Let me preface this with my spoiler free, cinematic review that can be found on Facebook and Rotten Tomatoes:
[The Wolverine is] A deliberately paced film that focuses on Logan and the effects he has on the people met throughout his abundant years in the world. Those who are afraid of another Origins and X3 disaster will find this more focused, striving to achieve beyond both of those films while not exactly denying their existence. Jackman exudes Logan/Wolverine and makes us, the viewer, realize that he is and understands the title character more than any other actor at this time. Heavier in tone than most other films based on Marvel characters, The Wolverine is a well done film that starts a path in the right direction for Fox’s mutant franchises.
The Wolverine – 4 out of 5 Stars
Now that we have that, anything beyond this is considered *SPOILERS* (probably not though).
Logan, James Howlett, Wolverine, whatever name you’d like to call him is almost the main face of the X-men franchise. In fact, he is featured in three out of four comics that encounter the mutant population and featured prominently in the last two Marvel events (AvX and Age of Ultron). A few months ago I stated that I was suffering from Wolverine fatigue and I don’t even follow the character. Much to my surprise, I find the character’s cinematic presence to be much more captivating and interesting than his comic counterpart.
This is owed to Hugh Jackman, the only character to consistently play Wolverine in X-men movies and the solo outings. This makes his 6th screen appearance to date with a 7th currently in production, again with a story circling his character. Jackman embodies Logan and Wolverine to an extent I don’t think any other actor at this point in time could do. Much like we can’t image Tony Stark being anybody but RDJ or a Bruce Wayne better than Christian Bale. The actor truly understands the character and brings them to life on screen in ways we could only imagine.
Beyond his performance in the title role, the Japanese setting and actors were an awesome change of pace. We were not flooded with mutants in the wilderness, much like we always tend to see Wolverine. Changing his environment from the wilderness to Japan, with its classic beauty and elegance, was a welcome change of scenery that again helped the movie achieves new heights by breaking the current mold. With the locale, the Japanese actors also brought something new to the film. This encouraged me to pay attention, to learn their ways and see how the famous Wolverine could fit into such a culture. It was very reminiscent of Clerks in that “I’m not even supposed to be here today” at some points.
Some may criticize the film with a constant flow of action and tension with the slower, meaningful moments. People who want to see Wolverine want action piece followed by a larger action piece, finally culminating in a super awesome action piece! And to that extent we have Origins, which ended in what is heralded as the worst of the mutant films, but I feel that is from fan’s requests to see things go big. In this outing, Logan is a shell of what he was due to the ending of X3 where Jean died in his hands. He doesn’t immediately jump to fighting and the claws only come out when he’s near feral rage or defense. A deeper side of the character is revealed by this ebbing of fast and slow pieces that bring tension and heart to the film.
To this regard, the only romance in the film that felt forced was the ghostly apparitions of Jean Grey in Logan’s dreams. She appeared in several key moments, highlighting chapters for him as the movie progressed. How someone who is stricken with immortality and no true purpose in life craves that which he cannot have, death and release from the personal hell he was living in. However, I found the Jean Grey appearances more allegorical than anything. In the vein of ‘If you love something, let it go. If it was meant to be it will come back to you’ or something of that sort. If we truly love Wolverine and the mutant franchises, we have to let X3 and Origins go. When we let those go, we will be treated to a brighter future for the characters and films they appear in. So do we truly love Wolverine? When Days of Future Past finally come, we will know.
Lastly, I applaud the film for not outright ignoring the other movies in the franchise. It embraces the end of X3 (in more ways than one) and has a passing mention of Origins. I had 2 “oh shit!” moments during the film that caught me off guard, but also throw back to Origins in a very minor way, at least something we didn’t see in X1-3 or First Class. We’re seeing Wolverine develop on screen from the animal he was to the hero he will become. There have been bumps along the way, but the road is smoothing out once again leading me to believe that the character (and actor)’s screen appearances have a healing factor just as powerful as Wolverine’s himself.
The Wolverine is a fine example about how a movie series can start strong, falter, and slowly regain itself over the years when put in the right hands. James Mangold and Hugh Jackman bring definition to the character that we’ve not seen since his first appearance 13 years ago. There is little surprise the film gave the X-men franchise its 6th #1 opening (out of 6 movies). Take a second to tell us what you thought of The Wolverine in this week’s daily poll.