Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Run Time: 2 hours, 6 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee, Famke Janssen
Directed by James Mangold (Knight and Day, 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line, Cop Land)
Fans of the X-Men films and the character of Wolverine will love the latest Marvel Comics film, The Wolverine (opening today). It's a super-hero movie that doesn't quite feel like one, featuring one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe.
Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Wolverine, the rugged, cigar-chomping Canadian whose incredible healing abilities and adamantium-laced skeleton make him nearly invincible. This film takes place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, furthering the continuity of the current X-Men franchise. This is a stand-alone Wolverine adventure, based on the original comic book mini-series, "Wolverine," by the legendary Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, considered one of the best and most definitive Wolverine tales ever written.
Fans of this ground-breaking mini-series will also enjoy the new film, although this is not a straight remake of the books. It does borrow heavily from it though, taking place in Japan and featuring two of the original villains, Viper and The Silver Samurai.
When Logan is summoned to the bedside of a dying friend, he is sucked into a pretty dire situation. Eventually Logan's very core is altered when he loses his mutant ability to heal himself, making his journey through this film much more meaningful than in the X-Men films. Because if Wolverine can be hurt, Wolverine can die.
The story and film is handled quite intelligently, which was a bit of a relief but should come as no surprise, since Marvel continues to raise the bar for what a comic book movie should be. Hugh Jackman is once again great as Wolverine (although still a bit tall in comparison to the comic book version) and we see that Logan has an amazing threshold for pain, both mentally and physically, even when he is rendered vulnerable. Haunted by his past, this movie also acts to set up Wolverine - and the X-Men Universe - in exciting ways moving forward.
Unlike many comic book films that tend to try to out-do each other with special effects and over-the-top craziness, there is barely a handful of action-sequences in the first half of The Wolverine. For this first - and more effective - half, the movie is much more focused on its characters. When Wolverine is eventually flung into battle, the scenes are all the more meaningful and tense because they are fewer and farther between. A fight on top of a speeding bullet train, for example, is among the best action scenes of the year.
The second half of the film does begin to take us down some conventional "good guy vs. bad guy" roads. The villains could have probably came up with much less complicated ways to get what they wanted, but most movie-goers will be able to over-look these minor quibbles.
If the films' final scenes were a bit of a let-down, be sure to stick around for the end credits. Marvel has conditioned us to wait for these short "stinger" scenes and there most definitely is one during the end credits of The Wolverine. In fact, this may be the best Marvel stinger yet. It made me giddy in anticipation for what is most assuredly coming down the road for these characters and had me quickly forgetting about the film's ending.
Yes, The Wolverine is not perfect, but it is yet another strong entry to add into the Marvel canon of films. You end up leaving each Marvel movie with more excitement for what is to come, than to what you just saw. That in and of itself is somewhat of an accomplishment
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