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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Hugh Jackman
Famke Janssen
Will Yun Lee
Svetlana Khodchenkova
Rila Fukushima
Tao Okamoto
Hiroyuki Sanada.
Directors
James Mangold.
Screenwriters
Christopher McQuarrie
Scott Frank
Mark Bomback.
Running Time
126 minutes

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The Wolverine
Mutants. Ninjas. No turtles


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Plot
Haunted by the death of Jean Grey, former X-man Logan (Jackman) is now a loner, foraging in the woods. But he’s tracked down and brought to Japan by a billionaire who’s keen to repay a life debt by stripping The Wolverine of his immortality. But it isn’t going to be that easy...


Review
The Wolverine
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In a summer packed with movies that work their way up to levelling entire cities, The Wolverine takes an interesting tack: that’s how it starts. Within the first three minutes, Nagasaki has been obliterated in a mushroom cloud, courtesy of a B-29 bomber and the nuclear bomb known as Fat Man that effectively signalled the end of World War II.

In the middle of the mayhem, we find Hugh Jackman’s Logan — aka The Wolverine — chained up and shirtless (of course; those playing the ‘Shirtless Jackman’ drinking game will be blootered by the second act) in the middle of a POW camp. As sirens blare and Japanese officers commit hara-kiri with honour, Logan is saved by, and then saves, an officer with a stricken conscience.

It’s an audacious opening that some might find in dubious taste, but there are enough grace notes here — the opening shot of the B-29 approaching its target is serenely beautiful — to suggest this will be light years ahead of the lamentable X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And so it proves, even if it never hits the heights of the first two X-Men movies or X-Men: First Class.

After that grand opening, things scale back as we meet the Canadian mutant living rough on his home turf as, effectively, Grizzly X-Man, Les Mis hair and beard in place, plagued by visions of his lost love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, lounging in a négligée through interminable dream sequences) and as haunted by the events of X-Men: The Last Stand as anyone who saw it. He’s a wounded bear who even encounters an actual wounded bear, just to pound home the metaphor. Logan has vowed never to hurt anyone again, a vow he breaks within roughly 37 seconds, but before he can kill some idiots in a bar, he’s tracked down by the slinky Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a flame-haired employee of the man he saved in World War II, and brought to Japan, where he becomes embroiled in a convoluted plot involving the yakuza, indestructible samurai and a new lady-love in the beautiful Mariko (Tao Okamoto) who, in a nice twist, sees Logan and his claws as something to love, not fear.

And it’s in its Japanese roots that The Wolverine becomes most intriguing. Comic book fans will know that Wolverine and the Land of the Rising Sun go together like Nic Cage and Pachinko, and it’s refreshing that, Canada section aside, it takes place entirely in Japan. That alone is enough to make it look and feel unlike any other superhero movie to date, director James Mangold capturing a real sense of place as he frames Logan against Tokyo streets or in rural ryokans.

Sadly, the embrace of Japanese culture feels often skin-deep, a superficial whisk through a checklist of clichés. There’s an (admittedly very funny) awkward visit to a love hotel with Mariko as they go on the run; Logan struggles to come to grips with chopsticks like a gaijin fool; and he keeps being told he’s a ronin, a samurai without a master. Yet there’s no sense his experiences have much of an impact — by the end he’s as authentically Japanese as YO! Sushi. Just a shame he doesn’t show up at a karaoke bar — we reckon Logan has serious pipes.

One of the — many — criticisms of Wolverine’s last solo outing was that it never had the courage to trust in the appeal of its lead character, instead chucking in large numbers of rubbish mutants. The lesson has been learned here, with minimal muties (Svetlana Khodchenkova shows up as the venomous Viper, regrettably too reminiscent of Batman & Robin’s Poison Ivy). Instead, Logan bloodlessly slices his way through armies of yakuza and ninjas, in keeping with the film’s determinedly (open air quotes) realistic (close air quotes) tone.

