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The Wolverine (2013) Review

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The Wolverine

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Logan
Tao Okamoto as Mariko
Rila Fukushima as Yukio
Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen
Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper
Brian Tee as Noburo
Haruhiko Yamanouchi as Yashida
Will Yun Lee as Harada
Famke Janssen as Jean Grey
Director: James Mangold

Logan (Hugh Jackman) travels to Tokyo to meet Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), an old acquaintance who is dying. The situation regresses when Yashida offers to take away his healing abilities, but Logan refuses.

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The Wolverine was one of my least watched X-Men movies, and I’m not sure why considering that I liked it quite a lot. I decided to revisit it and I thought it was really good, even better than I remembered. It definitely has some unfortunate issues that hold it back from being great, but I really enjoyed it for what it was.

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First of all, it is worth noting that I watched the Unleashed Edition of the movie, which is rated R. It adds back in some of the violence, language and additional scenes that were cut from the theatrical version. I don’t think I’ve seen the theatrical cut but honestly, I think that this is the definitive version of the film. So make sure to watch this version of the movie. The Wolverine is the second of the solo Wolverine movies, but instead of being a prequel like X-Men Origins Wolverine was, it serves as a continuation from the original X-Men trilogy. One of the most surprising things is that it does something with the aftermath of X-Men: The Last Stand instead of avoiding it completely and it works to put the character in the right frame of mind he needed to be in for this story to be told. The Wolverine is a darker, lower scale and lower stakes comic book movie, especially considering the previous X-Men movies. The number of actual mutants in the movie is very minimal, but it works to its advantage. The smaller scale of the movie allows for greater characterisation, in fact it’s at its strongest when it is focusing on the more human elements. The past X-Men movies portrayed Logan as being a bit tame, but here he’s very much a broken and haunted man. This story really humanised Wolverine and goes in depth, working as a character study. We see a guilt ridden Logan struggling with his burden of immortality, and I really liked where the film went with him. The movie even finds way to make him vulnerable despite his regeneration ability. I also thought the way they worked Jean Grey into Wolverine’s story was well done, and an admirable choice considering The Last Stand was hated by many people. The Wolverine starts off very well with a great opening, focusing on a World War 2 flashback with Logan right in the middle of it. Most of the movie throws Logan into modern Japan, which serves as a very unique setting which I liked seeing. The story is consistently intriguing and keeps things moving over its 2-hour runtime. I liked seeing how everything progressed. Despite it being a dark story, it does have moments of levity while not feeling cheesy. Where the movie really suffers is when it gets into its last act. That’s when it makes the sharp turn into a generic and typical comic book movie climax with much larger action set pieces, feeling rather out of place to what came before. It becomes cartoonish and comic booky, and unfortunately not in a good way. Not only that, but some significant reveals are rushed and underdeveloped. I still found some enjoyment in this segment, but it definitely brought down the movie. There’s a mid credits scene that is worth sticking around for, as it links directly into X-Men Days of Future Past.

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For the most part, the acting is really good. This is one of Hugh Jackman’s best performances as Wolverine, second best only behind Logan. Wolverine as a character is greatly developed here, far more than what the character was in earlier X-Men movies. In The Wolverine, he’s introspective and remorseful, and Jackman is superb here. It was quite compelling watching his journey throughout the film. The other actors are quite good, Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima are particularly great in their parts, though I wish the latter had gotten more screentime. The villains do have issues and feel a little weak. I do admire that most of the antagonists feel very human and are mostly decently developed, but they still aren’t nearly developed enough. My favourite of them is Hiroyuki Sanada’s character, though that might’ve had something to do with the performance more than the role. The one villain I’ll say is straight up bad is that of Viper, a mutant with toxin powers played by Svetlana Khodchenkova. Her character didn’t make much sense, and she’s very out of place in this movie, like she belonged in a different X-Men movie with a very different tone.

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The movie definitely benefits strongly from James Mangold’s direction here. The cinematography is slick, I loved the Japanese setting in the movie and it provided plenty of opportunities for some stunning shots and locations. While the action is pretty sparse, there are some great action sequences with some top-notch stunt work. The highlights for me was one involving a bullet train, and another involving a surgery. As I said earlier, the Unrated version has a real punchiness and impact, along with some added blood. I feel like the action would be toned down in the theatrical version, yet another reason to go with the unrated version. The action in the third act was still entertaining, but not as good as the first two acts. I didn’t really care much for the extensive use of CGI, and it’s much more over the top. However, the action in the first two acts are some of the best action in the whole franchise. The Marco Beltrami score is also great, and really added a lot to the movie.

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I wouldn’t quite say that The Wolverine one of the best X-Men movies, but I think it’s a really good movie nonetheless. I liked the darker tone and the character driven approach, which focuses more on itself than the wider X-Men world. It really is just the third act where it falls apart. While I still found enjoyment in it, it does hold the film back from being great. Of course, James Mangold would take these elements of Wolverine and to deliver a much better movie in Logan, but I still think The Wolverine is worth another look.