‘The Wolverine’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 15th, 2014 at 12:19 am,

The Wolverine HBO First Look and Logan Featurette The Wolverine Review

The Wolverine ranks among the better X-Men movies – along with Bryan Singer’s first two installments and Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class.

The Wolverine picks up with the semi-immortal mutant Logan (Hugh Jackman) looking particularly disheveled, after having spent an unspecified amount of time in self-imposed exile in the Canadian wilderness (following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand). Logan, who is tormented by the survivor’s guilt he’s accumulated over the centuries – having outlived every person he’s cared for – and haunted by recurring visions of his deceased love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), has abandoned his Wolverine (re: superhero) alter-ego for an isolated existence.

Everything changes when Logan is approached by a mysterious pink-haired woman named Yukio (Rila Fukushima). She informs Wolvie that her employer Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) – the extremely wealthy founder of a powerful Japanese technology corporation – is on his deathbed and wishes to thank Logan, who saved his life way back in WWII. Logan is hesitant, but  soon agrees to accompany Yukio back to Tokyo, in order to to bid farewell to his old acquaintance – unaware that he’s taken the first step on a treacherous journey that will take him into the sordid underbelly of Japanese society, and leave him permanently altered in a mental, spiritual and physical sense.

The Wolverine is (mostly) a thematically-rich X-Men story that was realized under the direction of James Mangold, a filmmaker who has spent his career bouncing around from genre to genre (see: Girl, Interrupted, 3:10 to Yuma, Knight and Day, etc.). Mangold commits to exploring the depths of Logan’s emotional baggage while he and his collaborators infuse the proceedings with a strong appreciation for – and understanding of – cinema history and tradition. The final result: The Wolverine feels refreshingly different than just about every other superhero movie produced to date… for the first 3/4ths of its running time, anyway.

wolverine logan yukio The Wolverine Review

Yukio and Logan in ‘The Wolverine’

Many people who were eager to see a unique superhero/comic book adaptation felt their hopes shatter after the original version of The Wolverine – planned by director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) – collapsed in pre-production. There are times (read: the third act) when The Wolverine suffers from muddled storytelling and uninspired spectacle – the same problems that are present throughout the infamous prequel, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Still, the majority of Mangold’s film ended up being (surprisingly) close to what McQuarrie had in mind: a thoughtful character study of the eponymous Adamantium-claw wielding mutant, with the occasional action sequence included here and there (for good measure).

Jackman, as Logan, appears to be in the best physical condition of his career here; furthermore, this film offers the most captivating portrayal of the character put on the big screen yet (how true he is to the X-Men comic books’ depiction – that’s open for debate). Under Mangold’s watch, Jackman successfully makes Wolverine feel like the superhero equivalent of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name (from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns): a “ronin” or samurai who is without a purpose, as one of the characters observes early on. There are parts of the score composed by Marco Beltrami (3:10 to Yuma, The Hurt Locker) that recall Ennio Morricone’s music for Leone films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which helps to hammer that idea home and strengthen the film’s East-meets-West subtext in the process.

wolverine logan mariko1 The Wolverine Review

Mariko and Logan in ‘The Wolverine’

Above all else, though, The Wolverine is informed by Noir traditions, beginning with the opening flashback to WWII (i.e. the event credited for inspiring the American Noir movement). Mangold and the film’s cinematographer, Ross Emery (a second-unit director of photography on Dark City and The Matrix trilogy) do a solid job of making Japan feel like the setting for an old-school detective story: shadowy and menacing at night, deceivingly harmless by day. Similarly, Logan is a proper choice for the Noir archetype of an investigating protagonist: he’s emotionally-fragile and vulnerable one moment, and in the next he throws a bad man out a window without even blinking an eye.

Action scenes in The Wolverine are relatively few and far between – which is good, because they have a tendency to be the film’s weakest moments. A major theme in the film is the brutal nature of death and violence, but that only comes across in the movie’s best – and bloodiest – fight sequence. The other combat-heavy beats are too choppy in their structure, save for the much-advertised fight atop a bullet train (which is entertaining, but kind of extraneous to the plot). Likewise, a healthy chunk of the final half-hour (including the climax) includes some hollow CGI-heavy fisticuffs and a ninja battle that is cut-short. The Wolverine feels likes an R-Rated movie edited down to PG-13, and that compromise undercuts some of its successes.

