‘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)

Follow Sandy Schaefer on Twitter @feynmanguy
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  1. Is there a mid credits scene and after credits scene or just mid?

    • Just a mid-credits sequence – so no scene with Logan eating shawarma, sadly.

      • Pfft… Not seeing it now. If you want my money, you better eat some Shawarma!!!! :)

  2. Personally I had low expectations for this and they still weren’t met. His claws sure did look good though

  3. I think you nailed it. Saw it last night in Jersey and my family enjoyed, but it did seem to drag at the 90 minute mark. Totally thought Viper was unnecessary. Mid credits scene was the best ever! Period.

  4. Saw it last night. Really enjoyed the film right up until the final battle/set piece. The third act is incredibly contrived and I was disappointed that they basically abandoned the amazing Japanese themes and locales to basically set up a fight worthy on the last Wolverine movie.

  5. Aww man i really thought u guys wud give the film a 4 out of 5. Sigh

    • Close enough. I will take the very good up to a 4 star lol.

  6. Quick thoughts. Easily better than Origin but still had issues that kept it from being anything more than decent. Some plot choices and side characters caused the film to stumble. I enjoy character development and story but with a character like Wolverine it needs to be divided up with action bits. The heavy dialogue portions were not that interesting. The train sequence was also much better than I expected. Hugh Jackman is great as always. I would have preferred a one man show approach to this film.


    *I would have loved to see Arnofskys take on this material. Wolverine needs an R rating. So many money shots are left to the imagination.

    • I don’t want to see any money shots outside of porn, personally. :)

    • “I would have loved to see Arnofskys take on this material. Wolverine needs an R rating. So many money shots are left to the imagination.”

      My exact feeling. Dismembering and decapitation are just part of what makes him Wolverine. But with the mediocre box office I’m wondering if we’ll even get another Wolverine movie, let alone an r-rated one.

  7. Thanks Sandy, I always enjoy your reviews!

  8. Good review and interestingly I keep seeing the same sentiment about the film being great until the final part of it. The best phrasing I saw said it was 80% Wolverine and 20% X-Men with the X-Men part being where the movie messes up.

    I wonder if the proposed unrated cut will make for a better experience or not in the end.

  9. 3,5 stars. I assume that amounts to a 7 on a 10 scale? (Different rating scales could have different subtleties to them in how they’re allocated.) Guess that’s exactly what I expected this to be. Hopefully DoFP will be better.

  10. I enjoyed it. True near the end of the film it drags out a little. But over all it pretty much erased those God awful memories of Origins.

    • agree…but then again most westerns are like that

  11. I saw this movies last night and it was just a good movie. Is it better than Origins? Yes but that’s not saying a lot. I still believe to really make a good X-Men/Wolverine type of movie it needs to be rated R. There were soo many scenes that felt cheesy at times and the end just felt like a letdown. The plot choices felt stale and the train sequence was predictable. With all the material out there I thought they could have expanded and done a better job with this film. At times people at the theatre looked bored with the movie, texting on their phones, having side conversations, another person sleeping. I think a 3/3.5 is a good rating. It’s a good movie but it’s not a movie I would see myself watching over and over again.

    • Wow, you must’ve been in a room full of morons then.

      The place I saw it, everyone was glued to the screen throughout apart from two guys in front of me who kept commenting to each other after every line and scene which was really distracting.

      • Everyone in my theater applauded at the end of the film AND at the mid-credits scene. I don’t get the hate, this movie was great. I loved it.

        • Same with mine.

  12. I have yet to see this movie, i only have two hangups going into this movie. The viper
    Is asian and too bad wolverine not part of MCU.

  13. Not asian i meant.

    • Are you disappointed that Heimdall is a black guy in Thor too?

      • +1

      • I really like idris alba, good actor. Not upset but the real heimdall is a norsemen
        wcruffy and old look. The mcu heimdall looks like a gq model. Being of latino
        Origin i dont mind minorities being casted but i like accuracy of characters.
        I want to see a black panther movie.

        • I would also like the actor for Black Panther to actually be African, accent and all. There is an actor who would have been perfect but he is too old now (but could play the father).

    • Viper not being Asian doesn’t really bother me, considering the rest of the supporting characters (with the exception of Jean) are all Asian. After all, it isn’t very common for a superhero movie to be mostly made up of non white cast members, got to give them points for that.

    • Viper isn’t Asian, though, she’s Hungarian.

