‘The Wolverine’ Movie Review – Exceeding Hopes
There’s no getting around the word “expectations” when going into any movie. It’s one of the major problems facing anticipated movies. In a way, The Wolverine got lucky because from May until now, there have been huge movies that have, quite frankly, overshadowed its release. With Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, and even Pacific Rim, there have been a lot less people chomping at the bit for Wolverine’s return. This, for me, was a good thing because I didn’t have time for expectations. I did have time to rewatch all the X-Men movies (which you can read here), so I went in with hopes, rather than expectations. My hopes were met, and while the movie is missing the ensemble feel of the original trilogy, it gets the job done with what it has.
The Wolverine is directed by James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) and occurs last in chronology of X-Men movies. It most recently takes place after X-Men: The Last Stand (the third movie). However, there aren’t a whole lot of connections to the franchise. Well, except Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), whose sole purpose is to remind us (and Wolverine) that he’s lost somebody close to him.
With that being said, The Wolverine is almost a stand-alone film. Even with her in the film, we could imply what had happened, making this feel apart from any other film. I’m still trying to decide if this is a good or bad thing. By the way, the post-credits scene (which you’ll want to stick around for) goes against this entire paragraph…so there’s that.
Okay, so getting back to my hopes for the film. I wanted to feel sympathy for Wolverine. He hasn’t quite reached the same levels of invisibility as Superman (I know, I know, different companies), but they both seem untouchable. Wolverine, if you for some reason didn’t know, has an accelerated healing power (explored more in-depth during the crappy X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie). This makes him virtually immortal, and The Wolverine actually starts by showing him surviving the Nagasaki bombing.
The challenge then becomes making a movie that’s more than just “exciting” when there doesn’t seem to be any stakes. If he can’t die – both because of his abilities and because this is a prequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past that comes out next year – then what can you do?
Mangold and company decided to explore the notion that “eternity can be a curse.” Since he can’t die, everybody he knows (and loves) will eventually leave him. It’s an idea that’s been explored before, but it’s still better than nothing.
The actual plot that sets up the conflict is pretty mediocre. Some of it includes his connection to the Nagasaki bombing and a man he saved (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). Also, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), another mutant, plays a role in making him vulnerable. Still, it all comes together a little messier than it probably needed to. It does resolves itself, but the plot is more comparable to Origins than anything else.
And that’s the unfortunate part of the Wolverine spin-offs. Both X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine focus on Wolverine. Duh, right? The X-Men franchise can be set apart from other superhero franchises because it’s an ensemble. Yes, The Avengers do this, too, but all the stand-alone movies before The Avengers generally don’t compare. The same can be said here and although The Wolverine is a head (or two) above Origins, it’s missing the camaraderie and teamwork of the original three.
It’s unfair to compare the movie against the others – I’ll concede that. So just looking at The Wolverine, I can say it is a pretty good movie. No better, no worse. The story, like most movies, could use some work. However, there is an undeniably human side to Wolverine’s story that it needed badly. To make it a great movie, however, it needed that extra something. In this case, the extra something was the rest of the X-Men. The movie does bridge that gap to Days of Future Past with one scene, but as its own movie, it falls ambiguously between good and okay.
The Wolverine is out in wide release this weekend. Check it out at a theater near you!
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