The Wolverine is a marketed improvement over X-Men Origins: Wolverine in some places, but I felt the story could’ve been tightened up as it dragged in many scenes and took a long and winding path to the same place without muddy character alliances, who hates who and who wants who dead; it doesn’t make much sense and definitely didn’t help the story as a whole. Even so, Hugh Jackman delivers a, prepare for critic’s cliché, tour-de-force performance.
Genre(s): Action, Drama, Fantasy
Fox | PG13/Unrated – 126 min. / 138 min. – $49.99 | December 3, 2013
Directed by: James Mangold
Writer(s): Mark Bomback and Scott Frank (screenplay)
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetiana Khodchenkova, Hal Yamanouchi, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee
Theatrical Release Date: July 26, 2013
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Alternate Ending, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 4
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 44.2 GB (3D BD), 42.7 GB (BD), 41.9 GB (EC BD)
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
The X-Men franchise at Fox has been an interesting, continuing and inconsistent, journey. After X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a flop amongst both critics and audiences, Fox takes another stab (no pun intended) at giving easily the most popular character a solo film, resulting in The Wolverine, which had some good things going for it but oh so much wrong that it’s yet another addition to the franchise that fails to reach its potential (to go along with The Last Stand and the aforementioned XMO).
Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Logan and opens in 1945 as World War II is on its last legs. Logan is held captive in a well when the Japanese base is evacuated, with a B-29 Bomber on its way, including the prisoners, by a kind guard named Yashida (KEN YAMAMURA). As the other guards commit hari-kari, ritualistic suicide, Logan saves Yashida as the atomic bomb goes off revealing Logan’s healing powers. We then cut to Logan laying next to old flame Jean Grey (FAMKE JANSSEN) letting us know the aforementioned sequence was a flashback only to find out, obviously, this was a nightmare (so a flashback within a nightmare… interesting) as Logan had killed Jean as she went homicidal on society.
Logan has in fact turned nomad, haired with a thick beard, trekking through the Yukon wilderness, dispatching of asshole hunters and being tracked by a Japanese warrioress named Yukio (RILA FUKUSHIMA) who has come to bring Logan to Japan for a last goodbye to Yashida who is dying. After some initial reluctance, Logan eventually agrees and travels to Tokyo where he gets a good scrubbing and getting his classic X-Men wardrobe and style, and meets the older Yashida (HAL YAMANOUCHI), though a goodbye isn’t exactly why he summoned Logan. Instead, he presents Logan with the opportunity to become mortal and transfer his healing powers to Yashida so he may live on.
Logan refuses the offer but the story doesn’t end there, as the plot expands into some kind of a corporate drama as Yashida’s empire is the most powerful one in the region worth billions where his son, Shingen (HIROYUKI SANADA) is desperate to take over upon his father’s passing but his shocked and infuriated when Yashida instead passes it on to his granddaughter Mariko (TAO OKAMOTO) which puts a target on her back from within and the Japanese mob, the Yakuza.
Whew. I’m tired just thinking about the unnecessary intricacies which only receive a brighter spotlight during the ridiculous finale. So, Yashida’s funeral, the Yakuza (I think) attempt to kidnap Mariko but Logan spoils those plans but discovers something else: when he gets shot, he begins to bleed, so he is at least partially mortal. He does receive help from a ninja assigned to protect Marito in Harada (WILL YUN LEE) who is in turn working for a villainess named Viper (SVETLANA KHODCHENKOVA), a sexy woman with the ability to… well, just her as Marvel’s version of Poison Ivy and you get the idea, though she has bad enough breath to kill, so she doesn’t need to even kiss to do damage…
First things first, The Wolverine is an improvement, in some areas, over X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman, who makes his sixth appearance as the title character, is in top form and probably turns in his best performance to date. That’s the good news. The bad news is, despite a couple solid action scenes (the speed train being the best), I didn’t find this addition to be as much fun or entertaining as XMO and I also felt the plot was kind of muddled. Yes, I realize the inspiration for the plot is based upon the limited, and wildly popular, series (1982) written by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. However, being unfamiliar with it, perhaps I couldn’t appreciate what screenwriters Scott Frank (Minority Report, The Lookout) and Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard, Unstoppable, Total Recall remake as well as Fifty Shades of Grey adaptation) achieved but I thought it took unnecessary paths zigzagging across Japan when it all ends up in the same place, achievement wise for the villain.
