The Wolverine – 2013 – Dir. James Mangold – 126 min. – United States/ Australia
There’s been no other Marvel character that has had more movie screen time than Wolverine. Even in the Marvel comic universe, Wolverine seems to be on 50 different teams/ series. Who doesn’t love this beer-drinking, cigar-smoking bad boy with an occasional soft spot? After the much debated “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, Hugh Jackman returns to the lead role in the simply titled, “The Wolverine”.
Overall, I found this version of Wolverine a whole lot more enjoyable than the Origins one. Origins felt so cluttered with all the characters they tried to introduce, you almost forgot the movie was about Wolverine. In this one, the characters and story is more focused. I like where they took Wolverine in the story, exploring places that you don’t normally see him. Good action sequences are sprinkled throughout the film, with the funeral and bullet train sequences being my favorites. But maybe because of the first one, it felt like they didn’t take a lot of risks with the film and leaves you feeling a little short by the end. In the X-Men cinematic universe, it’s in the middle of the pack.
Director James Mangold (“Walk The Line”, “Girl, Interrupted”) took over for Darren Aronofsky in the director’s chair and does a good job, despite the setbacks prior to filming. But I can’t help but wonder where Aronofsky would’ve taken the story and if we would’ve left the theater traumatized like in his previous films. Mangold threads the needle throughout the story, making you guess who the main antagonist was going to be and what Wolverine’s true purpose for being in Japan was. Though, he places enough clues throughout where you’re not that surprised when the reveal happens. But the last third of the film feels a bit rushed and character motives not really being flushed out.
Japan provided a great backdrop to the story and I’m glad they got to explore other parts of the country outside of Tokyo. The female supporting actresses had their moments, but you could sense a lack of experience in some of them. The performances of the male supporting actors shined through and provided a needed veteran presence. I’m a little sad that the fight between Wolverine and the Black Clan was so short because who doesn’t want to see Wolverine take on a gang of ninjas for an extended amount of time?
One of the important functions of this movie is the mid-credits scene that helps set up the next X-Men movie. If you’re looking forward to it (like I am), then “The Wolverine” is worth it just to see the clip. I’m curious on how they deal with where Wolverine is at by the end of the film and they reconcile that with the Wolverine we’ve always known.
Oh, and Hugh Jackman has his shirt off for half the movie. That bit of information should be useful for someone.