Posted July 24, 2013 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Movies/TV

MOVIE REVIEW: The Wolverine

20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Dune Entertainment,
Starring Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, and Famke Jannsen
Directed by James Mangold

Philippine Release Date: July 25, 2013
Runtime: 126 minutes
MTRCB Rating: PG-13 

It’s not the adamantium-laced skeleton, berserker rage, razor-sharp claws, or even the ridiculous number of women Logan manages to seduce (seriously, what the hell is up with that?) that makes The Wolverine an admittedly unexpected winner in the great comic book film slugfest of 2013.

No, the biggest strength of The Wolverine is that it has a clear idea of what it needs to be.

Right off the bat, it drops any pretension of being a superhero film, and gives us a definite, self-contained story instead, with plenty of action and a fair amount of conflict and emotional pain thrown into the mix. The Wolverine explores the struggles of a tortured outcast who has outlived more friends and seen more catastrophes than any other person on the planet. For moviegoers who were expecting a film in the same vein as the high-flying techno-wizardry of Iron Man 3 or the world-shaking superheroics of Man of Steel, the change in pace may either be jarring or very much welcome. The “comic book” feel is certainly there, though.

The Wolverine sheds light on what everyone’s favorite ill-tempered Canadian has been up to since the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Hugh Jackman sports the claws, scowl, and strange hairdo once again, and rightly so. Much like how Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, Jackman is Logan, and it’s difficult to see anyone else in the role. The majority of the film’s two-hour runtime takes place in Japan, and as a result, our protagonist finds himself facing off against longtime comic book frenemy the Silver Samurai, venomous femme fatale Viper, an entire clan of ninjas, and even the Yakuza. The ninjas are of particular interest – despite the “official” name used for them here, I’m absolutely certain that comic book fans would instantly recognize them.

Believe it or not, this is a legitimate clue. Just…think harder, and try to ignore Michelangelo’s stupid face.

Staying true to the spirit of the comic books, The Wolverine features gratuitous slice-and-dice action, plus a significant amount of blood and gore. I’m somewhat surprised that it even managed to secure a PG-13 rating. This isn’t the toned-down Wolverine we’ve grown accustomed to in the previous films in the X-franchise; here, he is more brutal, more savage…more feral. He still doesn’t quite measure up to the level of bloodthirsty, beastly rage that his comic book counterpart is well-known for, but it’s definitely a significant improvement.

We even get to see the full extent of his physical prowess here; not only is he more brutal, he is also more agile, creative, and precise in his method of fighting. Speaking of fighting – the battle scenes are an absolute marvel to behold. It even includes an extended fight that rivals (or even surpasses) what may be the most famous sequence in 2004’s Spider-Man 2.

One of the things that this film did right was to keep the number of unnecessary characters to a minimum. This is in stark contrast to its predecessor X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which had Gambit, Cyclops, Emma Frost, the Blob, and a horrifying approximation of Mimic that they tried (rather unsuccessfully) to pass off as Deadpool.

In fact, the closest thing to an unnecessary character in this film that I can think of is Famke Jannsen (as Jean Grey). Her presence (and presentation) may even confuse moviegoers who didn’t get to see The Last Stand, in a “what is this woman doing here and why is she wearing that?” sort of way. To be fair, her role in Wolverine’s life is explained multiple times in the film. Unfortunately, while the exposition succeeds in clarifying her role in moving the narrative forward, it also renders her presence redundant at times.

The breakout star of this film is definitely Japanese model Rila Fukushima, who plays the energetic Yukio. She’d probably remind X-Men readers of a certain…sparkly fan-favorite mutant with close ties to Wolverine. Her portrayal here is significantly different from how she was depicted in the comics, though, so that might be a bit hard to swallow for some devoted fans.

The film takes a lot of liberties with established continuity, as certain relationships and identities are switched around. I didn’t find them drastic enough to ruin my viewing experience, although that may be because I don’t particularly care for the titular character (Cyclops fan here) and his supporting cast. The changes seemed to pay adequate respect to the comics, anyway. After all, departures from the source material are to be expected in adaptations like this. Otherwise, there wouldn’t really be much of a point in telling a story in the exact same way it has already been told, right?

“Logan, I’m going to tell you an incredible story…The story of how I met…Nah, kidding. I’m going to kill you.”

The film is far from perfect, though; it has its own share of logical inconsistencies, dragging scenes, and superfluous plot threads. However, they are few and far between, and the overall quality of the product is more than enough for the viewer to disregard them.

The Wolverine carries a surprising level of depth and emotion for a film that centers on a mutant death machine. It’s grim, brutal, violent, and probably the closest thing we’d ever get to a Frank Miller Wolverine film. Don’t walk in expecting a feel-good superhero flick, because Wolverine is not a superhero, and The Wolverine is not a superhero movie.

Oh, and stay for the post-credits scene. If, for some reason, you didn’t enjoy the film itself, the bonus sequence will more than make up for it, especially if you’re a big X-Men fan. Trust me.

RATING8 out of 10 Monthly Comic Books that Wolverine Has Absolutely No Business Being In (But Is Part Of, Anyway)


A warm “Thanks, bub” goes out to 20th Century Fox (Like their FB page here) and SM Cinema (Like the official FB page here) for the advanced screening of The Wolverine!

Mikael Angelo Francisco