It’s all the better for it, from a free-for-all that puts the fun in funeral to the movie’s highpoint, a creative showdown on top of a speeding Shinkansen. And, if you have any qualms about pitting a highly trained, invulnerable mutant against scores of rent-a-piñata henchmen, Mangold and Jackman level the playing field slightly by going full Superman II and depriving Logan of his powers. With his healing factor and animalistic senses on hold, Logan develops an aversion to shotgun blasts that slows him down considerably, and gives Jackman something interesting to play with sixth time around. That element is far more absorbing than his endless moping after Jean — some psychos don’t need analysis.

It’s regrettable, then, that in a film concerned with immortality, nothing lasts forever. The final showdown, tonally and in terms of scale, is deeply unsatisfying, with ludicrous reveals, bad CG and plot turns so convoluted they threaten to derail the movie at 300 mph.
 


Verdict
An improvement on the last outing for Jackman’s not-so-merry mutant. If only it trusted enough in its unique setting to forgo a descent into aggressively awful formula.


Reviewed by Chris Hewitt

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Wolverine
Empire Star Rating

RE: RE:

L: sanchia Most films which end up being highly enjoyable and very good have no "remarkable" talent attached to them. Also so called "remarkable" talents have created absolute dogs of films and having someone deemed as such is no guarantee of anything. It is a falsehood to say it is not in the least bit interesting as as you admit there is talent attached (even if it is uninteresting to you). If you only watch films with remarkable talent and find no other film of interest you m... More

Posted by Oroborous at 20:05, 21 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

So you don't like the X-Men films so of course you would not have any interest in a character from the aforesaid films even if a "remarkable" talent was attached. ... More

Posted by sanchia at 19:32, 21 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Deviation Dude, Mangold also has Girl, Interrupted and Copland in his CV, the crew for this film is about as remarkable as that of the previous X-Men films. crew which can't have been remarkable if they created said X-Men films. ... More

Posted by Oroborous at 19:31, 21 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Ref L: Oroborous L: sanchia Christopher McQuarrie has al Suspects back catalogue and also X-men which was not a bad film at all. Scott Frank has Get Shorty (which was a decent film) and Minority Report in his back catalogue. James Mangold has Walk The line and 3.10 To Yuma in his back catalogue both of which were good. To say there is not potential is false. It has the potential to be awful but at the same time it has the potential to be very good. Time wi... More

Posted by sanchia at 18:57, 21 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Oroborous L: sanchia Christopher McQuarrie has al Suspects back catalogue and also X-men which was not a bad film at all. Scott Frank has Get Shorty (which was a decent film) and Minority Report in his back catalogue. James Mangold has Walk The line and 3.10 To Yuma in his back catalogue both of which were good. To say there is not potential is false. It has the potential to be awful but at the same time it has the potential to be very good. Time will tell. That i... More

Posted by Ref at 18:38, 21 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Oroborous L: sanchia Christopher McQuarrie has The Usual Suspects in his back catalogue and also X-men which was not a bad film at all. Scott Frank has Get Shorty (which was a decent film) and Minority Report in his back catalogue. James Mangold has Walk The line and 3.10 To Yuma in his back catalogue both of which were good. To say there is not potential is false. It has the potential to be awful but at the same time it has the potential to be very good. Time will te... More

Posted by sanchia at 18:35, 21 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Dude, Mangold also has Girl, Interrupted and Copland in his CV, the crew for this film is about as remarkable as that of the previous X-Men films. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 12:10, 21 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: sanchia Christopher McQuarrie has The Usual Suspects in his back catalogue and also X-men which was not a bad film at all. Scott Frank has Get Shorty (which was a decent film) and Minority Report in his back catalogue. James Mangold has Walk The line and 3.10 To Yuma in his back catalogue both of which were good. To say there is not potential is false. It has the potential to be awful but at the same time it has the potential to be very good. Time will tell. That is why pe... More

Posted by Oroborous at 11:41, 21 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Oroborous No, I find it hard to comprehend why anyone would be interested in seeing the next installment in a franchise which has almost entirely been uninspired and unengaging, this time focusing on a character who has shared those qualities on screen, with rkable talent involved in directing or writing itor which all trailers and marketing has been mind-numbingly underwhelming. hristopher McQuarrie has The Usual Suspects in his back catalogue and also X-men which was not a ... More

