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Film Review: The Wolverine

 Nicholas Herum
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2000’s X-Men wasn’t the first Marvel property to be turned into a successful film but it did pave the way for comic book properties to become one of the hottest commodities in Hollywood. Its sequel, X2 was an even larger success, both critically and financially, than the original. After that however things started to go wrong; X-Men III: The Last Stand failed to live up to its predecessors and the franchise took a further step back with the disastrously bad X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The prequel film, X-Men: First Class stopped the series’ hemorrhaging but it merely acted as a band aid to keep the entire franchise from dying. Now, after years of mediocrity The Wolverine is poised to pull the X-Men from the brink and place them back in the lime light.

After leaving the X-Men, Logan is living in isolation but is offered the chance to end his suffering by having his healing powers removed by a man that he had rescued from the atomic bomb blast on Nagasaki at the end of the second World War. He refuses to allow his powers to be taken from him but is drawn into a kidnapping plot involving the man’s granddaughter, the Yakuza, and ninjas before he can return home. Unfortunately, despite his refusal to give up his mutant powers, they seem to have been taken from him and the once near-invincible Wolverine is forced to deal with his own mortality.

It’s a relief to say that The Wolverine is worth watching. Ten years is a long time to go between good entries in a film series that you want to like. X-Men III isn’t particularly loved, neither is Wolverine, but First Class gets a lot of love that I think is undeserved from audiences that were desperate for something not to hate. That’s almost where I was with this film, but I’m happy to report that not only is The Wolverine tolerable, it’s damn enjoyable.

The Wolverine is a complete departure from almost anything seen so far in the X-Men film universe. It’s a more mature, subtle and intimate film. The plot doesn’t involve a threat against a city, a race, or against the entire world that only Wolverine can stop. The story is smaller in scale and involves more personal battles like closure, mortality, betrayal, family, and fighting the Yakuza, ninjas and a giant adamantium samurai. Best described, The Wolverine isn’t an action film with drama, it’s a drama with action — and that’s not a knock against it in anyway.

There’s barely a mention of the X-Men anywhere in The Wolverine aside from some dream sequences with Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) along with some dreamed voiceover with dialogue from the earlier films. Instead, The Wolverine is a completely self contained story with all new characters, but it still manages to wrap up a storyline that three complete X-Men films were unable to do.

Hugh Jackman wasn’t the problem in most of the failed X-Men films, but his performance had gotten to a point that if he wasn’t growling his dialogue you might as well take a bathroom break during the movie. Here he’s finally given a realistic opportunity to make significant steps with his character’s growth, and while it may not be the most exciting factor in the film, it is satisfying emotionally.

The film isn’t without its problems; for instance if your character’s name isn’t Wolverine, you’re likely to be devoid of all but the most basic backstory. The story also isn’t terribly complicated. Most over the age of sixteen should see what direction the film is going from about a mile away. Sadly, the villain is underdeveloped despite most of the writing being on the wall and the foreshadowing slapping you in the face.

Quibbles aside, The Wolverine is still a highly enjoyable superhero film with a great locale, good drama and fun action. This is by far the best X-Men film in a decade and while it doesn’t eclipse the first two films, it does put the franchise back on the right track with the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past looming on the horizon. Wolverine helped bring about this series success and now he’s responsible for redeeming it.

For more movie reviews visit MoviesHateYouToo.com.

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