The Wolverine

The Wolverine photo starrating-2andahalfstars.jpgFor those keeping track, this the sixth installment in the X-Men film series and picks up where #3 X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) left off. In it our fearless hero the Wolverine–a.k.a. Logan–is confronted by the past as he experiences hallucinations of Jean Grey as well as the Nagasaki bombing of 1945. There he reflects back on a Japanese soldier he saved. Yashida is now a CEO dying of cancer and wants to return the favor with an interesting proposition.

In this cluttered cast there are actually three women vying for our hero’s attention. First there’s the ghost of Jean whom he was forced to kill. She keeps popping up to haunt our protagonist. She’s lovingly photographed in white with soft focus. Is that a halo I see? In addition we get Yukio, a woman who has powers allowing her to see people’s deaths. She is the messenger sent to bring the Wolverine to Japan. And then there’s Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko, whom he meets when he gets there. Not vying for his attention is a villain named Viper who looks like a porn star. She’s played with ultra camp by Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova. She forces The Wolverine to confront his own mortality. For the majority of the saga, the Wolverine can be hurt as any human man. That’s a bummer because it reduces the drama to that of an ordinary person, albeit one who looks like Hugh Jackman. This is not an event in the way that Man of Steel or Iron Man 3 were this summer. It’s a much smaller picture.  I should be clear, though, this is BETTER than Man of Steel. Nevertheless, with his powers removed, this could be any generic 90s actioner.

The Wolverine is a middling attempt with a plot that is kind of dull. For a superhero film, there’s not a whole lot of fantasy. There’s a rousing sequence atop a speeding train. That got my pace quickening a bit. But for the most part it’s a minor entry in the X-Men franchise. I’ll admit there’s something to be said for a toned down effort with limited special effects and an intimate story. But this feels like a B-movie with characters cobbled together by screenwriters who have liberally sampled from Ninja, Samurai and Yakuza films. It all climaxes in a silly way that has nothing to do with the rest of the tale. No detailed spoilers, but a robot is involved. I’m not kidding.  It’s telling that the most exhilarating part of the entire picture comes 1 minute after the credits start rolling. There we’re given a glimpse of what could have been.

A Note for Parents: This sets a new high (or low) for PG-13 rated entertainment. It is extremely violent. They creatively edit around it so the amount of blood is minimal. However there are a multitude of stabbings and when the Wolverine operates on his own chest by slicing it open, well I had to look away. The scene where he is mercilessly shot in the back with poison-dipped arrows so that he resembles a porcupine, was an image I won‘t soon forget either. If this had been rated R, I wouldn’t even be talking about this. The MPAA have always had harsher restrictions for sex and profanity than violence, but their hypocrisy is really shameful here. This far exceeds the normal level for a PG-13 rated film.

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29 Responses to “The Wolverine”

  1. The attention to an actual story is what I appreciated more than anything else in this flick. The action was good, but I was more compelled by the story and what it did with itself. Then, it got goofy. Good review Mark.

  2. I think that’s a really important and interesting footnote man. I wasn’t quite as aware of it while watching (excluding the scene where he’s. . .well, yeah, digging around in his chest) but The Wolverine really was pretty damn violent for its rating. I really, really don’t understand how those folks operate.

    Besides that, I really have to (unfortunately for the movie) agree with this review because my expectations were higher. Maybe unfairly? But I couldn’t get over the lameness of Viper and the fact that this story really wound up in familiar territory in its execution after about 40 minutes. Maybe the next will be better

    • Viper was basically Poison Ivy from Batman & Robin. She was a terrible villain. Unfortunately she wasn’t the only problem.

      I didn’t expect to go on a rant at the end like that. It just came out. I think the MPAA standards need to be updated. The King’s Speech is rated R for some course language in one scene, but slashing your own chest open and scooping out bloody objects is PG-13? Ridiculous.

  3. GaryLee828 Says:

    Good write-up, as always! I didn’t want to see this b/c it looked boring, anyway; i’m actually not really big into superhero movies – just a few of the major ones like Batman, Superman, and Spider Man.

    But have you seen “Only God Forgives” yet? Interested in your take on it. I wrote an entry about it a few days ago, but it’s more of an “analysis” than a review, so you should not read until after viewing the film for yourself.

    • I think of Superhero movies as its own genre now, like drama or comedy. Some are good and some aren’t. I’d have to say I’m am tired of the X-men franchise at the point.

      Haven’t seen Only God Forgives yet. I’ve read some things about it that steered me away from it. Still want to see Fruitvale. Elysium is coming up too. I’ll probably just wait for Netflix Instant.

      • GaryLee828 Says:

        “Fruitvale” was another one I was waiting to read your review; I want to see it, but at the same time I’m afraid it’s going to be one of those films like “Boyz in the Hood” that just really gets under your skin and pisses you off. lol.

        I’m not sure what you read about “Only God Forgives” but you can’t always go by what you read; some people didn’t comprehend the plot, and then claimed it was pointless. But there is a point and I thought the story was amazing after I understood what Refn was aiming for.

        The first time I watched it I gave it a 6 of 10, but I admit I didn’t fully understand it, but then after reading up about it and what Refn intended, I re-watched it and saw it through a new set of eyes and thought it was brilliant and an exquisite piece of cinema!

        Yes, there is violence, but in spite of what others say there was a point to every single act of violence; none of it was vain. Harsh? Yes, very. Pointless? Not at all. Much of the violent acts were metaphors, which I just thought was brilliant writing.

        On top of this, Ryan Gosling although much different than Driver, or Luke plays another mesmerizing character who tells the tale with his eyes and expressions more than dialogue; Julian is much more broken than those other characters and just seems completely lost and broken, and it’s just a privilege to be able to watch an actor of his caliber portray these characters…

        Either way, looking forward to your Fruitvale review!

      • I’ll still watch Only God Forgives because I loved Drive, but it’s a low priority for me. Certain trusted reviewers highlighted problems that led me to conclude this is something I probably will not enjoy.

  4. Nice review Mark. Haven’t caught this yet but might be doing so this week. One of my issues with it (even before seeing it) is why it exists. It feels as if Jackman just has a 5 picture deal with the studio or something and after Origins bombed they just decided to make another random film.

    • I know. X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009 and now The Wolverine 4 years later. Most people hated Origins anyway so unclear why they went back and made another standalone film. Given the box office this weekend, their decision was a bad one.

      • I think this was made optimistically based on the $370+ million worldwide gross of Origins (before DVD/Blu Ray release) and also to keep the rights with 20th Century Fox instead of allowing them to lapse back to Marvel so they could keep the X-Men rights for Days Of Future Past.

        I think it’ll make money, but if it doesn’t, the end credits teaser has ignited word of mouth and buzz in the franchise for Days Of Future Past. In that regard alone it’s been a success.

      • It’ll make money because of the international market. It performed below expectations in the U.S.

  5. On your addendum, don’t even get me started. You know how I am on the MPAA, especially in an age when gun violence is such a prevalent concern, and they overlook it for the sake of calculating sex and profanity. If The Wolverine were based on an independent comic book series like Watchmen, Sin City, or 300 were, that which you described would get an R rating slapped on it in an instant.

    But I digress.

    This movie looked interesting to me. Now it just looks something along the lines of the debacle that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, all over again. If this was made simply to affirm that Hugh Jackman IS the ever so iconic “Wolverine” (as if we didn’t know it already), then I’ll more than likely skip it.

  6. I would agree that the overarching story is kind of weak with cobbled together stereotypical bad guys and the ending feels silly. I also felt that the romantic angle felt unrealistic. However I really appreciated how they handled the character of Wolverine. I always thought the other X-Men movies were mediocre and X-Men Origins was terrible, so I was happy to see a film that gives Wolverine the proper care and attention. The filmmakers do a fantastic job capturing the Wolverine’s struggle between his desire to do the right thing and his raw, animalistic side that’s a danger to others. I liked how they worked through his guilt about killing Jean, although they definitely overused her character’s scenes in the film. And I was fine with him losing his powers because it was more interesting to see a normally indestructible character become vulnerable. The fact that he still placed himself in harm’s way, getting shot and injured, knowing that he could die in the process made him much more heroic for me.

    • I’d say this was an interesting episode on a TV show, not a tentpole film in an ongoing superhero franchise. I’d tell people to watch it on a lazy afternoon on TV for free. But make sure you really have nothing better to do. lol

  7. Seems we had a similar reaction to this, I was really hoping for more from it, and agree that it says a lot that the mid-credit tease is possibly the best thing about the movie. It’s better than X-Men: Origins – Wolverine but just barely. A real shame, as the acting from Jackman isn’t bad and the direction is solid, but the writing really needed more work and is a mess. The supporting character’s behaviours are contradictory half the time, and the Viper, the main villain of the movie, is not only terrible but about 90% superfluous to the story, what there is of one.
    My review: http://wp.me/p1LZxf-1de

    • Yeah I’ve seen worse. But the whole production was just dull. Stock characters, recycled plot. Viper was acting in a different film. Hugh as always is still an engaging presence.

  8. Ahah yeah, that Svetlana gal does look like a porn star, very true! Glad we’re in the same camp on this one Mark. It’s unexpectedly dull and the preposterous, cringe-inducing finale certainly doesn’t help. I was bothered the most by the charm-free and unconvincing romance!

    • That robot climax was so odd. What happened to the spirit of the rest of film? None of it was particularly interesting anyway. Maybe they were trying to spice things up.

  9. Good Review! I personally quite enjoyed it BUT it would be good to have a bad-ass Wolverine movie next time.

  10. Although I did like this movie. I agree, it wasn’t your typical superhero movie. I was kinda slow paced. A few action scenes, but not too many. I still give it a positive 3 stars.

  11. Hmm. Such mixed reviews on this! I still want to see it eventually as I like the X-Men movies. But think I’d rather watch The Conjuring this weekend…

  12. martin250 Says:

    The wife of the late Ebert wrote a very interesting positive review on this. i wonder how much He would have liked it.

    am mentioning him because his insight on wolverine origins was spot on about why it didn’t succeed-due to Wolverines lack of vulnerability. Which makes your review all the more interesting; because you seem to favor that.

    • Vulnerability is good, but removing all of Wolverine’s special powers so that he’s just like an ordinary man, does not a superhero make. Then sampling bits and pieces from Ninja, Samurai and Yakuza films like some sort of a buffet just seems kind of lazy. Zzzzzzz.

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