Hugh Jackman fights on a train as Logan in The Wolverine The Wolverine Review

Logan atop a bullet train in ‘The Wolverine’

There are many supporting characters in The Wolverine, but a handful of them are either half-baked or unnecessary additions to the plot. Yukio, for example, is the interesting and well-rounded “sidekick” for Wolvie, while Mariko (Tao Okamoto) – Yashida’s grand-daughter – is in part a damsel-in-distress, but her own personal conflict and capabilities help to elevate the character above that basic archetype. Brian Tee, Hiroyuki Sanada and Will Yun Lee all play morally-questionable or corrupt individuals, who populate the neo-Noir setting. None of their characters are all that memorable, but each one serves a purpose in advancing the story.

Too bad the same cannot be said for the mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a femme fatale whose role in the plot needed a rewrite – since her presence raises more questions than it answers (especially when you examine the film’s plot mechanics more closely). One look at the individual resume for each of the film’s credited writers – Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard, Total Recall (2012)) and Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Minority Report) – and you start to suspect that maybe one of them was more responsible than the other – as far as inserting empty action scenes and too many characters into the narrative is concerned.

Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper and Hugh Jackman as Logan in The Wolverine The Wolverine Review

The villainous mutant Viper

Fortunately, Mangold keeps things running smoothly – until the last half-hour – and, in the end, accomplishes what he wanted: to do right by the great Wolverine comic book mini-series written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Frank Miller. As such, The Wolverine ranks among the better X-Men movies – along with Bryan Singer’s first two installments and Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class – even though its artistic compromises prevent it from reaching greatness.

One last note: The Wolverine features post-converted 3D that adds little to the film and makes the dark scenery even murkier, so those who are picky about the premium ticket prices are advised to go for a 2D screening. Also, be sure to stay after the end titles begin – there is indeed a mid-credits scene that’s worth waiting around for.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Wolverine episode of the SR Underground podcast.

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The Wolverine is 126 minutes long and Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language. Now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. The Wolverine was a good movie,I liked it better than X-Men Origins,but IMO the best CBM of this summer was Man Of Steel and the BEST movie of this summer (also IMO) is Pacific Rim,for its sheer over-the-top fun and anime-styled action.

    • @Lando

      I agree that Man Of Steel is so far the best CBM, movie of the year despite it’s flaws. I have high hopes that Thor Dark World will take that title later this year.

      • There were no flaws in The Man of Steel…

        • It was a good movie but it definitely had its flaws. So a Kryptonian ship crash landed almost 20,000 years ago (and as the prequel comic suggests was piloted by a crew that included Kal El’s cousin Kara). Then Kal inputs his “key” thereby uploading Jor El’s A.I. into it. Yet somehow there’s a Kryptonian suit ready and waiting for Kal to wear??? Who was this intended for given that Jor El wasn’t alive 20,000 years ago?

          • It was probably a family standardized suit.

        • Yeah and wolverine had no claws ;-)

  2. I’m proud of any fellow optimists staying proud of this movie, which I thought was incredible. The ending with the Silver Samurai revelation was really predictable and could’ve been handled differently, but I for one thought the movie was excellent. the ninja fight was cut short (As evidenced by the trailers), but really who cares? Who cares SS wasn’t a mutant? Who cares the movie was a little slow? Obviously some people don’t know how to appreciate a story and want to be just mindlessly entertained.
    For the record, Yukio was the best part of the movie. Great actress whoever she is! Nailed the part! Anyways yeah it dragged, but I’d still say it was the 3rd best X-Men movie. X2 will always be the best, then First Class, but DOFP will probably blow them all out of the water. BRYAN SINGER!!!!!!!!!!!!

    BUT forget Wolverine, who else loved that awesome “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” trailer? I can’t find it anywhere on the internet, not even a confirmation that FOX officially released it. someone in my theatre gave a genuine WOW after the trailer finished. My thoughts exactly random stranger. My thoughts exactly.

  3. Movie looks sooooo stupid.

  4. I liked the movie overall, but had a couple issues with it.
    1)Were the samari’s swords made of adamantium because if they weren’t, then he should have been slicing through them like a hot knife through butter.
    Did the one ninja chop him in half with a regular sword? Even if it were adamantium, would it still go through his spine?
    2)Is he going to get adamantium back on his claws for the future. The mid credits scene was 2 years later, and i believe that he still had just his bone claws.

  5. I liked it. In fact it was better than I expected after Origins. Anyway, I never thought Origins soooo bad to begin with. Not great, but definitely watchable.
    This one had a nice cast and story and the action sequences were not overwhelming. Also, a movie with several interesting female characters. The mid-credit scene is A1 :-)

  6. A four star movie until the last half hour. It brought it down a little, but overall a nice change of direction from the superhero movies this summer.

  7. It was great :)

  8. @john solo, you raised points that had been raising through mind since the trailers came out.

