FlixChatter Review: The Wolverine

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I’ve been a huge fan of the X-Men universe ever since Bryan Singer’s X-Men movie back in 2000. That was the first time I ever saw Hugh Jackman and he’s certainly the most intriguing character of the mutant ensemble. When the spin-off movie came along, it certainly wasn’t off to a good start, though I actually didn’t abhor X-Men Origins: Wolverine as much as people did. Now four years later, the fury mutant with indestructible metal alloy adamantium bonded to his skeleton is back, angrier than ever.

This movie takes place right after the third sequel of X-Men: The Last Stand, where in a heart-wrenching finale, Wolverine (Logan) had to kill the love of his life Jean Grey to save humanity. Constantly tormented by her death, Logan’s now retreated in the Canadian wilderness where his only friend is um, a grizzly bear. His past suddenly catches up with Logan when a Japanese girl turns up at a bar one rainy night, and invites him to meet Yashida, a man he once saved in a Nagasaki bombing in 1945.

It’s nice to see a superhero movie nary of a megalomaniac hellbent on destroying humanity. No exploding buildings/world landmarks by aliens/monsters taking over earth, etc. There is a huge atomic bomb at the opening sequence in Nagasaki, which was an intriguing start that shows us the incredible healing power of the titular hero. The plot of this movie certainly promises something truly riveting, as Logan not only has to confront his past and inner demons, but also has to grapple with losing his immortality. The setting in Japan adds that cool novelty factor, and I was prepared for an engrossing journey as the stakes become really personal for Logan.

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Unfortunately, apart from a few exciting scenes, I find myself feeling quite bored by this movie. Let me start by the character itself. Now, amongst his fellow mutants in the X-Men movies, Wolverine easily stands out with his brooding sarcasm and the whole tortured-soul persona. But take the group away, watching him brood, sulk, snarl, and growl for two hours straight doesn’t exactly translate to riveting entertainment. Hugh Jackman‘s a good actor but he’s not given any opportunity to display much range here, and an actor’s charisma can only do so much. There is only one truly hilarious moment [also an excuse to show off Jackman’s buffer-than-buff physique], but the rest of his expressions range from solemn to dour. It doesn’t help that the rest of the supporting characters are one-dimensional or less, as most of the supporting cast (especially the female ones) are acting novices.

The tomboy red-head Yukio (Rila Fukushima) seemed a lot of fun at first but as soon as we arrive in Japan, we’ve got another Japanese girl to contend with, Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). It’s too bad as Yukio had just shared an interesting back-story of her own, but oh well, the script dictates that it will be about Mariko and Wolverine. It’s even more frustrating as Mariko is barely as interesting as a door knob, and even the relentless chase by the the Yakuza assassins fails to give her a character. By the time these two got together, the romance between them feels so awkward and entirely unconvincing. Oh, lest not forget the ‘phantom romance’ between Logan and Jean Grey, haunting him in lacy négligée, inviting him to join her in the after life. It’s excruciating to see Famke Janssen being so utterly wasted in this movie.

The one Japanese character that I was most intrigued with is Mariko’s ambitious father Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), but his role is underwritten and ultimately he becomes just another subject for Wolverine to fight with. Logan’s main mutant nemesis is Viper, a supermodel-like blond with prehensile tongue (Svetlana Khodchenkova). Sure she’s sexy but she’s nowhere near as fun as Mystique, nor as memorable. There’s a hint that perhaps there might be some kind of personal connection between the two but it doesn’t amount to much.

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There are some really promising moments in the movie. The reunion between the dying Yashida and Logan is inherently intriguing, as Logan learns the real reason why he’s invited to Japan. But soon things turn hugely convoluted as family crisis turns into a deadly chase between the Yashida family and the Japanese Yakuzas. The fight scenes at the funeral display Wolverine’s bad-assery, though the hero is perhaps not as impervious as he once was. The already fast-paced action goes even faster, bullet-train fast to be exact, as Logan has to fight off a bunch of Yakuza goons at 300 MPH, whilst the damsel in distress is sitting inside blissfully unaware. I have to admit the action in this scene is thrilling to watch, perhaps one of the highlights of the movie.

To call this movie wildly uneven would be a giant understatement. Now, I don’t mind the slower pacing that allow the characters to breathe, so long as it doesn’t become tedious. By the time we get to the third act, the movie seems to have lost its footing entirely. Starting with Logan being showered by arrows like a pin-cushion, all the way to the final battle with a giant mechanized robot that resembles the Silver Samurai in the comics. The whole fight sequences are loud and relentless but somehow they had little impact to me.

