Turn back the clocks 3 months ago and I probably was pretty interested in a stand alone Wolverine movie. Wolverine is one of my favorite comic book characters because he’s the “Han Solo” of the X-men. He’s the rogue badass who plays by his own rules. Somewhere in between there I lost my anticipation. Something about the trailers didn’t feel right. This just didn’t look like a Wolverine movie. Of course I go into every movie open minded and hoping for the best.
Hugh Jackman returns as Logan or better known as The Wolverine. Following the events of X-Men 3, Wolverine has lost himself and is now doing a bit of soul searching. The love of his life, Jean, is gone. He has no purpose. It’s not until he makes his way to Tokyo that he begins to find meaning…. Long ago during WWII, Wolverine saved a Japanese soldier in a Nagasaki prison from a nuclear bomb. It is time for Wolverine to be repayed by that soldier. Wolverine’s pain is his eternity. He has watched so many suffer and through this he suffers himself. Logan is offered the opportunity to have his eternity cured. Sounds pretty oggamn compelling and interesting doesn’t it? Well it’s not really, or at least not executed to its full potential.
On paper this is something that could be an incredibly interesting character study but as a film it feels so neutered. The violence is watered down and the script is a bland swipe at a fantastic character. It’s really own the characters awesomeness and Hugh Jackman that make this movie worth watching. James Mangold has made some great movies. My favorite being 3:10 to Yuma which is the best western since Unforgiven. This story of Wolverine seems like the perfect way to mesh a Western with a Samurai movie. East meets West. I could see the attempt but it looks and feels rather lackluster in its attempt until the finale. The last 30 minutes have more of Western/Samurai vibe which I really enjoyed. This movie had so much potential to be aesthetically pleasing.
I have to wonder how much restraint Mangold had because of the studio. At times this reaches for Samurai cinema awesomeness but gets dragged back down into mediocrity. I’ve found this with other superhero movies as well. I wish filmmakers had more creative freedom in these movies and maybe that’s why Darren Aronofsky left the project. This movie is hollow. I have to applaud the attempt. I can’t say that for a lot of superhero movies. So while some superhero movies may be “better” than this, I actually respect this more than most even though I don’t think it succeeded.
Regardless of any of that, this is what we got. The plot moves along and the characters are forced along with it. We’re given some fairly cool action scenes along the way but even these don’t feel as if they have a lot of purpose outside of checkboxes for action films. When action scenes have little relevance to the plot I have a hard time getting into them. I want to know the characters involved and the relevance of it all. These fight sequences do attempt a cool samurai movie vibe in their choreography but it’s just not near as inventive as it could’ve been. Again, just too conventional in the approach but still fun to look at.
Hugh Jackman has always owned this role and I love him in it. Seriously though, Hugh got shredded for this role and he kills it in bring raw manliness to the action sequences. I am getting on his workout plan ASAP so I can go into berserker mode at the gym. I really wanted this to be The Wolverine movie Hugh deserved because he really cares. He gives his best performance as Wolverine yet in this and that’s really the best thing about it. He makes it watchable. Jackman nails the rage of Wolverine while also balancing his vulnerabilities perfectly. You gotta love Wolverine’s hilariously blunt lines as well. He’s given some sidekick characters along the way that allow for some funny banter.
It touches on an interesting character study but just falls back to a generic plot after. Some flashbacks and dream sequences with Logan were actually a little intriguing and I could’ve used more outside of just moving the plot. Seeing Wolverine vulnerable right after seeing him in rage mode is quite a compelling and interesting change.
At least the third act delivers some interesting action sequences and odd plot turns. There’s a very good scene involving Wolverine having to do a procedure to himself while under a bit of pressure. What’s so great about this scene is the handle of everything going on. We get plot and character development mixed with a great action scene while also looking beautiful with its colors and lighting. In a movie that takes place in Tokyo, I would think this movie would relish in beautiful cinematography and it does at a few points but not enough to warrant praise. The finale while being messy, actually is somewhat enjoyable amidst the silliness. Wolverine in rage mode is so damn cool to see. But alas, clichés bog this down to a mediocre level.
Fanboys listen to me, you can have better so don’t settle for this. I absolutely love X2. I think the X-Men is easily the best thing Marvel has in its vault of comic book material. They’re the most interesting, cool and relatable characters. Wolverine is arguably the best X-Men not named Magneto. I admire the attempt at something new here because I’ve found most of Marvel solo movies a bit too conventional. The problem here is that the execution and filmmaking didn’t allow for this to use its ambitious material to make an interesting story. There’s a great character study somewhere in here and I wish I could’ve seen it. Hugh Jackman is great as The Wolverine once again and he is what elevates it to being watchable. I’m just gonna keep waiting until he gets his great Wolverine movie that he deserves. This is a movie that you should watch on a Saturday night on TV. You’ll probably like it more in that setting. I know I would. The end credits sequences is actually the best part of the movie as it teases next summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past! The Wolverine at times delivers absurd action sequences but ultimately feels hollow and is bogged down by a weak cliched script.