, the last one made Wolverine's claws look impractically fake and the majority looks like it was barely finished (like the leaked version of the original)
As much as I want to praise the film even further, it did have its fair share of flaws. The flaws mostly occurred on the latter half of the film, where it did end with a very anti-climactic element done to the character and also complicates most of the situations that were brought up earlier in the film. The film introduces an edgier storytelling that feels like that it could be compared next to Nolan’s Batman films (I know it’s blasphemy, but it is somewhere in that level), but then in the final fight scene where everything is revealed you end up spending the last 20 minutes of the film fighting a giant samurai robot, the movie basically shifts different tones in the latter half of the film. As much as I want to say that scene was entertaining it felt like the film drastically lost itself in that sugar-coated element of the film.
Japan is more than just a background of the film, it is actually a real setting where they bring up a lot about the culture of the Japanese people and the ways of the ninjas, the samurais and even the Yakuzas in this noir-esque setting of modern Japan. Though most of the expositions of the culture seem to be unnecessary and overbearing as it did to complicate the already complex storyline this film has.
Hugh Jackman continues to steal the show and shows why he deserves the role of our favorite Mutie (cuter name for mutant) with his performance as the Wolverine. Like I’ve said earlier he did bring out a very strong performance as he does show the vulnerable-tormented side of his character, and once in a while he would even bring out the inner-badass as he say some action-star-quality one-liners (seriously “Go fuck yourself” is becoming his catch-phrase). The Japanese cast like Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto were both great, I am a fan of strong female characters in films and I thought they were good for the material they were given. Though Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper was a rather weak character, she’s one of those mutants in X-Men films where they will make you go “what are you doing here, again?” (Mutant team in X-Men Origins, Riptide in X-Men First Class, to name a few). She was weakly developed and her motive seems bland as well. The remaining cast like Hiroyuki Sanada, Will Yun Lee, and Hal Yamanouchi are decent in their roles and they did bring a good enough performance physically.
In the end, The Wolverine is not really a perfect film; it is in fact quite decent. There were notable improvements but also some obvious flaws in this film. The Wolverine is still an enjoyable pop-corn flick nonetheless and at the same time a good character study of the clawed-mutant himself. Fans will be happy that the character is finally done right as it does feature Wolverine's both vulnerable and animalistic side of him in the Japan setting. I recommend you see this movie, If you are a fan of Wolverine or comic book films in general, if you are still scarred by the same wounds that X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine gave you then this movie could possibly change your mind about the film or maybe the franchise itself.
NOTE: Stay for the post credits-scene, its mind blowing-ly worth it.
+ DECENT STORYTELLING
+BADASS ACTION SET-PIECES
-BADLY HANDLED TONES
-SOME COMPLICATIONS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FILM
3/5 – NOT THAT BAD, NOT THAT GOOD