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I read a comment in one of the major blogs saying something about how this film “…fetishize and exotic-ize elements of Japanese culture for Western consumption” You know what, I kind share that sentiment. But the biggest letdown for me is that I was hoping that the Japan-setting is an integral part of the Wolverine story as in the comics, how his time in that country shapes who Logan is as a character. Instead, we get more of an overdone fish-out-of-water story of a reluctant hero feeling ‘trapped’ in a place he doesn’t want to be in. Not exactly a groundbreaking story by a long shot. Director James Mangold and writers Scott Frank and Mark Bomback tried too hard to create an introspective and something of substance, but in the end it proves to be quite a superficial endeavor. I don’t think if I knew more, nor cared for, the character than I did before seeing the film.

Final Thoughts: So much promise… but ultimately a letdown. I expected a great deal of emotional gravitas from the story, but I didn’t connect with Wolverine’s Japanese journey as much as I had hoped. Even the big reveal that sort of brings Yashida and Logan’s relationship full circle lacks an emotional bite.

Yes, I think this one is an improvement over the first Wolverine film, but unfortunately, only by a smidgen. Hugh Jackman said he’s achieved the best physical form in this movie than he’s ever before. Indeed he’s in the best shape of his life, and it’s impressive to behold, if only the film itself were in as good a shape.

Thankfully, this movie doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the X-Men franchise. In fact, the post-credit scene that ties it to the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past is easily my favorite part! I think this one curmudgeonly mutant who ‘doesn’t work well with others’ is actually far more watchable in an ensemble than as a lone wolf.

2.5 out of 5 reels

Thoughts on this movie? I’d love to hear it!

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61 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Wolverine

  1. Bummer! I enjoyed myself–it is not perfect (that seems to be a current theme lately) but it had enough fun and entertainment to make it a solid summer flick.

    I appreciated the Japanese angle–and loved the mixture of old and new. Yet, this film is a perfect of example of star power–Jackman is Wolverine and he has playing this character down–he is a pleasure to watch and the reason to go check it out.

    Sorry it disappointed–trust me, I know how that feels. 😀 And yes! Days of Future Past looks like an incredible endeavor–my fingers are crossed!

    Later!

    1. Y’know, I wish I didn’t have to write such a negative review but it is what it is. It’s far from perfect for me, and given how much potential it is to be great, I had to give it a lower score. I appreciate the Japan angle too but I feel like it’s a superficial theme here, not really an integral part of who Wolverine is. Ah well, hopefully ‘Future Past’ will NOT disappoint.

  2. Going to be honest, I was pretty biased about this film already. I didn’t just dislike rigins, but I wasn’t particularly particular about the first three X-men films either. So, you’ve pretty much damned this film to me, and I will avoid it unless my partner in crime decides we should review it. I really enjoyed First Class though, so I’m psyched for Days of Future Past. Thanks for an awesome review!

    1. Hi Meryl, welcome to FC! Sorry that I dampen your enthusiasm for this film. Trust me, I so want to love this movie, alas I’ve pointed out why I didn’t. First Class on the other hand, got an A from me, looking forward to the sequel!

  3. Ouch! Put my review up yesterday and called it one of my more pleasant surprises of the year. I really enjoyed it and it almost lets forget the Origins travesty and the extremely frustrating “The Last Stand” (even though this isn’t a direct X-Men sequel).

    Very nice review Ruth! We just had pretty different reactions. It happens! 🙂

    1. Sorry Keith, I guess we’d have to agree to disagree on this one. I knew somehow I’d be in the minority on this amongst bloggers but hey, it is what it is and I stand by it 😀

        1. Well it’s funny that I read some reviews that listed similar quibbles as me but they still love it. Sometimes I do that too but I just can’t with this one as it was tedious. Too bad as it’s got so much going for it!

  4. Ted S.

    I do agree with some of the things you mentioned there Ruth but I definitely enjoyed more than you did, well about 70% of it anyway. Mangold mentioned that he really wanted to make a Samurai/Western film and for the most part he succeeded. I definitely agree that the lead actress, Tao Okamoto , was quite weak. They should’ve cast a stronger actress. And yes the constant appearance of Jean bugged the heck out of me, reminded me of the flashback scenes from Man of Steel when his two dads kept telling him how great of a man he’s going to become. They should’ve edited out a few sequences of hers.

    My biggest disappoint was the lack of a true villain, seems like they wanted us to guess who’s the real antagonist was until the end, unfortunately most people will probably figure it out who’s really behind the whole thing, I know I did. Another thing was that the action scenes were edited down so much, what happened to the big fight between Wolverine and the ninjas? In the trailers, it looked to be longer and bigger. I assume they had to tone it down to get a PG-13 rating. Also, the big finally was such a train wrecked, the whole sequence lacked energy and excitement, it’s awfully staged.

