The Wolverine

00:00 August 05, 2013
By: Greg Roques
[Courtesy of Marvel]

** and ½ out of ****

The Wolverine is a mostly entertaining, somewhat pointless, addition to the Marvel cinematic universe, and the summer movie season as a whole. Better than most recent comic-based flicks, but a disposable, one-time ride none-the-less.

The Wolverine gets several things right that other action/superhero films this summer have not. For one, the big battles in this movie are all original and overflowing with adrenaline. A train-top dual - an episode so repetitive in big-budget blockbusters that its very inclusion now is just lazy - is the film's most perilous experience. Director James Mangold perfectly paces the moment to maximize tension, sharpening this played-out routine's dull claws. Another great scene sees a clan of ninjas slowly bring a sprinting Wolverine to a halt by spearing him with more than two-dozen anchored harpoons.

The Wolverine's fatal flaw is that it does nothing to deepen our understanding of its eponymous protagonist, nor does it add anything to the X-Men universe at large. Though a monologue in the beginning opens the window for Wolverine to examine the possibility of his mortality when his healing powers begin to fade, this plot device does nothing more than heighten the stakes for the fight sequences. Still, you're never really afraid for Wolverine, as he goes unscratched the majority of the movie. Ancillary villainess Viper is thrown in simply to add another mutant to the cast. Not only are her motivations never revealed, but her presence distracts from Wolverine's more intense matches against human adversaries, whose level playing field with the weakened super-human remind the audience of his recent mortality. The final battle with a giant CGI-samurai is a great action sequence; however, there is a "twist" thrown in that anyone who has ever seen a movie and is half-paying attention will anticipate.

Another problem I have with The Wolverine is the lack of bloodshed - sure, it's a PG-13 affair, but with Wolverine ramming his metallic claws into countless dozens of villains every several minutes, you would expect at least a little clean up. There's also a great scene where Wolverine claws his chest open to remove a parasite from his heart. This could have been delightfully cringe inducing, like the scene in Prometheus when Noomi Rapace cuts an alien from her womb. However, the scene is purposely edited alongside a yawn-inducing sword fight, leaving most of his self-surgery to the imagination. Perhaps a director's cut will satisfy.

Ultimately, The Wolverine exists as a film merely as a precursor to next summer's X-Men: Days of Future Past, which marries the original X-Men trilogy with 2011's First Class reboot through a time-travel plot involving Wolverine. By The Wolverine's end, the title character comes to terms with his demons, and is ready to be a "soldier" again, setting the stage for his reemergence next year. This resolution could have been addressed quickly and effortlessly in the coming film, but then, the studio wouldn't be able to cash in twice. Still, for his sixth outing as Wolverine, Jackman's character still entertains. The film isn't tired and overdone like Iron Man 3, or mind-numbingly meatheaded like Man of Steel, but its memory will fade almost as quickly.

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