July 25, 2013


In superhero movies, great power comes with the great responsibility of at least saving a major city, and even that’s considered slacking.  The entire world should be at stake.  But what if it were just one man?  What if the superhero had to save himself and maybe one other person?  James Mangold’s The Wolverine provides a refreshing take on the superhero genre by giving itself over to a character-driven approach.  Wolverine/Logan is one of the most well-known and beloved superheroes of all-time, and so rather than drag him through another story where he has to team up with other mutants to stop a supervillain, his latest adventure mostly goes small scale and asks if our hero is a man who’s an animal or an animal posing as a man.  But by pushing back against the tide of louder, grandiose superhero movies, The Wolverine strikes an awkward, albeit still enjoyable tone, when it has to play by the rules of the genre and throw big comic book moments into the intimate tale of a loner trying to find himself in a foreign land.

Following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is racked with guilt over being forced to kill the woman he loved, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).  He’s resolved to put away his claws, and live in the wilderness.  His self-imposed exile is interrupted when the dying Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a man Logan saved during World War II, wants to say good-bye to his savior in person.  Reluctantly, Logan travels to Japan to honor the old man’s request, but falls into a web of intrigue when his healing power is stolen from him by the scientist/mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), and he must protect Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), from shadowy forces.


The movie should be a schizophrenic mess, but manages to hold together even though Wolverine is torn between two plotlines that have little in common other than one plotline depriving him of his powers so that he can be physically vulnerable in the other.  Nevertheless, these two tones veer between serious drama and cartoonish action, and the former is far more rewarding.  It lets Mangold engage in imagery and atmosphere whereas the special effects driven set pieces feel like a sop to the action blockbuster superheroes must inhabit.  When we see Wolverine in World War II, he’s a P.O.W. and metaphorically a caged animal.  That symbol representing Logan’s inner conflict—his violent, animalistic side fighting against his human desire for forgiveness and attempting to reconcile his immortality—is the more fascinating journey.

But the versatility to swing from introspective loner to action hero is one of the aspects of the character that keeps him so endearing.  Sure, he’s brooding, but he’s also quick with a snide remake.  He’s an outsider among outsiders, but his aloofness never feels mopey.  In Japan, he’s a stranger in a strange land, but his identity fits in perfectly with a ronin—he’s a warrior with a code of honor, but no longer has a master (i.e. the X-Men).  He can be an injured bodyguard on the run, but he can also bounce up and down on top of a bullet train.


Even though the two plotlines never come together in a substantive way beyond a plot device, the character, and more importantly the way Hugh Jackman plays him, is at home in both stories.  We won’t know how anyone else will compare to Jackman until another actor picks up the claws, but he has undeniably defined the role on-screen.  He is the Wolverine against which all other Wolverines will be judged, not just because he had the role first or the longest, but because he inhabited it so completely.  Even in the absolute clusterfuck of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Jackman never lost sight of the character, and he always has an awareness of how to make the story come to him rather than chase the whims of the plot.  In The Wolverine, he provides some levity to the drama finding his humanity while protecting Mariko, and in the goofy comic book scenes he plays it completely straight.

However, despite the strength of Jackman’s performance, those action scenes still make the movie an uneven and slightly less rewarding experience.  The movie admirably takes its time to build up to the first set piece, but when it gets there, it’s a cacophony of slicing and gunshots.  Somehow, the action becomes more cogent once they get on top of a speeding bullet train rather than fighting on the ground.  But the film has still made a jarring transition from character piece to its hero ducking and jumping over street signs like he’s in a video game.  Fighting a giant robot and a woman who can shed her skin is still entertaining, but it also feels much sillier when not too long ago our hero was previously coming to grips with his identity.


Thankfully, no matter how far the film goes to embrace its more cartoonish aspects, it’s still all about Wolverine as a character rather than part of a set piece.  His popularity is obviously due in part to his superpowers, but we’ve reached the point in movies where we’re seeing superpowers all the time.  Furthermore, blockbuster heroics have become so abstract that we’re debating how many innocent citizens have died so the superhero can save the day.  The Wolverine isn’t intended as a repudiation of other superhero movies, but it’s still a welcome celebration of the man who is the best at what he does even if it doesn’t involve saving the world.

Rating: B


Around The Web
  • Stan

    Good review Matt. Exactly how I felt about it. I thought you were going to tear it to pieces. I watched it and enjoyed the real character driven story. It really is not a typical comic movie which is why it works.

    • Lance

      I thought it was pretty good, too. All the superhero movies are moving to become so big and grandiose that they’re all going to be about fighting alien invasions pretty soon.

      This movie managed to step back from the need to go Michael Bay, and yet I didn’t feel like I was cheated of any entertainment. Moving the action to Japan was a refreshing change for the franchise, too.

      Stick around through the credits.

  • Jason Richards

    Another crappy review from Goldberg.