    Despite those flaws, I thought it’s one of the better films Hollywood offered us this summer. And comparing to Origins, this one was a masterpiece. I really hated Origins, they totally screwed up a great story from the comics. Maybe 10 to 15 years from now when they’re rebooting the character again, they’ll do it right.

    1. Hi Ted! Wow, it’s rare that you like something more than me, ha..ha.. usually it’s me who’s being generous 😀 Well I like maybe 40% of this movie, but because I had been anticipating it quite a bit, it’s a big disappointment for me, hence the low score. In this case, the negatives really outweigh the positives, I mean just on the casting of Mariko alone irks me beyond belief, but there are so many others, esp. the fact that the Japanese part kinda becomes a gimmick to me instead of a genuine part of Logan’s life, hence my comment about it being superficial. Plus it’s so boring, so much so that I kept looking at my watch! It’s too bad as Jackman is a charismatic guy but he seems to have stripped him off his charm as well as his immortality here 😦 No, I’d never use the word ‘masterpiece’ to describe this movie, not even close.

      1. Ted S.

        I actually had no expectations for this one, which is why I liked it more than I thought. After Aronofsky left the project, I pretty gave up the idea that the studio can make a true Wolverine film. After Mangold mentioned a few of his inspirations for this film (mostly old samurai and western films), I got more interested but I wasn’t expecting it to be great. Now had Aronofsky directed it and this was the film he delivered, I probably would be more critical of it, in fact I think I might hate it. But it’s not Aronofsky’s version, Mangold and his writers only kept only about 30% of Aronofky’s script.

        Hopefully next summer’s Days of Future Past will be great, apparently Wolverine will play bigger role in that film than most people thought.

        1. Well, I don’t think my expectation was too high for this one, I just expected more emotional gravitas, which given the personal story, I thought I would at least get. The action stuff were good, but it wasn’t spectacular that it’d outweigh the superficial story, so yeah, it just didn’t cut it for me. I’m not a big fan of Aronofsky either though, so I don’t even know if I’d like his version.

          Hmmm, I kinda wish Future Past will be more about Prof. X and Magneto, their complicated relationship is what really sold the first film for me.

  5. Great review! I saw the after credits scene on youtube today and it was really fun,I bet it was actually better than the movie 🙂 I may catch it on DVD, I’m not a big fan of X Men unless Fassbender is involved 🙂

    1. Hi Sati! Yep, I can’t tell you how happy I was to see the two ppl in the post-credit scene! I think I was more thrilled watching that 2 min scene than the entire movie, ahah. Fassy certainly is one of the BEST parts of First Class!

  6. Like you know, I enjoyed this a little bit more than you did 🙂 . The After credits scene was definitely fun but that made me realize how much I wish the X-Men characters and also Spiderman was done by Marvel Studios too. Great crossovers could be made. I mean Wolverine vs Hulk? Spidey in The Avengers? We’re running out of time as I feel Hugh Jackman is the only perfect person to play this character (although taller than in the comics)

    1. Hi Asrap! Yeah, I guess I expected a lot more from this movie.

      So true about X-Men not being done by Marvel Studios. It’s interesting when I read that Viper actually first appeared in Capt. America in the comics! I don’t think I’m interested in another Wolverine movie, but I like the character as part of X-Men.

  7. I know so far one person who really enjoyed this, one person who liked it and called it a ‘step in the right direction’ and nearly everything else is variations on what you said here, haha. I might wait for the DVD, I’m not sure… (I haven’t seen Origins: Wolverine, so…)
    Nice review!

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  9. 100% agree. First we get a story that is so dull. Then we remove The Wolverine’s ability to heal so he’s just like an ordinary person. Where’s the fun in that? Characters were either campy (Viper was basically Poison Ivy out of Batman & Robin.) or tired stereotypes. Could Mariko be any more of a dated damsel in distress? Such a disappointment. Hugh Jackman still makes a great Wolverine at least.

    1. Hey, glad you’re in my corner on this one Mark. The ‘losing immortality’ thing wasn’t handled very well I thought, I never thought Wolverine was in very much danger of dying even without his healing power. He just got more morose, ahah. Yep, Viper is basically carbon copy of Poison Ivy, very true! Mariko is just boring, I wish they had cast a Japanese actress who can actually act. Hugh is still sharp in the role, though I too am growing weary of him.

    1. Yeah, probably just rent this one if you’re curious Andina. This is an improvement over the first Wolverine movie, but sadly not by much.

    1. Yeah, a shame indeed. I really want to love it Chris, and it’s got the ingredients for something really great. Ah well, maybe you like it more than I did with low expectations 🙂

    1. Hi Darryl! Thanks for reading. Glad you agree with what I’m saying here, yeah I was hoping for so much more which the trailers seem to suggest.

