The Wolverine (2013) Review

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The Wolverine (2013)
Director(s): James Mangold
Actor(s): Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Tao Okamoto
Film Genre(s): Action
Running Time: 126 min

The Wolverine is back, continuity alive and plagued by a sudden loss of his healing powers. And with that, a rip-roaring Wolverine adventure in Japan kicks off, one that will involve expert archery assassin Harada (Will Yun Lee), the venomous mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), and the beloved Silver Samurai before all the action wraps up in a pretty package.

The good news is that the movie works. It’s insubstantial and feels like a side quest, but it’s also a lot of fun. Hugh Jackman may have been a surprise choice to play Wolverine back in 2000, but he’s really made the role his own over the last 13 years and slides into the claws like a favourite pair of sneakers. He has the gruff attitude down and knows his way around a claw-hand action scene. When he drops lines like “Bub,” it just feels right at this point, and it’s nice for him to finally have a solo venture worthy of his take on the role. The rest of the cast here is decent, if unmemorable. This is the Wolverine show, and it should be.

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Last time the Wolverine movie was dragged down by too many extraneous mutants and subplots. This time, it’s just about the berserker boy’s quest to right wrongs and feels so sweet. Viper and Silver Samurai do make appearances but feel almost tacked on for a big ol’ CGI finale. It’s fun enough and the only moment that feels like a straight-up X-Men movie, but you’ll wish the filmmakers had stuck to their convictions and just made a pure “Wolvie in Japan” adventure. The setting here is mostly used for exoticism. Characters may refer to Wolverine as a Ronin, but it’s not explored any further. That’s probably best for the sake of general audience appeal, and it’s also just a missed opportunity.

“James Mangold was an odd choice to direct the Wolverine as he’s known most for dramas like Cop Land and Walk The Line…”

James Mangold was an odd choice to direct the Wolverine as he’s known most for dramas like Cop Land and Walk The Line, but ended up doing a good job. Would it have been nice to see the hyper-stylized Darren Aronofsky’s take on the material instead? Well, sure, but this is what we got, and at least it’s fun. Mangold pulls the movie out of the blue hues of the initial X-Men flicks into the candy-coloured visuals of First Class and the Marvel Movie Universe. His action scenes are big and broad. One of the first is visually muddled by shaky cam in a worrying way, but soon that style goes away for big colourful comic book fights. A battle between Wolverine and some katana-wielding Yakuza on a rocketing bullet train is one of the most purely enjoyable action scenes you’ll see all summer.

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It’s a big, surreal, high-stakes fight that used to exist only in comic book pages but can now be brought thrillingly to life through digital manipulation. It’s not only the movie’s highlight but also a mission statement. This isn’t a big, brooding blockbuster attempting to find the dark heart of a pop hero. Nope, it’s a wild ride designed to make geeks feel warm and fuzzy over a pile of snacks. As long as you aren’t expecting more, it’s hard to imagine not giggling away the two hours of Wolverine clawing through Japan. This might not be a bar-raising entry in the X-Men franchise, but it doesn’t need to be. This is just a bonus round of entertainment before things pick up again next year with Days Of Future Past (teased in an end credits bumper that restores power and life to two of the characters harmed by the Last Stand pillaging).

As the first release from Mark Millar’s mini-Marvel empire at FoxThe Wolverine sets a tone of reverent fan-friendly fun that hopefully, the studio can continue. The X-Men movies may have lost their way for a while in the mid-2000s, but after this and First Class, it’s clear that everyone in charge of the mutant movie juggernaut plans to keep it at the top of the superhero blockbuster war. Next summer can’t come fast enough. This is just a tease for the mind-bending journey we have coming up quick.

Final Thoughts


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