Less than two weeks before Logan comes out! We’ll have to speed up the X-Men reviews in order to have them completed before the last movie with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart portraying the famous mutants is released. Which means… It’s time for The Wolverine, the second spin-off meant to give more depth to Logan’s character. It sure sounds promising, but remember how Origins: Wolverine turned out? Yeah, I was quite sceptical with this one after that. But let’s find out how good (or bad) this one is!
As I said, The Wolverine stars Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine, who is taken to Japan by an old friend to make him an interesting offer: taking away his immortality so that he can die in piece. His stay in Japan won’t be any relaxing either, as he will face his ultimate enemy, a nemesis that will challenge him both physical and emotionally, while the mutant fights some demons of his own and feel weak for the first time is his long life. This story is not the most interesting tale told in the mutant universe, but it is indeed one that works pretty well. Instead of having villains that aim to control the world or kill every mutant, we are presented with a more down to earth story about family and betrayal. It is less intense than previous flicks, but it does have a few epic moments that are well worth the wait. The one thing it most miserably fails at is creating emotional moments, though. It is a joyful experience, but doesn’t transcend the way it desperately tries to.
When it comes to the script, this movie has lots of shades. Some scenes are nicely written, with just enough dialogue for them to sound interesting and cold, but many have way too many explanations of events that we see unfold on screen. Some very obvious lines should have been removed, as it seems they aim to work as an explanation for five year olds.
The most remarkable feature in this film is, without a doubt, how beautiful it looks. It is by far the best shot X-Men movie to date, with interesting and rich shots, full of vibrant colours. This is especially welcome in fight scenes, which look awesome due to the lack of excessive quick cuts and the perfect balance between still and moving shots. There are lots of spectacular sequences, from fights on top of a bullet train at top-speed, to ludicrous sword combat (not trying to nitpick or anything, but are all swords made of adamantium or what?). The new setting also benefits from the work in cinematography, as the modern-day Japan looks stunning, with both the traditional and recent architecture feeling like a breath of fresh air in a franchise that has always revolved around very similar locations.
Taking all this into account, I am glad that it is the very same director, James Mangold, who has directed Logan too. His work in The Wolverine is exceptional when it comes to the visuals, and this will be most welcome in the following movie too, indeed.
The visual effects are impressive here too. Of course there is a lot of CGI, as you would expect from a film depicted a world inhabited by mutants, but all of it is very realistic looking and there isn’t an excessive reliance on it during most of the runtime. Most of the runtime. The final sequence has a Transformers-like samurai suit that is everything but convincing.
Obviously, Jackman’s job here is as incredible as always. I have talked about this is in many reviews, but it is truly remarkable. There are very few occasions in which a character has been so tied to the actor who embodies it. Simply put, it is hard to imagine a Wolverine without Jackman’s face. Hopefully, they won’t replace him any time soon and will leave his character rest for a while before looking for someone else. This is the most bad-ass version of his character to date too, with lots of fun moments that prove how awesome of a character he can be.
The rest of the cast is pretty good too, with a very convincing Tao Okamoto as Mariko and great performances from Hiroyuki Sanada and Will Yun Lee as members of the Yashida family. Mutants Viper and Yukio, however, aren’t that properly cast, in my opinion: Svetlana Khodchenkova and Rila Fukushima are probably the weakest casting choices of them all, as they end up not being believable.
Well, The Wolverine is not the best of what X-Men has to offer. Fortunately, it is good enough at some of the things it does to be well worth our attention. The visual spectacle and the more intimate story are highly compelling, so it isn’t hard to forgive some of the mistakes it makes. 7/10