The “X-Men” series has certainly shared its ups and downs. It cannot be underestimated how important the first “X-Men” (2000) movie was. That was the film that really started “The Golden Age” of comic book movies that we are still presently in today. Richard Donner’s “Superman: The Movie” (1978) and Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1989) were certainly big steps forward with comic book movies and showed that it could be done, but they were more of stepping stones to a much bigger event. Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” (2000) was the film that started “the superhero craze” and its success helped spawn all superhero films after it. Is it among the greatest superhero film of all time? No, but is it among the most important? Absolutely, “X2: X-Men United” (2003) was the next huge step forward with the genre with was a sequel that was better than the first. However that’s where the “X-Men” universe started to crumble. Bryan Singer left the series to direct the Superman revival, “Superman Returns” (2006). Brett Ratner took over the reins for “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), which was thought to be the final installment in the trilogy and the series took a nose dive. It was among one of the most disappointing superhero films if not among the worst. But even still the next installment looked like it would be one of the most badass superhero films ever, Gavin Hood’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009). Then came another disappointing installment, although not as bad as “Last Stand” it still wasn’t very good and we all expected much more. So it is of course no surprise many of us were skeptical of another Wolverine film. Fans felt so robbed with the first Wolverine movie and if made right it would have completely made up for “Last Stand”. So with this new Wolverine, doubt surrounded many of our minds, even though Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class” (2011) was an incredible entry in the series. So did the new Wolverine (2013) deliver? The answer is this is everything we wanted the first Wolverine film to be and even though it had a very disappointing final act, it is an amazing superhero film that is both deeper than expected and filled with incredible action sequences.
Loosely based off the 4 part miniseries by Frank Miller and Chris Claremont, James Mangold’s “The Wolverine” (2013) takes place after “The Last Stand”, Logan/Wolverine is alone and broken. His heart has been stabbed and deep down he has lost his purpose in life. A man from Japan summons him, one man from Logan’s past. A man he once saved, in his return to Japan he has to not only fight his own demons but new ones at well, all when he is becoming most vulnerable.
The narrative is much unexpected in this film. Instead of simply creating story that helps move to the next mindless action sequence, it creates a story that instead goes deep into the character of Wolverine. How he deals with everything he has gone through. This is much more of a character study than any other of the X-Men films or even more than most other superhero films. There is plenty of action in the film, but they all serve a purpose to further the story. Wolverine, as said before, is at his lowest of lows here. He is on his own, no X-Men, no nothing. He is back living in the wilderness near a bear. But the real meat of the story happens when he gets to Japan and through his interactions with the man he saved and his family members, there are more added layers that we didn’t have to the character before. In future X-Men/Wolverine films, with this one movie, gives the character an added depth and dimension that wasn’t present before, despite the well characterization in past films.
The romance is nicely put together. Never once does it feel forced unlike many of past superhero romances, which are nearly all contrived and there simply because the plot begs for one. Recently it seems the writers are starting to get smarter with the love stories. This is just a further continuation of that. The love story between Logan and Mariko develops quite nicely and the audience can understand why Logan would love her in the first place. The audience can root for them, and the actor and actress have great onscreen chemistry together. The relationship ends on a horrible note, but that is a product of the horrible final act.
The rest of the narrative keeps you guessing. There is a whole mysterious plot dealing with an assassination attempt on Mariko, which in the beginning and even in the 2nd act is surrounded in mystery. The whole time you’ll be trying to be the pieces of the puzzle together. It is well written, until the final third act of the film, which it is the film gets hurt the most.
If you read a number of reviews on this film then you will probably read the same thing in all of them. The third act is where the film suffers. The movie keeps building up and up to something grand and still at the moment we are still trying to figure out what the whole plot is leading too, and it’s still building up and then there is a confrontation between Wolverine and dozens of Ninjas and the trailer teased a big fight and the lines of dialogue is delivered and then the action starts, then nothing happens, the entire fight was cut out and edited. After that let down the film starts to take a hit. The plot becomes convoluted for the sake of plot twists. None of them make any sense and the action devolves back into very cartoony action that is completely different in the tone that was set up during the entire film. It has it its entertaining moments but it’s a tonal shift that takes you out of the film a bit.
Also stay for the ending credits, for possibly the most geek inducing freak out moment since the after credit scene in “Iron Man” (2008). You will love it! It does help set up for the next film, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014), and anyone who is familiar with the comics or even anyone who saw the first three “X-Men” movies will be freaking out of their minds in a scene that almost steals the show and almost everyone will be talking about
James Mangold does a great job with the film. He takes a Japanese influence, in both story and camera work, meshing that together with his own American style and storytelling style. Obviously many people were disappointed that Darren Aronofsky dropped out of the project, but Mangold is a great replacement for him and did a great job with the majority of the film, and does a fantastic job with the action sequences. The action (until the end) stay pretty grounded in reality, even the fight on top of the train feels realistic in how it would actually be if it could or would ever happen. The music by Marco Beltrami fits the film perfectly and the director of photography, Ross Emery creates an excellent look for the film.
Throughout the film, I was so surprised by it. It gave Wolverine some honest depth and emotion, and really added “some meat” to the character. The love story was interesting and never forced. The performances were great especially out of Hugh Jackman. The action was exciting and James Mangold’s steady direction really added to the film. Yet the final third act of the narrative is where it begins to crumble and hurt the entire overall product. The after credit scene almost makes up for the lacking third and final act of the story, but the film would have been a lot better if they nailed the ending. However everyone should go check this out, it is a different type of superhero film altogether, one that should be made more often.