Reviews

The Wolverine

3

Another hairy situation for the Marvel mutant…

“This isn’t going to end well!” says a ghostly Jean Grey during one of the nocturnal visits she makes to Hugh Jackman’s subconscious in this latest outing for his hairy, claw-baring X-Man. Ironic, then, that the ending to Marvel’s sixth mutant opus – a terrific final flourish which tantalisingly trails next year’s feverishly anticipated Days Of Future Past – should end up being one of its strongest, and most memorable elements.
 
No, it’s the middle that’s at fault in James Mangold’s stab at taking the X-Men franchise eastwards – an unevenly paced, almost too-faithful ode to the comics it’s inspired by that temporarily turns the title character into a snarlier version of the late Alan Whicker as he journeys to modern Japan.
 
It’s a safe bet that fans of the celebrated ’80s comic arc from which the story derives will lap up every dojo, kimono and nugget of philosophical wisdom. Come to the material fresh, though, and you may find yourself at times counting the minutes until the next duel, scrap or punch-up.
 
Rest assured, there are plenty of all three in a post-Last Stand adventure that, after a preliminary backflash to 1945, finds Jackman’s Logan/Wolverine as a bearded mountain man still bummed about having to off Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) on Alcatraz Island. Yet there is an awful lot of downtime too – enough of it, in fact, to make you wonder if the power-sapping toxins Wolvie is slipped at an early stage in the narrative have somehow worked their magic on the movie as a whole.
 
It’s strange to complain of inertia in a film that kicks off with a stunning recreation of the Nagasaki bombing, a ferocious armageddon that leaves our indestructible hero looking as crispy as a Christmas turkey that’s been left in the oven till Easter. No sooner have he and the young Japanese soldier he shields walked away from the blast, however, than we get Jackman mooching around the Yukon with a urinating CG bear – a jarring tonal shift that gives us our first (t)inkling this is going to be a stop-start ride.
 
When Hugh’s furry pal is poisoned by some douchebag hunters, he heads straight to the local hostelry to dispense some instant justice. Before he can go the full berserker, though, he’s stopped by a crimson-haired lady (Rila Fukushima) with a shiny katana and an intriguing proposition: come to Tokyo and say sayonara to the guy whose life he saved 60 years ago and who might just have an antidote to his regeneration gene. Given his fear of flying and his grumpy disposition, it is a mystery why Logan would accept such an opaque proposal.
 
But accept he does, to find himself immediately caught up in a family squabble involving his old acquaintance (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), the dying tycoon’s fetching granddaughter (Tao Okamoto) and two warring tribes of ninjas and Yakuza.
 
With Wolverine intervening at a bullet-strewn funeral, dispensing with goons on the roof of a 300 mph bullet train and going toe to toe with a giant Silver Samurai, a beefed-up and always watchable Jackman is undoubtedly put through his paces. (Fittingly for a man last seen in Movie 43 sporting a pair of prosthetic testes on his neck he also gets to crack the odd funny, among them a line that will ring bells with fans of vintage Bond).
 
It is difficult to feel, alas, that there’s anything particularly at stake, not least when it comes to our hero’s romantic life. When revealed, meanwhile, the Silver Samurai is a clunky letdown, especially once we learn the secrets of the suit.
 
Yet though it doesn’t have the vibrant wit and zip of an Avengers Assemble, or the allegorical grandeur of a Dark Knight, it’s a step up from the garbled silliness of Wolverine’s first solo outing. Unlike Origins, the storytelling is more sharply focused here, ignited by flashes of stylised superheroism.

True, there’s probably one too many scenes of steel striking adamantium. But the 3D-assisted action is never less than spectacular, notably during a Kurosawa-flavoured ambush that sees Wolverine turned by arrows into a mutant pin-cushion. Another plus is Svetlana Khodchenkova (from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as a sexy vixen who spits venom, licks like a lizard and casually discards her skin like last season’s fashions.
 
That she’s one of only a handful of characters (including our protagonist) with mutated DNA suggests Mangold and co have maybe scaled things back too far from what audiences want from an X-movie. There again, like (the) Wolverine himself, this marches to its own drum, and while it may divide the non-fans from the faithful, the latter will applaud its efforts to deepen and champion their hirsute hero.

Verdict:

The good news? An improvement on Origins. The bad? Not as big an improvement as you were hoping for: perfectly decent, but ponderous too.


For more The Wolverine post-analysis, watch our spoiler-filled discussion - and join in the debate in the comments.


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Film Details

User Reviews

    • FBDDaliel

      Jul 17th 2013, 11:46

      Nice review. No mention of the silver samurai...... I fear its a cluncky robot like the trailer suggests . Such a shame. Deadpool , Sabretooth, the entire weapon X program and all its members....... and now the Samurai. All FOXED up.

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    • Ali1748

      Jul 25th 2013, 22:46

      The reviews I've read from America have been far more positive than the ones here.

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    • portland6

      Jul 26th 2013, 13:09

      I loved it. The best X film yet, and far more mature and gritty, really capturing the feel of solo Wolverine comics. Oh, and - SPOILERS - Silver Samurai is not a robot, although he might not be who you're expecting...

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    • mattburgess

      Jul 29th 2013, 8:10

      2

      "The best xmen film yet"? Unbelievable. This film was only marginally better than Origins. Not mature or gritty. Another kids film that's trying to look like a film for grown ups. What a shame. If only Darren Aronofsky had stuck with it.

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    • Ali1748

      Jul 29th 2013, 18:15

      4

      I couldn't disagree more Matt The Wolverine was thoroughly enjoyable. I was surprised at how good the movie turned out given the reviews. I must admit the scene during the credits has raised my excitement for DOFP.

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    • jeraldbrewer

      Aug 2nd 2013, 2:49

      What's with all the bashing of the last Wolverine movie? That's the only thing I really object to in your review of this movie. I like the different approach this movie took with the change in setting, but it didn't quite have the charge or the bite of all the other movies "Logan" has appeared in. I even sensed adamantium fatigue setting in on Jackman's performance at times. The 3 lead actresses (not Famke Jannsen) were surprisingly good.

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    • chriscollins

      Aug 8th 2013, 8:38

      Almost too faithful to the comic? Have you even read the original story it's based on? I found the film to be many things, a lot of them good, a few bad but too faithful to the comic was definitely not one of them.

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    • pharenheitace

      Aug 14th 2013, 11:37

      Sadly Wolverine didn't live up to its billing. The usual array of fighting is great but the script and direction is poor. The film is disjointed in terms of storyline and basically Logan himself seems to just get beaten from pillar to post and is helped out far too often by his "little helpers" or he would have been dead. Wolverine films are about Logan smashing the c**p out of the bad guys not lurching from one defeat to another before finally killing the "bad guy", and the dreamy bits with Jean were… well… completely unnecessary rubbish. Jackman is always great but this is the worst of the series. 4/10

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    • matthewbrady

      Sep 11th 2013, 21:35

      4

      really liked the movie

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