The Wolverine (2013) Movie Review

Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine (2013) Movie Image

You would think making a solo adventure movie starring Wolverine, arguably the most popular Marvel Comics character of all time (though I’m sure Spider-Man could give him a run for his money) wouldn’t be so difficult. Then again, you might not have seen Gavin Hood’s atrocious “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. Based on the popular 1980s limited series comic book by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, James Mangold’s “The Wolverine” continues to explore the history of its titular character, while attempting to bridge the gap between Brett Ratner’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” and Bryan Singer’s return to the “X” universe in the upcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. Not that “The Wolverine” needs those two movies to make sense, but it helps to know what’s come before.

The film picks up with Logan aka Wolverine (Jackman) sleeping in the woods and having sexy dreams about Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, who shows up throughout the movie in a handful of sequences) that always seems to end bloody. He’s a grizzled, broken, and lost animal (in body and mind), tortured by his past and indifferent to his future. His only buddy is a bear, and they spend their time marking their territory in the woods. He only shows up in town for batteries, but that’s when a spunky red-haired Yukio (Rila Fukushima) spots him and informs him that a Japanese soldier whose life he saved during WWII is dying, and the man wants to pay Logan back. Chased by the cops after a bar incident (what is the deal with Logan and bar incidents involving redneck types?), Logan skedaddles to Japan.

Rila Fukishima and Hiroyuki Sanada in The Wolverine (2013) Movie Magazine Scan Image

Logan reunites with a dying Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), the richest man in Japan, who claims he and his mysterious scientist/doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova) have found a way to take away Logan’s mortality. Now Logan can get rid of that bothersome regenerative mutant power that’s become the bane of his existence. Except, well, Logan says No. Which is odd. I thought the whole point was that he wants a mortal existence? Doesn’t he spend all his dreams with Jean Grey saying he wants to join her in the afterlife? But hey, he’s a complicated man, and it’s about to get more complicated. After a night at the Yashida compound, Logan wakes up to discover that he’s not healing nearly as fast as he once did, and bullets now hurt. Like, really, really hurt. He starts hobbling around like a gimp hurt.

That’s not good, especially since he sort of falls for Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who happens to already be engaged to some political douche. Mariko’s dad Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) is up to no good and doesn’t seem to be particularly discreet about it, and a bunch of Yakuza and ninja types are all up in everyone’s bidness, especially when it comes to Mariko. Featuring a script by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank (with some script doctoring by the prolific Christopher McQuarrie), “The Wolverine” is probably your most accessible film to the character yet. The Logan we see here is much more human than even he wants to admit. Despite his powers and his brooding, the fact is, ol Logan really does want to live. He just needs a reason.

The Silver Samurai and Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine (2013) Movie Image

In order to jack up the danger level for the fiery Canucklehead, Mangold and company have made the decision to strip him of his one major fallback — his mutant healing ability. This little twist is more than enough to turn what could have been a pretty standard superhero film into a surprisingly existential drama, with doses of heavy action thrown in there. There is nice chemistry between Jackman and the ridiculously pretty Tao Okamoto, though I was a little disappointed Fukushima’s Yukio disappears for a big chunk of the film’s middle section. With her red hair and renegade personality, Yukio easily overshadows both Okamoto and Khodchenkova. That is, when she’s onscreen. Like I said, there are whole chunks where she disappears.

“The Wolverine” is set in the world of the “X-Men” movies, where mutants exist and are acknowledged, but don’t expect crazy mutant showdowns. There are a couple of other people with mutant powers about, but for the most part Mangold has crafted the most down-to-Earth comic book movie you could probably do when your hero has adamantium bones and claws coming out of his knuckles. Mangold is an excellent director, and he’s one of my favorites, but he’s never been known as someone with the groundbreaking visual stylings of, say, a Christopher Nolan or Zack Snyder. “The Wolverine” is excellently filmed and the action scenes are always good (the bullet train fight in particular is inspired), but my jaw was never on the floor. The 3D is borderline atrocious, and its one saving grace may be the train sequence, but that’s 5 minutes in a 2-hour film. If you have the option, pick the 2D showing.

Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine (2013) Movie Image

“The Wolverine” is rated PG-13, and besides a couple of gunshot wounds, it’s a surprisingly bloodless movie. Wolverine’s claws slash and dices throughout the film, but you rarely see the results of his ferocity. Sorry, but this isn’t the bloody Wolverine movie you’ve been waiting for, kids, though in recent interviews, director James Mangold has mentioned a possible R or Unrated Director’s Cut for the DVD/Blu-ray. At times the film is so bloodless it borders on the comical, especially since everyone is shooting, stabbing, or getting filled with arrows. In fact, I think most of the bloodletting comes from Wolverine himself, who gets shot, stabbed, sliced, and skewered multiple times throughout the movie. It’s a damn good thing Jackman is in great shape for the role.

One thing I should mention: we never really get the Logan vs. The Hand fight that we were promised. Oh, there is something that looks like a Logan vs. The Hand fight, but it ends way too quickly and just wasn’t the slam-bang, balls-out action sequence I was expecting. In fact, it really was a huge disappointment, though I get it, they had to transition to the finale. Even so, where the hell did all the ninjas go? Fortunately, there is enough good parts of “The Wolverine” that I’m willing to forgive this major fumbling of the ball on Mangold’s part. “The Wolverine” can easily be viewed as a standalone film (though again, it helps if you know who Jean Grey is), and is easily the best Wolverine movie since Bryan Singer’s first “X-Men”.

(Note: Stay after the credits for a crowd pleasing teaser.)

James Mangold (director) / Mark Bomback, Scott Frank, Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay)
CAST: Hugh Jackman … Logan / Wolverine
Rila Fukushima … Yukio
Svetlana Khodchenkova … Viper
Will Yun Lee … Kenuichio Harada
Famke Janssen … Jean Grey
Tao Okamoto … Mariko Yashida
Hiroyuki Sanada … Shingen Yashida
Hal Yamanouchi … Yashida

Buy The Wolverine on DVD or Blu-ray



About Nix

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Editor/Writer at BeyondHollywood.com. Likes: long walks on the beach and Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic movies. Dislikes: 3D, shaky cam, and shaky cam in 3D. Got a site issue? Wanna submit Movie/TV news? Or to email me in regards to anything on the site, you can do so at nix (at) beyondhollywood.com.

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  • http://www.grifiti.com Tin Hoang

    This does not sound good. definitely not the movie I was hoping for. maybe the blu-ray director’s cut will be it. was going to see it this weekend, but maybe I’ll wait for the blu-ray to an R version with a fresh viewing.

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Nix

      Well it falls in line with the other mutant/X-Men movies. PG-13.

      • http://www.grifiti.com Tin Hoang

        Yea, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. It was unrated for such a long time, i figured they were contemplating going R with it. Looks like at the last minute, they went with PG13. A director’s cut sounds interesting though.

        • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Nix

          It is what it is. (And I hate that saying.) It’s a miracle it turned out as well as it did, given the crass commercialism involved, e.g. the lousy 3D, PG13 rating, etc.

          • http://www.grifiti.com Tin Hoang

            Yea, it does sound decent still. Better than the first one at least.

          • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

            Yeah that was pretty much what i was expecting. Never thought for a minute this would get more than a PG-13 so I’m hoping for a Director’s cut as well. Will probably still see this on the big screen, as you’ve said enough positive stuff about it as I need to hear from you.

          • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Nix

            I wished the Hand fight was better. I waited the WHOLE MOVIE for that and when it was over, I swear I felt like someone had stolen my lunch.

          • a.k.a. Nate

            lol…’hand fight’

    • Aegon the Conqueror

      Let me set your mind at ease Tim, I just finished watching it and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It’s so much better than Origins and by far the best version of Wolverine we’ve seen since the War montage of Origins (the only good thing bout that film IMO).
      So go and see it, not too shabby at all and the post credits scene was quite nice too.

    • a.k.a. Nate

      It’s an extremely edgy PG-13….there actually blood on the claws. And Wolverine gives us a strong use of the word “f*ck” to tide us over….amongst some other rated R worthy events.

  • M@rvel

    Who is The Hand that you speak of???

    • http://www.grifiti.com Tin Hoang

      You mean the Ninja clan?

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Nix

      The ninja clan in the film. Though I don’t think they were ever referred to specifically as The Hand.

      • M@rvel

        Is there at least a good action sequence with the Silver Samurai??

        • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Nix

          The finale is Wolvie vs. the Silver Samurai. It’s not the Silver Samurai from the comics, but it’s reasonably exciting.

          • 0ptik

            i thought the silver samurai was alright if it wasnt based on the comics version. technology powering up his swords kinda dissapointed me to be honest.

            also, you didnt mention the new viper, what did you think of her?

            also also, they called the ninjas Black Clan i think, or maybe i miss heard and they were saying black hand, but i’m pretty sure it was clan.

          • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Nix

            Yes, I do believe they said “The Black Clan”. And the Viper was okay. The only thing I really noticed about her was that the actress playing her has a big ol mole at the corner of her mouth.

  • a.k.a. Nate

    Listen!… All I wanna know is (not really) do the claws look like that sh*t CGI from the ‘other’ wolverine movie we dare not speak of??? Cuz that sh*t looked like the studio saw a rough cut and said “f*ck this, we’re not putting another cent into this god d*mn film. Let his claws stay like cartoons”…..

    • 0ptik

      i completely agree with your cgi claws from wolverine origins, i made the same comment seeing them for the first time and yes, they changed them back to first xmen trilogy claws.

    • Juggernaut

      I was hesitant about what the claws were going to be like after XOW as well but I assure you that they, along with the rest of the effects, were extremely well done.

      • a.k.a. Nate

        I just finished watching it right now…. all’s I have to say is “finally”

  • nardong toothpick

    I’m sick and tired of wolverine movies, all the x-men movies where wolverine and the x-men except for the x-men first class which is the best so far. I hope they don’t make any wolverine movies anymore and focus on other characters. I’d love to have a cyclops movie for a change or nate summers.

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

      I’m not sick of them but I agree about your statement about the X-men films being WOlverine and the X-men except for First Class, and now we have DoFP and that’s back to Wolverine and teh X-men but the story looks decent. Fox using Wolverine is them being safe, just like DC using Batman and Superman for the animated films all the time.

  • Juggernaut

    I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. I had no real desire to see it but I am really glad that I did. This was the best interpertation of the chracter yet IMO.
    The story was weel paced and the tone of Logan as well as the rest of the cast was really well done. The fact that the story was centered on Wolverine and not overdstuffed with obligitory cameos was exactly what needed to be done and worked on all levels.
    The claws were right. The hair was right. His demeanor was right. His relationships with Yuriko and Mariko were played terrifically. Especially Mariko. This was one of the only comic movies where the love story aspect didn’t seem rushed.
    Go see this movie!
    You’ll be glad you did even for just the after credits scene alone.

  • a.k.a. Nate

    One thing that did irk me throughout the whole movie was the fact that Wolverine was able to remember the old man and what he did for him during WW II….even if you do (justifiably) omit the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he still had memory issues in X1 & X2….
    ….this is yet ANOTHER inconsistency in the X-Men films to add to the long ‘continuity issue list’.

    • Juggernaut

      I thought the same thing. Having those evets trigger a revelation and seeing Logan have his memory jogged would have done wonders.

      • a.k.a. Nate

        …and you know what? Now that I think about it! They didn’t ignore X-Men Origins whatsoever…bone claws, duh! These writers really do miss some obvious sh*t…and where is at least one person during production asking these questions. Even sh*tty episodics on television keep track of their continuity better than these motherf*ckers. It’s it really that hard to maintain some consistency with these movies? This isn’t 007 we’re talking about, ya know.

  • Ziexx

    http://i.imgur.com/tA8sGJS.jpg
    I think they should’ve gone Last Samurai all the way, even bringing Ken Watanabe… it would’ve been way WAY better (even though you can only go up after X-Men Origins : Wolverine)

  • Sojourner

    Just caught the extended cut….MUCH better than what I was expecting from this review and others in the comments so the added scenes must have helped a lot.

    Now I’m REALLY hoping Yukio is still around, not just in the next Wolverine movie.