  10. I haven’t hidden the fact I’m not the X-Men’s biggest fan so it doesn’t surprise me that this latest Wolverine film fails to impress. However, I am surprised that you didn’t like it Ruth, given your enthusiasm for the franchise in general. That definitely puts me off. Then again, if it does move away from the fast-paced style of the previous films, I may actually like it more. But I doubt it.

    1. Hi Dan! Ah, not an X-Men fan eh? I personally love it, so yeah, it’s too bad that this one didn’t meet my expectations. To be fair, I didn’t over-hype it, I just felt that the marketing promised us a more ‘substantial’ Wolverine story with a deep, personal story, but it was a let down. I’d have enjoyed the slower moments more if it weren’t so cliched and boring 😦

  11. Yeah, when I see the trailers for this on TV it just looks so dull. Wolverine is such a hardcore superhero and one of my favs as a kid but for some reason I don’t feel compelled to see this in the theaters. Well done Ruth.

    1. I realize not a lot of people were enthusiastic about this one but they ended up liking it more than I did. I wish I could say that perhaps I expected too much, but I don’t think so, I really do think they could’ve made a more compelling & emotionally-charged film as they’ve promised.

    1. Well, I’m glad you did, Tim. For me, it’s not enough to simply be better than the first movie, I mean obviously it HAS to! Sorry to say, but what Mangold did w/ this movie just wasn’t cutting it for me (pardon the pun!) 😀

  12. Ouch. Not exactly high praise. But I can certainly see how Wolverine on his own for an entire film wouldn’t work; I’ve always been of the opinion that he only works in a group as well.

    1. Yeah, I simply can’t give it high praise based on my quibbles Morgan. In my last line, I said that Wolverine is regarded as ‘doesn’t work well w/ others’ really as a pun as he’s such a curmudgeon fellow, but yeah, the character itself does work better (more watchable anyway) in context of the X-Men team.

  13. Yes, I thought they should have integrated the Japanese culture/element/history into the series. They had a golden opportunity with Hiroyuki Sanada’s role. I was looking forward to seeing this actor have a bigger part. It was fun to watch, I do love Hugh Jackman! But, felt somehow deflated after viewing. Nice review, Ruth.

    1. Hi Cindy! Yeah, I wish they utilized Mr. Sanada more, he seems grossly underused here, instead we get more of that boring girl Mariko, heh. I like Hugh but the script didn’t even serve him right here as an actor, even his charisma could only go so far.

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  16. I’m trying to work up the enthusiasm to see this, but your review doesn’t help. 😉 Though I like the X-Men franchise, I prefer it when they are all together. It just seems to work better that way.

    1. Yeah, I can’t exactly recommend this to you if you’re not enthused about the subject matter to see it. I am still stoked for Days for Future Past though!

    1. Hope you like this more than I did when you get to it Nostra. I forgot to mention this but I thought the 3D is totally unnecessary.

      1. I saw three 3D movies yesterday (something which I don’t recommend doing as you will start feeling it after the second one) and didn’t feel it added anything to any of those movies (Man of Steel, Monsters University and Pacific Rim). Still not a fan of it, but the cinemas here often don’t offer the 2D versions. Hope I will get more out of Wolverine.

        1. Yeah, I hate it that theaters don’t offer 2D movies as much anymore. If they did it’d only be in 1-2 theaters at the most inconvenient show times!! Are you gonna review those films?

            1. Sounds good! Looking forward to ’em.

              Btw, I’m still working on the Obstruction #2 for your blogathon, but not until I get confirmation that I can actually interview the director of the film. Can’t say what it is yet but it’s a documentary, and I know you like that genre.

  17. So much promise… but ultimately a letdown. and 2,5 reels? Ha! I was lucky not to go to the cinema to see it despite the fact I love Hiroyuki sanada!. I decided to see it in DVD after I saw the trailer.

  18. I can’t say that I am surprised. I actually managed to avoid the first Wolverine-exclusive film due to the plethora of bad reviews it received, and so far it is looking like I might skip this one too.
    I still feel Hugh Jackman’s skills as an actor are being flagrantly wasted on subpar films and this is just one more of the bunch. So what if he got in the best shape of his life? It seems like he’s the only one enjoying this movie and he was already in great shape anyway. Hopefully the next X-Men brings the quality up a notch.

    Nice review Ruth!

    1. Hi Niels! Yeah, he’s totally wasted here I think. I might he’s practically reduced to a one-dimensional character throughout. I think he shows more range in the X-Men films, but the story is also very weak here. Yep, still stoked for Days of Future Past!

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