“What they did to me, what I am, can’t be undone.”
The Scoop: 2013 PG-13, directed by James Mangold and starring Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, and Hiroyuki Sanada
Tagline: The hero. The fugitive. The warrior. The survivor. The legend.
Summary Capsule: Wolverine goes to Japan.
Justin’s rating: Kitty likes to scratch!
Justin’s review: The Wolverine has to be one of the best cinematic examples of how something can look downright brilliant on paper and ultimately fail in execution. It’s not a terrible film — let’s clear that up going into this review — but it is a disappointment even when compared to The Karate Kid Part II. Which also had Japan (sorta), ninjas (sorta), and our hero attacking a fallen tree.
So here’s what The Wolverine has on paper. For starters, it’s the second spin-off film of The X-Men’s arguably most popular character. It’s got Hugh Jackman, a guy so beloved, in fact, that even people who hated X-Men Origins: Wolverine couldn’t find it in their hearts to pass on the blame to Jackman and his portrayal of Logan. To counter the silliness of the first Wolverine movie, this one goes a more serious, dramatic route by pulling from the ’80s Wolverine comic miniseries and having Logan travel to Japan to face his past and protect the girl(s) that he loves.
Then you can toss in ninja (there are more ninja than you can toss a stick at in The Wolverine), samurai, a few other mutants, an actual nod to continuity by showing Logan’s tortured psyche over the killing of Jean Grey at the end of X-Men: The Last Stand, a nuclear explosion, and the BONE CLAWS. The Wolverine also includes a major plot element where Logan’s mutant healing factor is stripped away, leaving him quite vulnerable. On paper, this is a luxurious bed on which the superhero geek can roll around and find utter bliss.
But then you get to the film itself, which as I said, isn’t bad but lacking. It’s amazing to me how many of these great advantages that it tosses out the window in record speed.
I think the core problem is that everyone is coming to this movie for a superhero flick and instead is getting a rather humorless tale of a guy who doesn’t want to be a superhero. He fights, but he’s not happy about it. It’s like that guy who goes with you on a trip, and while you and everyone else are having a good time, he’s whining and complaining so much that it eventually sours your experience. That’s The Wolverine to me.
This movie just doesn’t snap into place like it should. Logan isn’t nearly as gruff-n-lovable as I remember him being from his days in spandex; he’s just tired and cranky. He’s not helped by a murky plot (spoiler: Everyone is bad and Logan should kill them all) and a PG-13 rating which shows pretty much no actual slicing or dicing. Seriously, all of the blood in this film is Logan’s, and you just about never see him actually stab or claw anyone, just suggested hints that he has done so.
There’s no great villain that the movie sets up from the start, choosing instead to introduce a minor bad guy, wait until Logan disposes of him, and then introduces the next minor bad guy. Sometimes the bad guys turn into good guys. Sometimes the good guys are really the bad guys. Why Logan sticks around is bizarre, except for a weak excuse to try to guard a girl that he just stalks due to intuition.
For every bad part, like the blaring soundtrack, there is usually a moment or two that’s genuinely enjoyable here. Logan gets a couple of good one-liners, some of the fights are visually engaging (like one on a train), and it’s not every day that you see a giant robotic samurai.
But considering that new X-Men films are coming out every two or three years, it feels like a waste that this is the one we got for 2013. Coulda done better, bub.
- The first time Wolverine is in a movie without X-Men attached to the title.
- This is Jackman’s sixth portrayal of Logan/Wolverine.
- According to James Mangold, this film is a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand (“Jean Grey is gone and most of the X-Men are disbanded, so there’s a tremendous sense of isolation for Wolverine”) but with extended flashbacks.
- When Wolverine is in the snowy forest, there is a bottle of whiskey called “Stanley’s Whiskey” this is probably a reference to Marvel creator Stan Lee, who does not his usual cameo appearance.
- Stay for the credits — there’s a surprise cameo!
Logan: What they did to me, what I am, can’t be undone.
Yashida: Eternity can be a curse. The losses you have had to suffer… a man can run out of things to care for, lose his purpose.
Yukio: How did you know there was a swimming pool?
Logan: I didn’t.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- X-Men 2: X-Men United
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine