UK Release Date: 25th July 2013
Runtime: 126 minutes
Director: James Mangold
Writer: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Famke Janssen
Synopsis: Logan is trying to escape the superhero lifestyle, but is thrown back into it when an old man decides he wants to repay his life debt.
After Brett Ratner’s poorly received The Last Stand and the universally hated X-Men Origins: Wolverine, things looked bleak for the X-Men cinematic franchise. Fortunately, Matthew Vaughn kicked the series back into life with 2011’s X-Men: First Class, allowing another solo outing for the man with the adamantium claws. And it’s a really good one as well.
Logan (Hugh Jackman) is out in the wilderness, bearded and keeping a low profile when he is approached by the mysterious Yukio (Rila Fukushima). She is working for Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) who has an interesting offer hor him. Meanwhile, Logan meets Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and is pursued by the villainous Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova).
The first thing that sets The Wolverine apart from the previous X-Men films is that it lets Logan come of age. Wolverine has always felt like a superhero too mature for the sanitised 12A movies to which he is confined, but with The Wolverine, there is finally a film dark and brutal enough for the character. Pushing the boundaries of its age rating from start to finish, this is the violent movie the character deserves.
James Mangold’s solid direction is the heart of the movie, facilitating Hugh Jackman’s growling performance. Both director and actor are at the peak of their powers here, making The Wolverine a true exploration of Logan’s character, as well as a fun action blockbuster that’s as good as anything the X-Men franchise has produced to date.
It’s interesting to wonder how original director Darren Aronofsky would’ve handled the material differently, given that Black Swan showed just how well he could deal with pitch black subject matter. Mangold, though, directs the action scenes with aplomb and is also able to handle the quieter moments in which Logan dreams of dead love interest Jean Grey (a returning Famke Janssen).
However, in focusing so much on the character of Logan, The Wolverine sacrifices its intriguing villains. Both Viper and the Silver Samurai are potentially excellent characters, but get very little to do. Any good superhero film should have a top quality villain, but The Wolverine seems lacking on that front. The villains are essentially just there to facilitate a fairly dull family drama that longs for the claws to start flying again as soon as possible.
The Wolverine is a very good attempt at an X-Men movie that finally does justice to Hugh Jackman’s now iconic, spandex-free portrayal of Logan. With a great post-credits sting, leading into the upcoming First Class sequel Days of Future Past, this looks set to mark a new chapter in the post-Ratner X-Men renaissance.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.