Posted by sanchia at 11:11, 20 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

No, I find it hard to comprehend why anyone would be interested in seeing the next installment in a franchise which has almost entirely been uninspired and unengaging, this time focusing on a character who has shared those qualities on screen, with no remarkable talent involved in directing or writing it, and for which all trailers and marketing has been mind-numbingly underwhelming. The only reason there was value in this film was when Aranofsky was involved, because he could have done som... More

Posted by Oroborous at 10:10, 19 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Shifty Bench L: Dannybohy L: waltham1979 L: Dannybohy L: Oroborous I find it hard to comprehend that anyone had any interest in this film anyway, to be honest I'm surprised it got so high a score, certainly one not to spend any money on. ne paying to see this at the cinema needs a juggernaut sized headbutt in the balls! hy? use they should have learned their lesson with the last Wolverine movie! ell, not really. I could see your point if this... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 10:09, 19 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dannybohy L: waltham1979 L: Dannybohy L: Oroborous I find it hard to comprehend that anyone had any interest in this film anyway, to be honest I'm surprised it got so high a score, certainly one not to spend any money on. ne paying to see this at the cinema needs a juggernaut sized headbutt in the balls! hy? use they should have learned their lesson with the last Wolverine movie! ell, not really. I could see your point if this film had the same wri... More

Posted by Shifty Bench at 09:32, 19 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dannybohy L: waltham1979 L: Dannybohy L: Oroborous I find it hard to comprehend that anyone had any interest in this film anyway, to be honest I'm surprised it got so high a score, certainly one not to spend any money on. nyone paying to see this at the cinema needs a juggernaut sized headbutt in the balls!ote] Why? ecause they should have learned their lesson with the last Wolverine movie!ote] Yeah that would be like someone going to see every ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cool Breeze at 14:53, 18 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

The last one, you mean the one with a totally different story, writers and director? ... More

Posted by Deviation at 14:32, 18 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: waltham1979 L: Dannybohy L: Oroborous I find it hard to comprehend that anyone had any interest in this film anyway, to be honest I'm surprised it got so high a score, certainly one not to spend any money on. ne paying to see this at the cinema needs a juggernaut sized headbutt in the balls! hy? use they should have learned their lesson with the last Wolverine movie! ... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 13:50, 18 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dannybohy L: Oroborous I find it hard to comprehend that anyone had any interest in this film anyway, to be honest I'm surprised it got so high a score, certainly one not to spend any money on. ne paying to see this at the cinema needs a juggernaut sized headbutt in the balls! hy? ... More

Posted by waltham1979 at 13:42, 18 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE:

L: Oroborous I find it hard to comprehend that anyone had any interest in this film anyway, to be honest I'm surprised it got so high a score, certainly one not to spend any money on. ne paying to see this at the cinema needs a juggernaut sized headbutt in the balls! ... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 11:35, 18 July 2013 | Report This Post


RE:

Really? You find it hard to comprehend that anyone would be interested in seeing a film about one of the most popular characters in fiction, realising one of the characters most beloved storylines, played by one of the world's most adored film stars? Yeah. That sounds like something very few people would be interested in. I liked it - totally agree on the ending, which got kinda silly, but otherwise I thought it pretty much nailed the tone, kept the focus right on Wolverine, and gener... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kickpuncher at 11:30, 18 July 2013 | Report This Post


I find it hard to comprehend that anyone had any interest in this film anyway, to be honest I'm surprised it got so high a score, certainly one not to spend any money on. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Oroborous at 10:54, 18 July 2013 | Report This Post


GUTTED!!

had high hopes for this, james mangold done a good job with 3;10 to yuma and walk the line, but the same can be said for gavin hood with tsotsi :( i cannot rate this movie as i have not seen it, but to comment on this i have to 3 stars is a shame!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sjdoug at 23:29, 17 July 2013 | Report This Post


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