A Review: The Wolverine

16th August, 2013

Talking about more than books and my own birthday is definitely something I should do, but venturing too far from my own self-interests just isn’t in my nature… so I’ll review my favorite childhood hero’s new movie, Wolverine.

Much like that first book review, this will be a bit of an experimentation in style – though undoubtedly overlong and full of parenthetical, run-on sentences.

To open with the obvious, the last Wolverine movie was simply horrendous and should be ignored entirely. Consequently, this newest version easily tops it; though still falls short of the best Wolverine movie, X2… since, you know, the original run of X-flicks were just Wolverine movies, co-starring the X-Men. Regardless, The Wolverine opens strong, establishing a core relationship, the lengths of Logan’s wanderings and the mounting destruction one man can witness through an endless life. So, exactly how the last Wolverine movie started, promising a movie it never lived up to…

Fortunately, unlike the first Wolverine, this movie isn’t overcrowded with a dozen new mutants who’s sole purpose was to dilute each other character’s development, most regrettably, from Wolverine himself. Instead, this movie takes its time (at times, too much) exploring who Logan is. Counterbalanced with an action formula which starts as localized skirmishes but escalate to full scale, city-wide brawls, and you’ve got yourself an entertaining 110 minutes of character PLUS action! UN-fortunately for us, however, the movie is 136 minutes long.

For fans of Frank Miller’s Wolverine story this is based on, the first 3/4 of the movie is satisfying if not necessarily equal to the book. Much of the success is found in the foreign setting, Logan’s humanity, his love and his honor unfolding in ways that probe the depths of a character that often is lazily written as no more than the emotions worn on his sleeve. The roughly 25 minutes of disappointment concentrates, for the most part, at the end. Again, those familiar with the Frank Miller story – and anyone else thinking Wolverine + Ninjas – would expect something like this:

Wolverine VS a Hundred Ninjas. Hard to get wrong!

MILD SPOILER ALERT – Unfortunately, that never happens. We get tantalizingly close to it, but never actually get there. Instead Weapon X is subdued in one of the most idiotic, character undermining ways imaginable. Should the viewer be able to temporarily table that flaw, the climax of the movie follows and can only be described as a disappointment as one of Logan’s most recognizable and enduring villains is warped for the big screen and comes away wanting. Give me Lady Deathstrike again, that fight was dope.

Overall, this newest Wolverine was a massive improvement over the first, yet still just OK. It is unfortunate, I left the theater hoping not for another standalone Wolverine sequel, but instead hoping after Days of Future Past, Hugh Jackman will retract his claws for the last time and allow the character some time to reset. What has always bothered me about the Wolverine film adaptations has been the escalating glossiness of his presentation, especially after the steaming pile that was X-Men 3 was dropped on us. Excuse the fanboy pining and popular desire here, but in a lot of ways it is similar to the original Batman run VS the newer Dark Knight trilogy. I won’t claim that henchmen roll out on skates or that Hugh is subjected to bat-nipple style gimmicks, but there is a Hollywood big-budget sheen the current iteration can’t seem to shake and therefore won’t ever be a true representation of the character… At least not my desired representation.

I should say that, though it may read to the contrary, none of this is to condemn Hugh Jackman who I think is a terrific actor and a bloke I’d genuinely like to have a pint with – since I know he is reading this thinking the same of me, right? Instead I believe as his star and female appeal have simultaneously risen, so has the desire to tailor his movies to capture that audience. Perhaps that is why the earlier iterations of the Wolverine suffer the least, as that tweak is one that runs counter to the character.

Still, I’ll always love Hugh for that single sequence that Wolverine was done perfectly:

Verdict: ??½. Wait for DVD.

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