  14. Pretty much as soon as the bar fight ended I began to be BORED.TO.DEATH. Why is everyone begging for these movies to be so deep and brooding (or atleast tryta be) all of the time? Yes it was better than Origins, but like someone already said in the comments “that’s not saying much.” I will never watch this again outside of those occasional “it’s on t.v. nothing is on, and I have nothing better to do” moments.

    And for the record, there is nothing wrong with a good character study, but PLEASE keep in mind who the character is for goodness’ sake?!?! Can’t believe I was so very bored by a movie about FRIGGIN WOLVERINE!?!? LOL.

    • What was boring about it?

      Was it because it looked at who Wolverine is and didn’t feature “OMGZ, MOAR BLOOD PLZ LOLZ”?

      • +1

        I am glad to hear its about Wolverine and the character honestly.
        Instead of a simple cash grab film, the director and actor wanted to go in depth mostly of what makes Logan the Wolverine by placing him in a situation in which he does recognize- combat.

        He only knows how to fight and survive, place him in a situation where his fighting is no use to him or weak against another fighting type such as with samurais, Wolverine must rely on his own strength of character to get through it.

        I have not seen the film but if that what it sounds like to me, comparable to the original story arc from the books, and if they succeed for the most part, then I will not be bored.

      • You know what really sucks, is the condescending a-holes who mistakenly think they appear to possess some sort of superior intellect simply because make snide comments in reference to anyone who wasn’t consistently entertained by a movie deemed “deep.” I bet a MILLION BUCKS the bulk of you guys who do that are COMPLETELY unaware of all of the subtleties, symbolism, etc. that actually exist in the film. You just jump on the “I’m smart because I think its deep” bandwagon and PRETEND to know wtf you’re talking about.

        The movie was boring. lol

    • It’s a 2 hour movie. You sure have one short attention span my friend.

  15. This movie was awesome comepared to that weak superman movie. But man: an unedited version is going to be so much better

    • UGH! Why is MoS in almost every post of almost every article on SR? We get it; you didn’t like it! Can we now move on and talk about something else…like, I don’t know, WOLVERINE?!

      • Agreed. Love it or hate it (I liked it) why does someone on every single article bring up MOS? Ugh, it’s TDKR all over again.

        • +1

    • whoe whoe whoe…man of steel was great…you know it was…deep down in your soul…you know it was

  16. The guys above me are just nitpicking, screw them. This movie was excellent & I’m going again tonight with my girlfriend. This movie is so much better than Origins and that’s saying a lot.

    • “It’s so much better than Origins and thats saying ALOT?” Really? That’s saying ALOT?!?!?

      You’re opinion is now 100% irrelevant.

      • hold on a minute there sir/ma’am. just a few posts up you said: “You know what really sucks, is the condescending a-holes who mistakenly think they appear to possess some sort of superior intellect simply because make snide comments in reference to anyone who wasn’t consistently entertained by a movie deemed “deep.” “…and now you are being a bit condescending to war clown. he liked the movie. you did not. that doesn’t make his opinion any more irrelevant than yours.


        • Jeffro

          Bravo. Well done.

          • +1

            The Wolverine is a really really good film and it was a blast to watch.

      • I’m not exactly sure how it’s irrelevant.

        While I’m in the minority who enjoys 3/4 of Origins for what it is, I accept that it’s a slopfest. Aside from Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber. I enjoy “Quantum of Solace” for what it is, but I know that it’s mediocre.

        You’ve got to have 2 perspectives when it comes to debating movies. Otherwise, it leads to REALLY long arguments. And if you find a film you can’t bring yourself to have a second perspective with, that is just a “bad film” to you and perhaps many others.

        • +1

  17. Be watching it tonight, hope my son and I like it.

    • Be warned.

      There is an F bomb near the end. Just in case you’re not cool with your son hearing that.

      • If Wolverine says it, it’s justified, lol.

        But hey, thanks for that. Now I know not to take my niece tomorrow :)

      • FRACK! Why the frcak do they have to always have that fracking word in almost every fracking PG-13 fracking movie! Fracking conspiracy!!

        Fudge anyone?


        • …………..I do enjoy fudge.

  18. The power went out at the theatre I was at and they tried to put the movie back where it was and they fast forwarded through the whole movie! Very sad night but I loved what I had seen so far!

    • Ugh, I hate it when that happens. That sucks man. Did you get your money back, or another showing for free or something?

      • Yeah it did suck, but they did refund it. I caught it again today though! I can only imagine how bad it would be for that to happen with an incredibly anticipated movie.

