James Mangold‘s attempt at a dark and gritty solo X-Men film, The Wolverine, is perhaps the second best X-Men film, behind the highly praised X-Men: First Class. The Wolverine is the X-Men film that we’ve been waiting for and by that I mean that it’s finally that mature and serious character study of Logan, played with restrained aggression by Hugh Jackman. The Wolverine is 2/3rd’s a great movie, edging on perfection in the comic book world, but the film’s dud third act causes collapse and makes Mangold’s film leave a weak and barely lasting impact.
Logan (Hugh Jackman) is a drifter. He was once one of the most known mutants of the X-Men, but those days are long gone and now the infamous Wolverine has resorted to spending most of his time in the wild, trying to come to peace with his own eternity.
Logan is broken, sad and alone and he sees nothing in his future but a constant repeat of nightmares whenever he manages to shut his eyes for longer than five minutes. He’s miserable and can’t seem to find a way out, until a man he once knew earlier in his life calls for him and promises him a means to an end.
Now, Logan must face the past in hopes of creating a new future. Does he really want to end his own personal Hell or can he perhaps find good again? Can he love once more or his sole purpose to only to hurt and cause pain to others?
James Mangold‘s The Wolverine attempts to break the traditional X-Men/comic book movie mold. Instead of being just another blockbuster action-fest, Mangold achieves what one would like to call a slow-burn character study. For a good majority of the film The Wolverine is primarily focused on Logan and him achieving self-satisfaction and redemption. It dabbles in action, but sticks to its guns in becoming a film about searching for answers and finding meaning.
This is incredibly refreshing and exactly the kind of material that star Hugh Jackman has been leading to for the character. Jackman has played Logan almost perfectly in every X-Men film, yet he’s never really been given a prime chunk of meat to sink his teeth into. Acting wise, The Wolverine is the absolute best version of the character.
Hugh Jackman‘s Logan is completely broken and vulnerable, yet full of rage and aggression that has accumulated over a lifetime of war and losing loved ones. Jackman absolutely understands what makes Logan tick and he transfers that to the screen with a performance that is at times gentle, yet still full of anger. The Wolverine is a film that best displays all of Logan’s emotions. Jackman can be funny when the film needs a lighter moment, but he also has no problem tackling the heavy stuff and giving us a deeper look into the character than ever before.
The Wolverine also looks stunning. The film mostly takes place in Japan and Mangold and his cinematographer fully utilize the lush colors and locations to help progress the story further. Logan has never felt like such an outsider before, literally going to a place where he knows no one and is constantly on the run from someone. Japan acts as a great new journey for the character and for the X-Men films.
Most will be referencing a popular comic book series that pits Logan up against the Silver Samurai in Japan. I have never read it and because of that I can only judge the film on what it presents and not how close it comes in comparison to the source material. The Wolverine as a film best captures the character of Logan, because of its strong focus on him and not so much the other mutants.
Speaking of which, most of the film’s other characters are what drags the overall experience down. Without giving away too many spoilers; I can simply say that most of the film’s villains are afterthoughts in the sense that they carry very little on-screen weight or charisma, with some of the performances feeling like something out of a completely different movie tonally. Jackman’s performance is grounded in realism, while everyone else seems to be starring in X-Men: The Last Stand.
The last act of The Wolverine is terrible. Every single thing that Mangold and Jackman have set up is almost completely ruined by an ending that feels rushed and confused in what it’s trying to accomplish. Mangold spends most of the film establishing a slower tone, yet he changes gears on the fly to drop scene after scene of pointless action that cheapens the entire feel of everything before it.
Not only does it look and feel cheap, but it weakens the story and turns specific characters from dimensional beings into one-note characters that only exist to help “better” the final twists. None of this works and Mangold actually manages to nosedive the film in a hurry.
Still, James Mangold manages to deliver a faithful, edgy, dark and bad-ass Wolverine movie for most of the time. Unfortunately, he ends things on a real sour note. The Wolverine is mostly a good film, thanks to Mangold’s attempt at a much more serious story and Hugh Jackman‘s continuous support as the titular character. Both men certainly understand how to make the character work on film without any help from other mutants.
The film slips as the film reaches the finishing line, but there’s still more than enough to like about it. The Wolverine isn’t a perfect film, but it still is mostly the X-Men film that we’ve been waiting for. It’s not X-Men: First Class, but it’s certainly better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which isn’t saying much, but it’s still saying something.
Skip the 3D.
The Wolverine – 7.5/10