The Wolverine Review

The Wolverine Review

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Hugh Jackman actor portrait for The Wolverine 585x350 The Wolverine Review

A Wolverine movie has always been a bit of an odd idea. The character might be just another member of the team in the comics, but on screen it’s always been his show. The first two X-Movies got that right: driven by Logan’s brooding over his past, and his simmering sexual tension with Jean Grey. At least part of the problem with X-Men 3 and the last Wolverine film was that they lost the focus on Logan and spread themselves too thinly. Finally with The Wolverine we’re back to what made the first films so good: a clear focus on Logan, and his relationships with the people around him.

Starting out in World War II Japan, the film moves very quickly into a post-X-Men 3 world where Logan lives under a rock, is friends with a bear and is failing to deal with his killing of the Phoenix-possessed Jean Grey.  It’s a bit of a mis-step, that nearly ends in a tumble with a badly justified bar-fight. Fortunately at that point Rila Fukushima enters the fray as murderous pixie dream girl, Yukio, and the movie very quickly finds its feet.

See our interviews with the cast and crew from The Wolverine at the World Premiere here

From there we head to Japan, where director, James Mangold plays his real trump card: depowering Logan. The difficulty with un-killable heroes is always that the peril has to be to those around him. The only threat to the hero is emotional, which all too often results in them coming off as an over-powered angsty teenager. The joy of stripping that invulnerability away is that the threat is much more immediate. Suddenly we’re genuinely concerned for Logan in addition to those around him, and it makes the film much more emotionally engaging than it might otherwise have been.

It also makes the action much more tense. Even if we know that Mangold isn’t going to kill off his eponymous character, we’re never quite sure whether he’ll be walking away from the present conflict, or crawling. The result is raised stakes all round.

It’s also worth pointing out how well the action is handled in the film. Every fight has a purpose, driving the story forward, rather than acting as a distraction. Mangold uses steady cameras and wide shots to allow us to understand what’s happening, and the there are some clever and original ideas. It is true that we do get some of the old clichés: train top fights, and people being thrown from gantries spring to mind, but they both work well, and they’re balanced out by a scene where Logan takes on hundreds of ninjas.

What really allows The Wolverine to triumph though is the sense of fun that runs throughout. The film deals with a character who has suffered immensely, the story it tells is one with Shakespearean levels of deceit and betrayal, the tone is dramatic, and yet it still manages to be fun. We’ve known for over a decade that Jackman can deliver a cutting quip, but Mangold makes sure that we’re not overly relying on those quips to stop us wallowing in melancholy.

All in, The Wolverine is a refreshingly good entry in the X-Men franchise that completely wipes out the nasty taste Origins: Wolverine left. In fact, it might very well be the best of the bunch. Mangold’s never been more suited to a project, getting to be gritty, intelligent and fun all at the same time, and that translates into a movie that for the very first time, genuinely feels like an X-Men comic on screen. As good as a Wolverine movie was ever going to get.

[Rating:5/5]

  • Pietro Filipponi

    Well said, Ben. Very much agree with the sentiment that it feels like a comic book brought to life; albeit one written for mature readers.

  • scorpio666666

    ‘Mature readers’ ?

    A 3 year old could realise its a basic ‘revenge’ plot by the bad guy who wants to extend his life or kill Wolverine for ruining his ‘honour’ of dying in battle.

    It looks like a comic book movie because it is a comic book movie – the problem is its one solely based on action scenes – with the main focus on this film making the character mortal (Despite meaning the adamantium on his bones should kill him instantly…) solely for some cheep thrills during action scenes – however seeing as we know he wont die there is no suspense anyway.

  • Baldwin Collins

    the wolverine film is based on, a comic book.

    hugh jackman indicates it, in a recent london film premeire

    that the story is japanese, and the characters are from the book

  • JackFrost

    Five stars?

    Really?

    REALLY?

  • KD

    Did YOU see it?

  • scorpio666666

    You don’t need to – heck you don’t even need to read the comics – its one of two options – no exceptions.

  • Wolverines lower bowel

    Fanboy review! 5 stars, ridiculous.

  • Ben Mortimer

    It’s not high art, but it’s not meant to be. It is, however, as good a film as I can imagine being made within the restrictions of the genre and the characters. Hence the five stars. Also, I really enjoyed it.

  • Ben Mortimer

    And? You’re reading a review on a film blog; of course I’m a fanboi. If you want a proper critical analysis feel free to pick up a copy of Sight and Sound. I liked it a lot for the reasons I’ve stated above and I suspect the majority of readers of this site will do too.

  • Ben Mortimer

    We know all lead characters in films won’t die, it doesn’t make them any less suspenseful.

  • Whoaa Nelly Johnson

    Was there blood in this movie? I know it might not sound important but as a die hard wolverine fan I just believe a true represenation of this character won’t be evident unless there is bloodshed..However I am looking foward to this movie greatly I can’t WAIT

  • scorpio666666

    If you know all the lead characters in the film, book or show survive before you watch it – then why would you bother to watch it in the first place?

