[Movie Review] ‘The Wolverine’ Claws Come Out
The Wolverine is the most grown up and gritty X-Men movie to date, and by far the bloodiest.
Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) brings a new sense of maturity not found in any of the prior mutant movies, while Hugh Jackman fully embodies and owns the titular role of the tortured hero.
The opening scene, set during World War II, is a stunning piece of work, as we are introduced to a young Japanese officer who is saved from certain death by Jackman’s Logan/Wolverine. Decades later, following the events of 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, the officer is now a rich old man who sends for Logan and offers to take away his genetic “curse” of immortality as a way of saying thank you for saving his life during the war.
And there is the question that burns through the film: Would immortality be a curse or a gift?
The first two-thirds of the movie feels nothing like a typical superhero adventure, with lots of adult-themed talking and closeups of the aged lines in Jackman’s face, suggesting that even immortality is a slave to the slow passage of time.
The final act dissolves into the over the top action fare we’ve come to expect from summer tent pole blockbusters based on the Marvel comic book characters, as Logan confronts his biggest demons (women) and unleashes the clawed animal raging inside.
Unlike Superman and Batman, this hero has no problems killing the bad guys, or saying bad words, as Mangold makes the most of the decidedly hard PG13 rating, creating a much dirtier world than we’re used to seeing the Marvel characters in, far removed from the glossy future-esque landscape presented in director Bryan Singer’s original X-Men in 2000.
The 2009 solo outing X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a cartoon compared to the new film, surely the definitive screen version of the grouchy and foul-mouthed comic book icon presented so far.
Now in his sixth feature as Wolverine (including a quick cameo in the 2011 prequel X-Men: First Class), Jackman is beyond great, sinking his teeth into Logan’s wise ass one liners and pissed off demeanor, only to soften immediately at the glance of a new love interest, Japanese crime boss daughter Mariko, played by Tao Okamoto, who does what she can with what little she’s give to work with in the script.
Rila Fukushima kicks major butt as Yukio, stealing each scene she’s in like a punk rock ninja in combat boots, adding a refreshing and feisty foil to Jackman’s grumpy old man. I would love to see her return in Wolverine’s next adventure, or better yet, in her own movie.
Svetlana Khodchenkova is the villainous Viper, stepping in as the long-legged sexy bad girl playing with Logan’s head, usually fulfilled by Robecca Romijn’s Mystique in the first three X-Men movies. Her hiss is ultimately better than her bite, but she’s magnetic to watch even when shedding her snakelike skin.
As seen in early trailers and TV spots, it’s no spoiler to know that Famke Janssen reprises her role of Jean Grey from the X-Men trilogy in what is really The Wolverine‘s only strong tie to any of the previous films, as Mangold works hard to ensure that this is what he has called a “stand alone” event.
While familiarity with the prior films will certainly enhance your enjoyment, it’s not a requirement, though it should be noted that The Wolverine does take place between the events of X-Men: The Last Stand and next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (directed again by Bryan Singer), and fans of the franchise will definitely want to stick around for a cool post-credits bonus scene.
Throughout the film we are reminded that this Wolverine is an animal at heart, from his initial shaggy appearance through his kicking-and-screaming-in-protest bath to his later run from literal hunters with arrows.
While the violence and profanity often pushes the limits of the film’s PG13 rating, the overall effect only colors Jackman that much more as a real grown up living in an actual adult world.
Logan may be a lover at heart, but he is also one of the most dangerous heroes in the Marvel comic book universe, and now The Wolverine is the year’s most dangerous comic book movie, slashing through many of the genre cliches in a roaring ride sure to satisfy the hungry beast inside.
Official Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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The Wolverine (rated PG13) is now playing at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills.