The Good: A unique feel amongst superhero movies, artistic, closer to what fans have been looking for, a slightly more adult hero movie
The Bad: Rough pacing, unfulfilled potential, some story elements just don’t fit
Release Date: July 26, 2013
I wanted so badly to love The Wolverine. From the very beginning, it’s a darker and simultaneously more artistic take on the character, just like I’ve always hoped for. Picking up where The Last Stand left off, Wolverine has exiled himself to the wilderness and given up his days with the X-Men. Before long though, he is whisked away to Japan to visit an old friend who is dying and is quickly embroiled in a conspiracy for control of a major company. During the opening scenes of the movie, I greatly enjoyed it, but as it carried on, a sense of unease grew in the pit of my stomach and it became apparent that for all its character and artistic sensibility, there are flaws with The Wolverine that just can’t be overlooked.
Mangold very intentionally works at having a more intimate take on the Wolverine character. For the most part, this means there are more talking scenes and less action than a typical superhero movie. At the start of the film, I really enjoyed the slower pace this created and the more serious feel it gave to the proceedings. The movie took the time to set up characters, and it began giving intriguing clues as to what the plot was all about. It’s also early in the film that themes of immortality and loss are established, and these could have played out to brilliant affect. In many ways, the first half of The Wolverine felt like an old James Bond movie to me with Wolverine chasing after a girl, embroiled in a plot that neither he nor the audience fully understand, slowly building the tension. It was interesting and exciting, and all done with smart, artistic flare.
Unfortunately, The Wolverine never successfully picks up its pace, and the pieces of the puzzle don’t all fit together by the end the way they should. Despite the slower pace and character building, choices made by characters in the middle of the film don’t feel well built to, and there are several late in the game plot points that make no sense at all, especially in a movie trying to take itself more seriously than typical superhero fare. The action always felt more like a dance than a real fight, and while I loved the artistic sensibility of it, it hurt the tension for me. The music also fails to help, and it tended to sound like it was always building to action rather than actually getting there and making your pulse pound when it needed to. All in all, the best way to say this is that the movie is inconsistently paced and ultimately feels like there are pieces missing.
The story itself is interesting (at least initially) and held a lot of thematic potential. Offering varying views on immortality and the meanings of life and loss should have been fascinating, and, done right, could have held some powerful messages. Logan should have had a powerful realization with immense impact on the audience. Despite obviously wanting to, The Wolverine however just didn’t have the focus of Christopher Nolan’s movies or the drive of Man of Steel, and too many pieces felt randomly thrown in and don’t ultimately make sense given the explanation at the end. This rambling kept its points from being driven home with any kind of impact.
On the acting end of things, I once again loved Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine. As usual, he sells the emotion well, even when the script doesn’t. If only the story had given him some truly believable intimate moments or a heart-wrenching action scene, he could have truly made The Wolverine amazing. As it stands, his potential and the potential of the story feel largely wasted. The other characters in the film serve to move the story forward, but for the most part, they are all Japanese stereotypes with nothing new to bring to the mix.
Overall, the script just never engaged me on an emotional level, and without that, I was looking for an action movie. This didn’t stand out there either. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the whole thing, I just walked out with a keen sense of “eh” instead of enthusiasm for what I had seen. There were just too many moments that didn’t make sense or where the emotion felt rushed instead of genuine. There are some great elements here, but sadly it just didn’t all come together.
If you’re a die-hard Wolverine fan, go see this. Otherwise, wait for the DVD.
Final Score: 5 out of 10