    While Wolverine obviously is unlikely to die the trailer, action and plot hinges on the factor that he is made mortal – insinuating his death is likely.

    If you know the character survives – and you know the character will be completely fine at the end… then why watch it.

    Also when you say ‘lead characters in films wont die’ you mean the lead character in some films.

    There are many films where the lead characters die – its incredibly stupid to believe that it doesn’t alter any of the suspense to know that they wont die.

    Modern day films hinge on the fact of convincing the audience that the main character might be injured – hence why the action scenes all show Wolverine is a perilous situation – rather than in a winning situation.

    If you went into this movie and didn’t know if he was going to survive then you would enjoy it a lot more than if you went into this movie knowing he could be stabbed, shot and torn into pieces and still walk away fine.

  • scorpio666666

    By making a fan boy review you have made none of this review valid at all – it means nothing you stated means anything at all as it is just the words of a fan of the series who will give a good rating simply because its a Wolverine film – in the same way that people gave Transformers ROTF good reviews because they were fans of the series – despite it being terrible.

  • Ben Mortimer

    Name me one major blockbuster where the protagonist dies.

  • Ben Mortimer

    I’m not a particular fan of the X-Men series. The Last Stand was pretty awful, as was Origins; I make me views on those films pretty clear in the first paragraph of this review. I am a fan of well made movies, and tend to be a little hyperbolic about them when I do enjoy them, hence my giving this a five star review. That’s not the same as me automatically giving the movie five stars because I like the character/franchise/series.

  • scorpio666666

    Giving any film – no matter how much you like it – a 5/5 automatically means you view it as no possibility of improvement – which in a film as flawed as ‘The Wolverine/Wolverine 2′ is just an insult.

    There is always a room for improvement. Heck, even films I enjoy such as ‘The Avengers’ are still flawed heavily in script. However as a fan I know there is always room for improvement – especially in films such as those.

    Giving a good rating to a well-made movie is one thing – but giving it a five star rating because you were hyped and it lived up to hype and was better than some of the other films in the series – is not good reviewing.

    This is especially in the case if a sequel is now better than this film you have no ‘wiggle room’ as you used up your best rating on what will – at that point – be an inferior film.

  • Ben Mortimer

    OK, I’ll bite. If you can only give five stars to movies that are perfect, which films would you give 5* to?

    As far as I’m concerned, five stars goes to a movie that can’t be improved, and within the limitations of the genre, the setup and characters, this is as good a flick as we’re ever going to get. It’s not a perfect movie, but it never was going to be. On the basis that it couldn’t really be improved upon I decided to give it five stars.

    As for whether it’s good reviewing, maybe not, but YOU chose to read the review, so it’s certainly good enough to get you on to the site. Hopefully it’s informed you a little about the movie, and influenced your decision about watching it, but if not it makes very little difference as far as I’m concerned.

  • scorpio666666

    None – no movie is perfect.

    There is always room for improvement.

    Actually I was already on this site – and luring people to the site is not a worthy reason to have for why your review should state a movie which you agree is ‘not a perfect movie’ gets a higher rating than many of the other reviews on this website.

    e.g
    Pacific Rim – Better visuals than Wolverine – got 3/5
    Man of Steel – Got 4/5
    Now You See me – Better storyline than Wolverine – got 3/5

    Heck, the only review I’ve managed to find that has 5/5 is this and Jurassic Park 3D and the Jurassic Park 3D review wasn’t even a fair review and was just ignoring the flaws.

    In terms of comparing this with other films on the site the star rating is a load of bull – as it means nothing when a film such as Wolverine can perform better than other films solely due to it ‘not being a perfect movie – but it wasn’t going to be good anyway’

  • Ben Mortimer

    Well, at least you didn’t tell me that the only five star movies are made by Kevin Smith.

    I’m not responsible for most of the other reviews on the site; I’m normally a features writer, however you might be pleased to know that I would also give Pacific Rim 5/5. It’s amazingly good fun. Man of Steel would have got 1/5 as it’s a hideous, hateful little dirge that spends nearly three hours gazing at its navel.

    I have an idea for a compromise: If the best rating can never be achieved, just imagine our ratings are out of six. That way we’ll never give a film a perfect rating, but I can still wholeheartedly recommend a movie.

  • Me

    Armageddon

  • scorpio666666

    The Lovely Bones – main female character dies
    Harry Potter – main male character dies
    The chronicles of Narnia – almost all the main characters die
    Alien 3 – main female character dies

    Star Trek II; The Wrath of Khan; Khan and Spock are killed
    Star Trek into Darkness – Kirk dies
    X-men; the last stand – Professor Xavier dies

  • scorpio666666

    You can recommend a movie without an incredibly biased and over-rated score (Especially based on the half-assed plot of Wolverine)