Published Dec 03, 2013Let's just get it out there: The Wolverine is easily among the most artistically crafted mainstream superhero films ever attempted. And to a large degree, James Mangold's take on the classic story created by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller is very successful. Minor details are tweaked to ratchet up the dramatic tension, like the repression of Marvel's gruffest mutant's healing factor, but the thematic intent of the piece is wholly intact.
Set after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (wisely ignoring X-Men Origins), we catch up with Logan (Hugh Jackman) in the throes of depression and despair over how he was forced to deal with Jean Grey's existence-threatening tizzy. After establishing the depths of his misery and finding a flicker of his warrior's spirit in a scene involving douchebag hunters and a wounded bear that will surely delight comic geeks and animal lovers alike, Mr. Knife Knuckles is summoned to attend a wealthy and powerful old friend on his deathbed in Japan where he becomes embroiled in a deadly clan feud.
With the aid of screenwriters Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) puts together a concise version of Wolverine's beloved Japanese adventure, which is as much a character study as it is a moody action film modeled after Clint Eastwood westerns and the samurai films from which they derive. Yes, the action sequences are exhilarating (especially the bullet train scene), shot with impressive fluidity (thanks in no small part to Jackman's ability to master complicated choreography with ease), but they rarely linger long enough to fall into the trap of action for action's sake; far more than the majority of its peers, The Wolverine uses violence to reveal character and advance the plot.
The stunning visual palette, art design and highly considered cinematography are all given equal weight with the stunt work, intense training and special effects in the Blu-Ray disc's modest bonus features. All of this information, along with a lot of talk on adapting the story from the comics — including favourable thoughts from Claremont himself — is conveyed in "The Path of a Ronin," which is essentially a five-part look behind the scenes of the film's production.
A very minor alternate ending is also included, as is a brief visit to the X-Men: Days of Future Past set, but that's it. In a major dick move, Fox has opted to only include the coveted director's cut (including a commentary track) of the film on the 3D Blu-Ray version, despite the extended version only being viewable in 2D. So, unless you're willing to fork out unnecessary cash, you won't know if Mangold's preferred version is enough to push The Wolverine all the way ahead of previous genre high-water marks like X2 and into the territory of Sam Mendes' art house/action icon hybrid, Skyfall.
(Twentieth Century Studios)