  19. I have not seen the movie yet but I enjoy the review Sandy.
    This review kind of summed up my prediction and worries.

    After the some of the more recent X-Films, I kind of had this film with low expectation. As time went on, I really started to like much of what I saw but I predicted that towards the end of the film- the third act- that there will be a shift due to some shots of the trailer that depicted the standard superhero climax that studios define necessary.

    But the review and the final rating surely reiterates that while some of the film is compromised, especially in the ending climax, the ambition in storytelling and film-making is well executed for the most part and the film stands solid with the first 2 X-Films and First Class.

    Honestly that is what I wanted to see, a solid Wolverine flick that succeeds more than it fails and dares to offer a different film altogether, Too bad that the final act make compromises but seemingly it did not due much damage to the overall experience given the review and rating.

    Thanks Sandy. I am proud to say I will catch this film this weekend.
    Hopefully studio’s learn to follow through with the artistic and thematic storytelling for a proper pay off than a contrived blockbuster summer finale in order to be competitive.

    Thanks to Sandy and the rest of Screenrant for great reviews and insight.

  20. Yep. Because a little post credits scene that says :Wait for Day of Future Past. It’ll be better.


    What that really means is “wait. We’re making another Wolverine movie, but calling it X: Men, Days of Future Past.”

    True story.

  21. Sandy, and to anyone who have seen The Wolverine

    I meant to ask, while the review places the film along with Singer’s first two X-Men films and X-Men: First Class, how did it rate compared to them?

    X2: X-Men United is my personal favorite and I consider it the best in the series and one of the better films in the genre.

    The first X-Men film is my second. Small in scale but great in characters and fitting introduction. Not as good as X2 but I like it.

    X-Men: First Class is a great redemption film for the franchise but it is obvious that the numerous production issues prevented the film from being even better and surpass the original at least. It really makes one wonder “what could have been” if everything ran smoothly.

    *Hence, which is why I was looking to see what would occur in the sequel, I still have faith in singer*

    How does your rating/ranking differ, and how does The Wolverine rank among the better X-Films?

    • Personally, I’d say The Wolverine is the only good X-Men related movie but that’s because I hated Origins and the original trilogy and didn’t think First Class was that good either.

      • I enjoyed X2 as I said above.
        X-Men is small scale and its okay but not my top 10 film.
        First Class neither because I noticed the lost potential of it.

        I will not speak The Last Stand and Origins…

        But thanks it seems like this film may be my favorite of the franchise if not then my second. I am really excited to see one of my favorite characters done right.

        • X-Men 2 is still my favorite, followed by First Class, The Wolverine and X-Men 1. This film will be in my Blu-Ray collection.

    • Personally, I would say The Wolverine is equal to/better than First Class, but not quite up to the level of the Bryan Singer X-Men films.

      If the final half-hour (and some of the buildup to it) had been better, though, I would say that Wolverine could’ve been just as good as X1 & X2, if not better even.

      • Thank you Sandy!

        Sounds like a reasonable judgement that aligns well with my expectations.

        X-Men First Class was the right step back to quality X-Men films even under the circumstances. Too bad we may never see what could have been.

        The Singer films had a lot of quality, especially X2.
        To say the film for the most part is close to that quality is great to hear!

        Hopefully the ending does not ruin the entire experience of the film, but it does not seem like it as much as a missed opportunity.

        Thanks again for the insight!

      • Agree with your review from beginning to end, Sandman. Great observations, particularly about the setting and Mangold’s restraint.

  22. Are you people kidding me? One of the better X-Men movies??? The only list this tops for me is least favorite movies!!
    The plot mechanics you mention are SO atrociously bad there shouldn’t be a movie. The supporting characters are abominations of the source material or poorly made up out of the ether. (You identified some of the problems with Viper.) The dialog is atrocious with even Logan all over the place. And the action scenes are even worse than you describe with zero internal consistency.
    Awful, just awful.

    • Well, that’s, like, your opinion, man.

      • Ok, here’s a little evidence to back it up as fact instead: (warning veiled spoilers ahead)
        As the commercials point out, the big bad is after Logan’s healing factor. Logan is then unconscious and completely at the mercy of the bad guys two, arguably three, times where they could accomplish their goals. During one of them, they actually take the time to do a different, but similar (???) procedure!!
        Regardless of my interest in the source material, that’s just bad storytelling.

  23. “characters are abominations of the source material”

    Definitely the reason for his hate.

