Since the X-Men franchise kicked off in 2000, the character of Wolverine has proven to be just as popular with cinema-goers as with the readers of the original comic books. So far he has starred in all three instalments in the trilogy, made a cameo in X-Men: First Class, and spawned two separate standalone movies. The Wolverine is the second of the two, following 2009’s slightly disappointing Origins movie. It’s out on DVD & Blu-ray, so is it worth a watch?
What’s it about? Following on from the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, we find Wolverine living a hermit-like existence and shunning society as he grieves for Jean Grey and struggles with his immortality. But his self-enforced isolation doesn’t last long when Yukio, a ninja-fighting mutant with the ability to see how people will die, turns up with a mission to deliver him to her employer – a Japanese businessman that Logan saved from certain death in 1940s Hiroshima. Yashida, now old and scared for the safety of his grand-daughter Mariko, has a proposition to make Logan. But before long the Japanese mob, ninja assassins, and other dark forces all step in to shake things up, forcing Logan to confront his demons about himself and his powers.
Verdict: The character of Wolverine is by far one of the most fascinating in the Marvel universe, combining one of the best and most intriguing mutations with a stubbornness and wit that together make him a winning leading man, with plenty of action, laughs, and genuinely absorbing plotlines. And so it’s easy to see why he became such a staple of the X-Men trilogy and continues to drive audiences back to the cinema with each new outing. But over the years, there have been a few missteps along the way: The Last Stand lost a lot of the flavour of the earlier instalments and Origins was too heavy on the visual spectacle to do justice to the character. The Wolverine tries to put that right and succeeds in many ways, by narrowing the scope of the story for a more character-driven film that stays true to the emotional journey that audiences have invested so much in.
Hugh Jackman is on great form as always, with an action-star physique that suggests he spent many weeks of hard work in the gym preparing for the role. He clearly loves playing Wolverine and delivers action-packed fight scenes as effortlessly as the more subtle and emotional scenes. This aspect of the writing is a step up from previous outings – providing moments of richer character development that audiences haven’t seen for a while. The action scenes too are a pleasant change from Origins in that they are visually stunning, but don’t feel forced or unnecessary (except perhaps for one or two – a particular train sequence will go without comment). The Tokyo setting makes for a pleasing diversion from usual action fare too. With a visual tone that combines the historic and modern-day aesthetic of Japan and an interesting cast of secondary characters that aren’t often represented, it has a unique look and feel all its own. But most importantly, it brings the story back to touch on the original premise – the struggle of dealing with mutant powers.
That said, it does feel like something is missing. The action scenes occasionally spiral into the unrealistic, and the romantic sub-plot feels a bit tacked on. The film also, surprisingly for a Wolverine story, has the tendency to be a little humourless. It’s understandable since The Wolverine is dealing directly with the emotional fall-out of Jean Grey’s death, but losing Logan’s typical snarky wit and entertaining asides is something you really notice – especially when the action scenes try to capture that particular blend of wry humour and fall a bit flat.
Extras: The extras are slightly sparse, but the featurette “The Path of a Ronin” will be interesting for those who enjoyed the Japanese influence on the story.
Final Words: A far superior Wolverine movie than its predecessor, The Wolverine combines all the aspects that fans love – action, story, and character development into a visually striking film that will please action-lovers. But with a slightly humourless tone and some unnecessary elements added in, long-time Wolverine fans might be a bit disappointed.
The Wolverine is out on Blu-ray and DVD from 18 November 2013.