One of the finer additions to the movie, outside of a respectable supporting cast who have had limited English experience (save for Will Yun Lee), James Mangold is a respectable director who, unlike Gavin Hood who, despite presenting a more entertaining film, also managed to make a Wolverine movie look small and ordinary.
In the end, The Wolverine is an acceptable film and although the story could’ve been tightened, it’s still one the whole better in some areas over XMO:W and is easily the most psychologically in-depth look at the central character with Hugh Jackman, despite making his sixth appearance, probably gives his best performance. For those who, unlike myself, are more in-tuned with the comic, you’ll probably get more out of the movie, for me, I did think it dragged in many places and the finale was, at best, lame. Still, it’s certainly not a bad movie and has many worthy moments.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.5/5
This release comes with a nice, black-bordered, embossed slip cover. The 4-disc set comes housed in a black HD Keep Case. Along with a DVD/Digital Copy combo disc (where you can download the iTunes DC), there’s also a code for the UltraViolet download code as well. The insert also includes a code for a Digital Comic Book.
Extended Cut (2:18:05; HD) – This cut of the film doesn’t solve the issues though it does add some gnarly scenes that certainly would’ve garnered this film an R-rating (albeit the gore shown is strictly CGI-created). For a solo track, Mangold isn’t a bad speaker and keeps chatting through the entire movie with little to no lulls.
Audio Commentary – Available only on the extended cut, Director James Mangold guides us through the process of how The Wolverine came about and provides some bits of behind-the-scenes trivia.
Both of the above are only available on a separate Blu-ray which also means Fox could release it separately at some point (or that it could be missing on any X-Men collection).
The Path of a Ronin (53:44; HD) is a five-part featurette – “Inspiration: A Ronin’s Journey”, “Design: Mastering the Arc”, “Execution: A Killer Team”, “Hugh Jackman: The Man Behind the Mutant” and “Reflections: The Evolution of Wolverine” – delving into the making of the movie and offers interviews with cast and crew as they give a glimpse into what makes this story different, a look at the locations and other interesting behind-the-scenes info.
Alternate Ending (1:36; HD) – There’s not a huge difference between the theatrical and this alternate ending just an additional scene as Logan opens up a suitcase to find, well, you need to see it for yourself; it’s quite amusing.
Second Screen App allows viewers to sync their tablet or computer and check out enhanced features. Never have been a big fan of these and wish the studio would just provide a picture-in-picture feature (a la Universal’s U-Control and Warner’s Maximum Movie Mode).
Theatrical Trailer (2:28; HD)
X-Men: Days of Future Past Set Tour (2:47; HD) provides a brief look at the upcoming addition to the franchise.
2D VIDEO – 4.75/5 | 3D VIDEO – 4.0/5
The Wolverine claws its way onto Blu-ray courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment with a perty looking 1080p high-definition transfer (MPEG-4 AVC codec), presented in its original theatrical 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. The film mostly goes for the darker elements outside of when Logan arrives in Tokyo for the spectacular colors but even so, the picture pops off the screen with excellent detail levels and no obvious signs of artifacting or pixilation.
The 3D version meanwhile isn’t too bad considering it is post-conversion. Objects and characters come off the screen with decent depth and even though, as mentioned, the movie is a bit dark, with this version, it’s not overly so as even the nighttime scenes one can tell what’s going on.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
The disc includes a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and not surprising, it is quite the robust lossless track. Dialogue levels are strong but the highlight is the numerous action scenes which really showcase this track giving depth during such sequences like the bullet train fight to the finale. Although it’s a step behind The Incredible Hulk in terms of reference quality, it’s still damn good.
OVERALL – 4.0/5
Overall, The Wolverine is a marketed improvement over X-Men Origins: Wolverine in some places, but I felt the story could’ve been tightened up as it dragged in many scenes and took a long and winding path to the same place without muddy character alliances, who hates who and who wants who dead; it doesn’t make much sense and definitely didn’t help the story as a whole. Even so, Hugh Jackman delivers a, prepare for critic’s cliché, tour-de-force performance. This four-disc Blu-ray set has a great set of features and, a first for a Marvel film, exclusive extended cut. On the technical front, the picture and audio are both top notch.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.