Review: 'The Wolverine' is a Welcome Return with Edge & Excitement

July 26, 2013

The Wolverine

After 13 years and 5 movies - some none too good - it's pretty undeniable that Hugh Jackman OWNS the Wolverine role. The people's champion of X-Men needed a powerhouse actor flicking his claws and snarling his…snarl to make his cinematic version as iconic as the comic book character. With The Wolverine, the character's second standalone film, Jackman has never been more fierce, but it's exciting to note that the film is just as fierce. The Wolverine is unlike most blockbusters in terms of scope, but makes up for its grounded dryness with thrills that come when they're needed and an edge the character so richly deserves.

Immediately being better than the character's first stand-alone film, The Wolverine chooses to continue the mutant's age-old story in the present, after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. After a brief prologue set in 1945 Nagasaki, we jump to the now where Logan, nicknamed The Wolverine for his indestructible, metal claws and perfect facial hair, lives alone in the wilderness. He's haunted by nightmares of the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the X-Men teammate and Logan's most recent love who fell under darker spells. The Wolverine is content with living out eternity in the woods, hunting and killing food, and generally being so much cooler than Bear Grylls.

He's out of those woods and off to Japan quickly, though. A mysterious woman, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), finds and confronts Logan on orders from her employer,Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a Japanese soldier whose life was saved in Nagasaki by the Wolverine. Now an old man, he feels in debt to Logan and offers him something the mutant never thought he could get, the chance to grow old and die. Yashida explains he has a way to take Logan's powers from him, so the old soldier can live forever and the Wolverine can finally live out the final years of his long life.

The Wolverine

Even at its setup, The Wolverine isn't loaded with action. The story, written by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, takes its time, builds itself up before any real action kicks in. There are a few moments early on where Logan gets to brandish those claws, but the necessity to use them as lethal weapons doesn't show up until all the pieces have been set for a decent story. It continues to grow, and the twists and turns brush up against convoluted territory. You're never lost, but don't zone out for more than 30 seconds.

When it decides its time for some heavy-hitting action, that story allows these more exciting moments to have both a visual and mental impact on the movie. Director James Mangold - always an under-appreciated favorite - keeps most of the action on the ground, at eye-level. In a Summer movie season where planets are exploding and cities of millions are being demolished, The Wolverine chooses to stay low on scale, and it's a welcome change of course.

The Wolverine

The blockbuster moments are in there. Yashida's granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) has a way of getting chased by the Yakuza, and the resulting fight on board a speeding train with Logan is pretty damn breathtaking. The Wolverine doesn't get into real summer territory until the final act. It's a predictable resolution to the story. That's the worst you can say about it, because the marriage of genuine drama, interesting and well-crafted - given the CG - final villain, and big budget stunt-work blows you away. The action, if nothing else, in The Wolverine is legit.

And it's impossible not to say the same for Jackman. He embodies the character of Logan, as if he and the character are one and the same person. That's not an easy thing for someone to do even with six films under his belt to grow the Wolverine in his image. In The Wolverine, he doesn't have a myriad of colorful mutants to back him up in every scene, not that they're needed. But Jackman's ferocious yet superb turn in this film proves what most of us had already suspected, that any problems X-Men Origins: Wolverine had can in no way be placed at the actor's feet.

The franchise didn't exactly need new life injected into it. X-Men First Class pretty much took care of the downward spiral the series was taking after X-Men: The Last Stand and the first Wolverine movie. However, The Wolverine, choosing character over spectacle and something of a mystery thriller over massive-budgeted actioner, delivers the most solid Wolverine story we could have possibly hoped for. There's no "if" about it. This film and the five that precede it are a clear indication of just how well Jackman fits as the iconic character. But, if The Wolverine is any indication of the level of subdued storytelling and quality execution the X-Men series is ready to take, let the next six films do their worst. At the very least, we'll know Wolverine's claws will continue to keep their edge.

Jeremy's Rating: 8 out of 10

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Thanks Jeremy. I will check it out later this weekend.

DAVIDPD on Jul 26, 2013


UGH you are so entirely wrong ...this was such a horrible let down. Half the audience was asleep in the theater..most of the movie was no fighting ..and the effects were second rate! How can you justify the grizzly bear looking like it was animatronics from chucky cheese? hell real grizzlies are used in tv shows and a big budget movie like this couldn't get decent effects or a real one? The only good thing about the movie is Hugh Jackman..but what a waste of a film ..and im a HUGE HUGE wolverine and x-men franchise fan. The only saving grace was the scene after the credits

Sam on Jul 26, 2013


Or, maybe he just disagrees with your asessment. He's not "wrong". Another card carrying member of the A.D.D. crowd who can sit still for 5 minutes without an action sequence. Awesome.

wooster on Jul 26, 2013


I liked it a lot and I'm pretty apprehensive when it comes to marvel movies. I would go as far and say it was one of the top marvel movies made, second to maybe iron man 1, and the avengers. bullet train scene was awesome!

cvhado on Jul 26, 2013


... "most of the movie was no fighting" yup, that's what I loved. Action and fighting is meaningless without character moments to hold them up and make the threats real. You want colourful characters in spandex jumping around and fighting, well you've got The Avengers, I'm staying with the Wolverine

Yahzee on Jul 26, 2013


If this was the most solid story you could hope for, then you aren't hoping for much. The story was simple and rather predictable. There was no character development and the dialogue was pretty bad. Hugh jackman is great though. The only thing that brought a smile to my face was the scene during the credits, that and Famke Janssen.

Drew on Jul 26, 2013


Nice review Jeremy. Better than I expected, and a crap bunch better than that Origins crap-fest.

Dan O'Neill on Jul 26, 2013


it indeed could've been better, but it was definitely the best Wolverine movie in my opinion. Now, if only he could be in Age of Ultron :

Jacob Denton on Jul 26, 2013


Good and fair review. I was hesitant about seeing this after the first crapfest, but I may check it out. I think it's in Atmos here.

McWetty on Jul 26, 2013


I honestly felt it was the best of the x-men films. It built up to the action and it didn't disapoint. I can't wait to see it again.

Cs on Jul 27, 2013


i got the feeling that someone is paid by the movie studios to give marvel movies good reviews, no matter how crap it is..

marvelman on Jul 27, 2013


Typical lame X-Men movie... I would have expected more, but I knew better. The thing I don't understand is why no one does revamp if the X-Men genre, but they continue crappy movie after crappy movie that Bryan Singer started. I'm just saying...

David Dilley on Jul 29, 2013


***spoilers*** First off, the villainess, Viper, was outright ridiculous. I don't even feel the need to go further there. But what really got me was the Silver Samurai's motive for killing Wolverine? To begin, Logan saves his life from the nuclear blast. And he is eternally grateful to the point of offering his grandfathers own sword. When we see him, 50 years later, he wants to kill Logan. When and why did this transformation take place? He states over and over again that it's it out of kindness, to offer Logan "The average death you long for" Yet, the audience is never exposed Logan's supposed "desire for a normal death" ??? Leaving the only rational for killing Logan, as simply an over zealous quest for immortality. Another motive that was simply not explained within the plot. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Went in with big hopes. Came out thoroughly disappointed. Only redeeming part of the movie was the after credits segment for Days of Future Past. 6/10

Zak Coleman on Aug 4, 2013

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