    • HydrogenChaos

      A “B” is pretty fair. Especially after X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

      I’m good with a “B”.

      • Jason Richards

        I’ve seen the movie and it should’ve got a D.

      • Lex Walker

        Just so I know what your scale looks like, what would Man of Steel have gotten?

      • Jason Richards


      • Starfox210

        SHOULD’VE got a D. It’s Goldberg’s opinion, not yours.

      • Random

        Why don’t you get your own site? In fact, why don’t you write a review right here, right now?

    • Tom

      I understand that not everybody has to like and agree his reviews, but comments like crappy/shitty review on every article is very boring and annoying.

      Express your opinion by giving arguments and constructive opinion.

    • 97point6

      Did you rush headlong to be first with this marvelous, well thought out retort, or did you actually read his review? Sorry JR, earns only a D+.

    • Josh Kaye

      Hate to say it but I actually agree 100% with Goldberg on this one. Kinda hurts my soul to be honest.

    • Nadgers

      Another crappy Goldberg comment from a jerk.

  • Tom

    I’m glad that film won’t (probably) repeat failure “X-Men Orgins: Wolverine”.

  • King of the Desert

    No mention of what is arguably the best Post/Mid Credits scene in a Marvel film since Iron Man? Obviously don’t give it away but I think it warrants a mention in the review so people stay.

  • Person

    Literally every review of this movie is saying the same thing: great character piece until it falls apart in the end with a huge action scene. Sounds good to me.

    • Bob

      Lol, same here. The only thing bad about a huge action scene at the end is if it’s generic. So lets hope its not. It is a superhero film…what they expecting, them to just talk it and be like your right Wolverine here’s your immortality back put the cuffs on me and you can go home….

      • Lance

        The action scene at the end is a bit of a letdown, because it’s kind of expected. And the rest of the movie has a somewhat more grounded approach.

        [SEMI-SPOILERS] I wish they had found a different ultimate bad guy, because that would have been more surprising, but the ending wasn’t terrible by any means.

  • McA

    So, is anyone worried about that post credits scene and how it doesn’t make a lick of sense?


    I’m talking about the fact that if Days Of Future Past picks up after X Men: The Last Stand and The Wolverine, as the post credit scene would appear to indicate, how in the hell does that possibly match up to the timeline in First Class?

    I’m starting to suspect Vaughn left because he didn’t want to be saddled with a hugely confusing plot that undoes all the good work of First Class. Seriously hope I’m wrong though. Days Of Future Past is a classic storyline that deserves a quality adaptation.

    As for The Wolverine – Jackman is great as ever but the film is just watchable. Wouldn’t get it on DVD but I’d watch it if it was on tv.

    • DeadMenTellNewTales

      It’s a post-credit scene. It’s not really supposed to explain everything. Just tease us and offer some sort of initial setup.

      It’s Bryan Singer, if anybody knows good theatrical quality X-Men, it’s him. And it’s time travel. There’s a lot of ways you can fix the timeline with that.

      • McA

        Hope you’re right. Still, I wish they could’ve teased it (i.e. Those big bad mutant hunting machines) a bit better.

        I get that it’s all about the set-up with post-cred scenes but with X-Men, I feel it’s different. The timeline was reset with First Class and I know they plan on re-wiring things in DOFP but to tease it the way did at the end of The Wolverine doesn’t fill me with confidence. Don’t forget Singer has had two duds in a row now and Kinberg wrote The Last Stand.

        Approaching this one with caution. The cast has me exited and the potential for the storyline. The folks behind the camera not so much.

      • DeadMenTellNewTales

        They’re called Sentinels by the way.

        Good point with Singer, Giant Slayer was just a snooze. But he’s always been more confident with sci-fi than fantasy.

    • Foxverine and the Foxmen

      Dude. It’s Fox. You’re not getting a “quality adaptation”. You should know this by now.

      • McA

        I live in hope. Foolish hope! It’s just that cast. Damn, that cast is good. I hate seeing it potentially go to waste.

        In any event, I’m sure the likes of Fassbender and McAvoy will make this watchable. Those guys seriously elevated First Class which I’d rate as the best adaptation thus far. Not perfect but Vaughn and Goldman did a good job on First Class.

  • Murdoch

    Damn . . . this means the movie S-U-C-K-S !

  • LEM

    The studios need to get together because we need Wolverine fighting the Hulk.

    • I Fucked a Jawa

      I want that scene from the comics when Hulk rips Wolfie in half.

      • Strong Enough

        so every kid in the audience can scream with nightmares? lmao

      • I Fucked a Jawa

        Not everyone pisses their pants as easily as you.

      • Strong Enough

        if i was a kid sure but now? nope

      • I Fucked a Jawa

        WAS a kid? Pretty sure you’re still a sad little 9 year old brat who’s learning how to troll for the first time. And I’ve noticed you’ve disliked every comment that replies to it.