  9. The world must be coming to an end….I agree with Kofi. :-D I also felt that Mariko was a damsel in distress, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film. 3.5/5 sounds about right to me.

  10. I give this movie a 2.1 out of 5. Was disappointed.

  11. Maybe you guys could save the spoilers for a discussion panel?

    • Naw…

  12. After being disappointed by X3, Origins, and First Class, I was skeptical about this movie, but I gave it a chance and I don’t regret it. As everyone else has noted, the 3rd act was a bit of a mess. I didn’t like the Viper character at all, she didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the film and her character was written and acted a bit too over the top.

    I also didn’t like the Yukio character. Honestly, a lot of that for me personally came down to her resemblance to Sloth from the Goonies, lol. Her character didn’t really do anything and she just kind of showed up once in a while to check in with Logan and she was gone again.

    I also didn’t quite get the whole jean Grey dream sequence thing. Were we supposed to thing that she wasn’t just in his head? Did Phoenix perhaps survive in some kind of state between living and dead? Kind of seems like it, but it was never explained.

    The rest of the movie was pure gold, though. The tone was perfect, Jackman was spot on as usual, and the opening scene was great.

  13. good review. i agree for the most part with it. I loved the film but the last 30 minutes kept it from elevating from greatness. They ruined the Silver Samurai for me personally. the Viper was pointless and served no purpose other then to have another mutant in the movie. I wonder how long Jackman can keep playing this character because I’d like to see a squeal to this one, maybe with lady deathstrike (sorry Kelly Hu doesn’t count), X-23, and maybe a version of Daken. very well done film for the most part though and the mid credit scene was so worth the wait.

  14. it actually resurrected Wolverine for me because I absolutely hated the Origins film. It’s steady and absolutely loved the mid-credits scene.

  15. I really loved this movie. Surprisingly better than Origins, even though I liked that one too, but I did hate First Class. And this movies’s story is VERY well told, close to the masterpiece comic by Miller and Clermont, and Hugh Jackman, IMO, did the best job as Wolverine in this movie. THe tone is good, and most of the characters are good, except fro stupid Viper. She was useless. But, I do want to give this movie an overall 9.8 out of 10. It is in my opinion, the best movie in the X-Men series so far.

    Also, 20th Centry Fox, and Bryan Singer, if you are reading this, PLEAAAAAASSSE make sure our good friend Logan gets his adamantium claws back in X-Men 4: Days of Future Past. Please. It is what makes Wolverine.

  16. Really people, how can you praise this movie as “one of the best of the series” or even “better than Origins”.

    This review is really poor… you don’t mention anything about the very stupid ending of the movie: the highly predictable presence of the old man in the Samurai Suit, a poorly fight scene with a terrible ending and really nothing interesting after all.

    They showed a super-strong Silver Samurai for only a few minutes, basically it’s a villain who doesn’t get to do anything before getting killed.

    There are so many bad parts about the movie I can’t event start to enumerate. But what’s really disappointing is that this review says nothing at all about them – it only tries hard to extract some good parts as if the author has been paid to make a positive review.

  17. Solid,entertaining,captivating and engaging, though some parts here and there feel unwanted, nevertheless THE WOLVERINE is indeed a spectacle spectacular as per the promos.For a change get to see Japan , refreshing new destination and some stand out where the Wolverine relieves the bear of its pain after being struck by a poisonous arrow, walking aside though distant with the bear and the ultimate when he says I am the Wolverine when asked what kind of monster are you…Post end credits a fab clip of the coming spectacle, seems to be engaging and hopefully rivetting.Kudos to James Mangold and team Wolverine, appreciate it…

  18. he’s the best at what he does and what he does ain’t nice!

  19. I’m just glad I didn’t pay to see this or IM3 I HAVEN’T SEEN MOS yet so I can’t comment on it but it has to be better than the other two crap fests. It’s like Rupert Murdoch wakes up every day and asks himself, ” how can I turn an established classic story/character into a total clusterfu*#. And I also wonder what Joss Whedon’s consultant role consists of since he let James Gunn completely ruin Iron Man’s greatest nemesis. Oh well, that’s enough of my ranting for this morning

  20. All I want to know is, why would they cut his claws off!!?? And, is he going to get them back somehow?

  21. Best superhero movie of the summer, period. Almost as enjoyable as pacific rim. If it weren’t for these two movies this summer would have sucked big time. IM3 was terrible and Hobo superm… Ummm MoS was horrendous.

  22. I think whoever wrote review , gave entertaining movie low score and rotton tomato boring movie with high score.

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  26. Great movie. Second best after DOFP in the series!!!

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  28. Great movie!!!