    • @ Doug

    • Admittedly part if it, but a small part. The gaping plot holes and internal inconsistencies bothered me more. I’d love to mention them as a proper warning but they’d be too spoiler laden. (Though I think the writers did most of the rotting… Yikes it’s bad.)

  24. My only gripe was the ending, since for the first 3/4 it was an interesting mix of a Bond/noir narrative with Western and Samurai style, all of which I love and Wolverine fits perfectly with those elements. Then suddenly, it’s like it ends in a whole different type of movie. Viper was also lame and didn’t sense much chemistry between Mariko and Logan.

    But the best thing about it was that it wholeheartedly embraced the serial adventure story which has gone extinct over the past ten years. Getting real tired of the contrived plots of every movie now ending with some city getting destroyed followed by blatant set ups and unanswered questions for sequels. I really enjoyed just being able to watch a standalone adventure for once. This movie is a perfect case where a smaller budget can be a great thing for the substance of a movie.

    Orgins I’d give a 4/10. Wolverine I’d give a 7/10. Would’ve been a solid 8 had it not been for Viper and the ending. Wouldn’t have said this four years ago, but bring on the next one.

  25. I’d just like to note to often it’s forgotten that your persona/lead in this movie, is in fact a super hero

    He is well established not a blank slate for film makers to mold into their “vision” , save that for your own original ip’s and there denizens,

    to adapt is to prepare him for live action not twist and bend to film makers ego driven so called artistic (waves fingers) creativity

    Wolverine seems on film to be much himself the point above was noted due to other chars and elements of their respective universes being just blatantly twisted…like say batman in the nolan films…started out fine and turned out to be an emo wuss at the end..

    as i said this is a movie about a superhero you expect super hero’s to rumble with somebody on film and in the case of wolverine you expect buttocks to be kicked,much like you would batman or punisher.

    this not saying good story telling and good character development is bad or that is should just be a chessy 2d action movie.

    Indeed to often film makers will see one of these type of properties and just make a bunch of big set pieces with a bunch of explosions and call it a day

    the flip side is critics wanting some emo dreary/bleak whine fest to call it a good movie, it need be neither, it needs to be a carful balance…for a normal movie, for a hero movie it should be at least something like 40% plot %60 action

  26. Felt the movie was all around good and better than the first. The post credit scene was a good tie in to the sequel to First Class. However, I believe if you look to the right of Logan in that scene as he walks through the metal detector you see Bishop.


  27. Started strong. Got stronger. Got smoking hot ! And then fell apart. Part “X-Men”, part “Last Samurai”, with a touch of “Gladiator”. The japanese supporting cast were stellar. The family dynamics / strife was palpable and believable; more well-acted thriller than action movie. And the recurring dream sequences featuring Jean Grey were well thought – out and bittersweet. And Logan / Wolverine himself has never been better; Jackman OWNS this role. I connotate both names because the duality has never been better displayed, always just sort of referenced dismissively. But here we see, at turns, a broken, lonely man who has given up, and a ferocious, beastly animal. Both turns have never been done better by Jackman. But Viper. Why ? In the beginning, she was a big question mark. By the end, she was just annoying; the DVD should have a “Delete Viper” version, as having every scene with her edited out would make a better movie. She contributed NOTHING to the plot whatsoever and is quite possibly the lamest character we`ve seen in an X-Men movie (yes, she`s Toad-bad). And the final act – somehow – descended into “Origins” camp and cliche. How could Mangold wreck his masterpiece like this ??? When this movie`s on, it`s ON. Breathtakingly, heart-poundingly on. When it`s off, it`s as bad as we`ve seen from the X – universe. So close; had the potential to be one of the best comics – movies ever.

    • Totally agree with this comment…

    • Yes, perhaps my low opinion of the movie comes from the third act coming last and therefore being the freshest in my memory.

      It started well enough, and whilst the train scene was pointless, if it had continued as more “adamantium Bond” it may well have turned out as a better movie.

      Ninja in black pyjama? Please! Can there be anything less Ninja-like than dressing in distinctive “Ninja” gear? Also, swords and arrows in the 21st century?

  28. Glad you guys gave it a positive review. My hopes were high for it and have been more excited for this than MOS(sorry peeps for mentioning it). Can’t wait to see it on Sunday! Tomorrow is going to epic also. Going to Fandom Fest in Louisville and for the first time I get meet Stan “The Man” Lee!

  29. I found it rather boring, something just lame about the whole thing.