The Wolverine Movie Review
In advance of next year's X-Men movie, Wolverine gets a second chance at his own movie with The Wolverine, a standalone action-drama that is markedly different from any previous Marvel effort. Featuring slick action and a surprisingly slow-boil story, The Wolverine is engaging and exciting, though fans looking for nonstop action may think otherwise.
Unlike the character's previous movie, the dreadfully executed X-Men Origins: Wolverine (read my movie review here), The Wolverine features only a few key characters, a love story and an emphasis on story. Oh, and special effects worthy of a summer blockbuster (seriously, the visuals in X-Men Origins are pitiful).
In the movie, Logan (Hugh Jackman) has abandoned civilizations following the death of his love Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand and has resorted to living in the wilderness with bears for whatever reason. He is drawn back into civilization by a red-haired Japanese chick with a samurai sword (Rila Fukushima) who tells him that a man he saved back in World War II is on the edge of death. Logan reluctantly travels to Tokyo to bid his farewell, but ends up at the center of a conspiracy to kill his friend's granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto).
To clarify: his friend's extremely attractive and emotionally vulnerable granddaughter Mariko.
The Wolverine, directed by James Mangold and written by Mark Bomback (Unstoppable) and Scott Frank (Minority Report), is unlike most other Marvel movies, especially of late, in that it feels truly independent of the larger Marvel universe and emphasizes story and character over the barrage of cameo character appearances and nonsensical storytelling that plagued the previous film.
Some fans will find the setup a bit of a slog - it takes a while to get to the first major action sequence, and the movie has significant lulls as the filmmakers develop the relationship between Logan and Mariko - but the payoff is worth it. The dynamic between Logan and Mariko, and Logan and the red-haired Japanese chick with a samurai sword, is terrific. The Wolverine is engaging even when nothing exciting is happening, an impressive feat for a movie about a dude with metallic claws.
Despite its slower pacing, The Wolverine has some great action sequences. The shootout at the funeral is intense and elaborate, and another sequence on a speeding train is also a blast. The climax is also well done, even if the villains - and their motives - make absolutely no sense.
And that's the movie's one big weakness. As good as The Wolverine is, the reason the bad guy is bad is poorly explained if not downright confounding. His cohort Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) also is underdeveloped, and while she is sinister it doesn't make sense why she has any stake in anything that occurs. Also, the whole "stealing Wolverine's powers" piece defies logic.
Then again, this is a movie based on a comic book.
The Wolverine is well-written, engaging and at times extremely exciting, which is really all you can ask for. Some people will take issue with the story's more methodical pacing, but the payoff is a vast improvement over its predecessor. The Wolverine is, arguably, the best comic book movie of the summer.
P.S. The post-credit scene, which thankfully only requires 30 seconds of patience, is the best post-credit scene in the history of Marvel films. Stick around.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.