Movie Review: 'The Wolverine' (2013)

‘The Wolverine’ claws his way back to the big screen in a follow-up to the timeline established in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’. For those concerned they will not be able to follow this movie’s canon if they missed ‘Wolverine: Origins’; there is no reason to fear. As long as you have seen the latest X-Men movie you will be able to understand everything that is going on.

‘The Wolverine’ is superior to ‘Origins’. It offers a refreshing shake-up to the stilted world that, in previous films, had become overrun with mutants, a move that watered down the uniqueness of their presence.

In this film, the Wolverine character truly gets the opportunity to stand out, and be appreciated for his mutant prowess. This story finds Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) summoned to say his final goodbyes to a man he saved from dying, in the nuclear attack on Nagasaki. Mystery and other intrigues, soon follow.

Director James Mangold brings a character study aspect to 'The Wolverine' that has been missing in previous incarnations. Logan is more multidimensional here, and less of a gruff cardboard cut-out of a guy with rage issues, and extra fur. Mangold steadily guides the pacing and the action, to even results.

There are times the tussles feel a little long-winded, and some of its rhythmic quality is lost. Sadly though, that is an issue that has impeded the quality of many action films. 

Setting the movie in Japan is a huge victory for the franchise, infusing the film with the country's savvy beauty. It is the perfect locale for a Wolverine movie. As seen in the film, there is the technologically advanced Tokyo, and the pastoral countryside.

For Wolverine, there is the life he was born into, before technology changed him. A pastoral life he attempted to get back to in 'Origins' by becoming a lumberjack. Albeit, it was never going to be “normal” due to his healing ability.

Then there is the life that technology has given him, a life that he desperately rebels against. A life that has also given him the opportunity to save people, who would have otherwise died, had he not been altered. It all makes Wolverine/Logan's feelings on his life, very complicated, and 'The Wolverine' gracefully acknowledges that, as it delves into his overall psyche.

As always, Hugh Jackman delivers another dazzling turn as Wolverine/Logan. As was mentioned in a previous article, he always appears ready for this role, and is clearly devoted, to giving it his all.

His physique offers a prime illustration of his dedication to the character, he has periodically inhabited since 2000. When it comes to the acting side of the equation, Jackman adds crucial emotional nuances that imbue his signature character with greater depth.

While other actors have hit their franchise brink by peaking and packing it in for later installments, Jackman never does. It is clear that the only actor he is trying to outdo is himself and that is perhaps, the toughest competition he has, or will likely face in his career, especially when it comes to the physical exertion he displays for Wolverine/Logan.

Jackman shoulders the film with a fantastic supporting cast. Rila Fukushima shines as Yukio, the spunky and fierce “bodyguard” to Wolverine. The loyalty and wonder, she shows him spurs the audience to be reinvigorated by a character that we, after 5 movies, have grown quite familiar with.

Tao Okamoto, in her first acting role plays Mariko, Wolverine's love interest and she gives a respectable turn. Something about her performance leaves you on edge, giving the movie some additional suspense.

Will Yun Lee ("Total Recall") is unfortunately not given enough screen time in his mysterious role as Harada, a part that should have had more time allocated to being fleshed out. Hiroyuki Sanada (Sunshine) gives a terrifically chilling performance as Mariko’s father, Shingen, and Svetlana Khodchenkova does well as the femme fatale aptly named, Viper.

Hal Yamanouchi as Yashida, and Brian Tee as Noburo, round out the cast. Tee giving an especially charismatic performance. In all, "The Wolverine" probably boasts the best ensemble the X-Men franchise has assembled so far.

Having eagerly anticipated this movie for some time and knowing the behind-the-scenes setbacks it had to overcome, such as losing original director, Darren Aronofsky; the final product exceeds initial expectations.

The curiosity of what Aronofsky would have brought to the screen with his vision, still remains. Especially after he revealed that his vision, included plans to inject some much-need sensuality into the franchise.

With all of that said though, James Mangold more than rises to the occasion. In the end, ‘The Wolverine’ proves that just like its titular character, the film franchise has the ability to not only withstand adversity, but come through the other side stronger. Rating: 7.7