Reviewed by James R. Janowsky
Finally, a summer comic book blockbuster that fans can be happy seeing!
Director James Mangold (WALK THE LINE, 3:10 TO YUMA) and screenwriters Mark Bomback and Scott Frank forego the witty banter and overly plot-driven action film we have come to expect from a Marvel property, for a more serious, dark, and character driven story for THE WOLVERINE.
Loosely based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s 1982 widely successful graphic novel, “Wolverine”, we first meet Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) racked with guilt for mercy killing Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), a fellow X-men, before she had a chance to morph into the all-powerful and destructive Phoenix. Adding to his torment is that he secretly adored her. His guilt and lost love makes him a very dangerous wounded animal—which makes for a complex, fun character to watch!
Unlike Ang Lee’s overtly Freudian HULK (2003), THE WOLVERINE does not get tangled in intellectual head pounding. Granted, there are dream sequences that reveal Logan’s feelings of love for Jean and his guilt for killing her, but they seem character and story based rather than psychoanalytical themes for the film. Audiences didn’t want an art house Hulk a decade ago; they wanted a Hulk that smashed. Luckily, Mr. Mangold has Wolverine popping his claws often and using them with deathly precision. Ironically, what happens to Logan at the end is, well, Freudian (you’ll just have to see the film).
The script isn’t flawless. There are a couple of moments where I questioned the logic of Logan’s decisions. One is when Yukio (Rila Fukushima) attempts to convince him to travel to Japan to see an old acquaintance. The reason she gives Logan, who is so guilt-ridden that he has become a loner living in the woods, doesn’t seem strong enough to convince him to leave and travel to Japan. There are also a few scenes where the dialogue is clunky, perhaps even forced. And the climax of the film did stretch the carefully constructed world’s believability.
There is a great action sequence (I think my favorite action sequence of the summer—sorry PACIFIC RIM lovers) on the top of a Japanese bullet train between Wolverine and a bad guy. The way Wolverine dispatches the baddy is quite clever.
I really liked the film. It was by far the best blockbuster I have seen this summer. Why? There is just a wonderful balance in THE WOLVERINE between complex character, action sequences, world building, and heartfelt moments that make the film memorable, and not just another comic book movie. I would even say that there is an artful craftsmanship to the making of THE WOLVERINE. The film makes me look forward to the next Wolverine or X-men film, and that ultimately makes it a success.
This review originally appeared on the filmsinreview.com website.