      • Strong Enough

        whoa, whoa, whoa, who shit in your cereal this morning? lmao but by your username i can see you have issues so i’ll take every reply from you after this with enjoyment and laughter. carry on

      • Walter White

        He is right about the dislikes though. I’ve noticed that too.

      • I AM A BANNANA!!!! FEAR ME!!!!

        Strong Enough isn’t strong enough to handle other people’s opinions clashing with his own so disliking them is the only way for him to cope.

      • Hammer

        Yeah he’s fucking douchebag who’s asinine comments makes no sense whatsoever. Just ignore that prat

      • Strong Enough

        another one of my fans! i love you all! ha!

      • Strong Enough

        still mad no Dredd sequel? ha!

      • Strong Enough

        that must have been the highlight of your day eh? lmao

  • Saltonstall

    This seems to be pretty close to the general consensus.

  • A-Man

    “a welcome celebration of the man who is the best at what he does even if it doesn’t involve saving the world”

    wait. wait. wait. wait. wait.
    so this movie gets a ‘B’ rating because Wolverine is simply good at being Wolverine in the 5th film about what it’s like being Wolverine – which amounts to being a hairy moping cnut most of the time…

    this is like how everyone can’t see the wood for the trees in Nolan’s Batman films, just because everyone loves the character of Batman. In the comics. Or the tv series.

    I’m sorry. We’re coming to an apex. One day we are all going to wake up and realise we do not want to watch the same movie over and over and over again.

    • M

      1. Actually, the movie gets a B-rating because it’s really a great character piece until it falls apart in Act Three.

      2. We’re never gonna realize that we don’t want to watch the same movie over and over. It’ll never happen.

      • Lex Walker

        Especially since we buy movies specifically so we *can* watch the same movie over and over and over.

  • Strong Enough

    this could have been best picture material. the wolverine story is so tragic. I think directors need to stop looking at it as a comic book and start looking at it as just another story like goodfellas or jackie brown. Nolan did that and gave us a TDK which changed filmmaking and inspired his peers to raise their bars. that is the only way we are going to elevate cbms. darren would have made it something special but alas we are not worthy of such greatness.

    • Nathan

      Fair enough. Although I do think that theres a place for comic book movies with plenty of cartoon action in them, just so long as it works with the story.

      • Strong Enough

        oh of course. always have to have both.

      • HydrogenChaos

        I know a lot of people hate the X3, but the final battle where everyone’s line up ready to fight at the prison reminded of me of the opening to the X-Men cartoon from the 90′s.

        Thought that was pretty cool.

      • Strong Enough

        yeah it was alright

    • That Yellow Bastard

      Technically Singer set the tone by grounding the X-Men into a relatable tale of persecution layered with superheroics and powers.

  • Django

    Bravo, Matt. I have to say, this is about one of 5 times when I agreed with you! I will def be seeing The Wolverine. I love the small-scale, controlled tone of the film.

  • The Wolverine is AWESOME!

    ‘The Wolverine’ was awesome! and the credits scene…..damn that was even more awesome. Will see it again for sure! ‘The Wolverine’ is 100% better than Iron Man 3 and 100% better than the Man Of Steel. Hopefully there is a Wolverine 3!

    • GunzOfNavarone

      Agree with you on both accounts, thought exactly the same when I left the cinema. It was far far superior to Iron Man 3. No Goofy humour.

  • Can’t Please NOBODY

    I’m just wondering when action sequences in a superhero film became a bad thing? More specifically, how these sequences are now either written off as “silly and cartoonish” or accused of being “irresponsibly violent blah blah 9/11″. Has everyone forgotten that the only reason Superheroes even exist is because people instinctively enjoy seeing a “good guy” beating the shit out of a “bad guy”. Yet, somehow we have become so jaded as an audience that we want our modern superhero beatdowns to be kept to a minimum and/or casualty-free…and they can’t be “comic booky” either.

    • That Yellow Bastard

      I guess alot of modern superhero movies are more about big effects and scale than telling a solid story of why things are happening, doing it because the bad guy is evil is frankly boring the heroes need a reason to risk their life as does the villains to commit such acts.

      The Action shoould compliment the story, not the other way around

  • TJ

    I’m in!

  • poppincherry

    Another snooze fest from Hollywood. I’ll wait for it to appear on iTunes.

    • Why Bother Anymore?

      Who the hell still buys stuff from iTunes?

  • Random

    Matt, why don’t you direct a movie?

  • eternalozzie

    Just got back from seeing this movie … very generic superhero movie … lacked character depth … basically undid all the X-men universe healing First Class did. Viper was SO out of place in this film. Her shedding her skin at the end of the movie served no purpose. Just a really bad movie in general .. Hugh Jackman was its only redeeming quality.

  • Pingback: “The Wolverine” Movie Review: Logan as a Ronin | Snippet Studios()