Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Wolverine

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language
Profanity:A few bad words, some s-words and one f-word
Nudity/Sex:Scenes of sensuality and non-explicit sexual situation
Violence/Scariness:Extensive superhero-style action peril violence
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:July 25, 2013
DVD Release Date:December 3, 2013


The first X-Men spin-off movie with Hugh Jackman as the super-healing, never-aging mutant who shoots blades out of his knuckles was called “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”  This one is called “The Wolverine.” Got it?

Wolverine is the, well, lone wolf of the X-Men.  After a flashback that shows him saving the life of a Japanese soldier as the atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, this chapter opens he is doing the Grizzly Adams thing, living in a cabin on a mountain far from everyone.  His dreams are haunted by memories of Jean (Famke Janssen), missing her terribly and consumed with guilt over her death.  That is the closest he gets to companionship.  Because he does not age, he has witnessed more than a century of tragedy and destruction.  He feels guilty for his part in it and he does not have the heart to engage any more.  Or so he thinks.  A poisoned arrow shot into a bear is enough to provoke his sense of justice.  Or his anger, which is close to the same thing.

Out of hiding for a moment is enough time for him to be found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a Japanese martial arts specialist with punky red hair.  She tells him that the man whose life he once saved is dying and wants him to fly to Japan to say goodbye.  He agrees to go for one day, but of course it turns out to be a lot more complicated and dangerous.  Wolverine ends up having to rescue Yuikio’s sort-of sister Mariko (a pretty but colorless Tao Okamoto) from some bad guys including a lady with literally poisonous breath and a viper tongue (an unconvincing Svetlana Khodchenkova).  One drawback of putting a real actor in the lead role is that is sets the bar pretty high.  Jackman has more acting ability and screen presence than anyone else in the film and that throws off the whole movie off balance.

A superhero movie has to have three things: a reason to care about the characters, sensational action scenes, and a really interesting villain.  I’d give this movie one out of three.  There are some great action scenes, particularly a fight on top of what we’re told is a 300-mile-an-hour bullet train.  It is a wonder of split-second timing.  And Fukushima is a quick, inventive, and graceful combatant.

Secondary factors are strong as well.  Director James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) draws effectively from the visuals of the Japanese atmosphere and setting, though does not make much from the culture beyond a demonstration of how to tie a samurai’s belt and a warning that chopsticks sticking straight up from a bowl are a bad omen.  Wolverine has existential conflicts.  I’d give a lot for a non-angsty superhero these days, but there is an interesting twist here in tying his reluctance to get involved to the emotional exhaustion of an endless life span.  A superhero needs a super-villain, though.  Here Wolverine fights a series of interchangeable yakuza thugs in action scenes that are artistically staged, especially one with arrows raining down on Wolverine’s broad shoulders and back, but the pay-off on who is behind it all is scarcely worth it.  The real ending to the film comes during the final credits, when we see that what has been missing from this film is promisingly on board for the next installment.

Parents should know that this film includes constant fantasy superhero peril and violence with some graphic injuries and disturbing images, swords, knives, arrows, poison, characters injured and killed, drinking, some strong language (s-words, one f-word), and a non-explicit sexual situation.

Family discussion: What does Wolverine mean when he says he is a soldier? Why was he so isolated at the beginning of the movie and what made him change his mind?

If you like this, try: the “X-Men” movies and comic books

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jv

    I agree. There was no villain. It just ruined the whole thing to have a mechanical monster that showed up in the last act with no character development or real pathos.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, JV!

  • The Wolverine

    First and foremost I must say that I absolutely loved this movie. But as I will cover in my review it may largely be due to the fact that I have always held the source material of this film in very high regard. Having said that, I do recognize that their may be a sliding scale of enjoyability for this film. If you are a fan of the 1983 Claremont/Miller miniseries of Wolverine then this is the movie you have been waiting for. If you are fond of the character Wolverine and interested into delving deeper into his chronology and exploring his inner conflicts, you will certainly enjoy this movie. If however, you have no familiarity, or no desire to familiarize with the character of Wolverine, you may find yourself not caring about many of the slower moments and longing for a more evenly paced action film.

    Fans of Claremont’s Wolverine rejoice, this Wolverine does it right. The film does its best keeping characters intact while deviating from the comics in the sake of a self contained story and grander character development. There are several of the shots in this film that are near recreations of the comic’s original panels, and although story lines have been shifted and shuffled in some places, its all there. Mariko, Yukio, Harada, Shingen and Viper may develop differently than in the comic series, but their relation to each other and contextual significance is intact. As a Wolverine fan it was also nice to see a meaningful relationship blossom between Wolverine and Mariko, unlike the comics where it really is love at first sight. Instead here Wolverine falls in love not entirely with the character of Mariko, but rather with the idea of being a protector, a take that is a welcome addition to the Claremont storyline. The characters of Silver Samurai and Viper undergo the largest facelift in this film, but it isn’t entirely out of place. Let us not forget they were involved in the X Men issues directly connecting to the Wolverine miniseries. Although their characters have undertaken slight adjustments in order to incorporate ideas from the Fatal Attractions storyline, the plot does well to take from Wolverine’s side of this storyline because it was one of the few times in the series where Logan did feel vulnerable. Many fans will recognize that the plot device and character of Master Yashida cannot be found in any of the original comics, but one must keep in mind it serves as a useful device to connect all the developments of Logan’s journey. All in all I think its the best character study of Wolverine that any fan could ask for. Wolverine struggles with his animalistic urges and his commitment to reform, he grapples to find meaning in his endless immortality, and he ultimately finds purpose and resolution that he had not before. None of these developments are significantly or profoundly discovered, rather they are slowly revealed, which may turn casual movie goers off from enjoying this film. As a thoughtful exploration of Wolverine’s character and a grand homage to incredible source material though, how can any Wolverine fan say no to this movie? It is the best X-Men movie and one of the best comic based movies.

    For those who would not consider themselves fans, but are rather moviegoers intent on enjoying a superhero epic, be warned. This film is a character study, it does not grapple with any conflicts outside of Wolverine’s internal struggles. The world is not being threatened, and not many lives outside of Logan’s are even being threatened, so the storyline does not crescendo in epic suspense like the Avengers or the Dark Knight. So for those not invested in Wolverine’s personal self discovery, some of the action can seem unmotivated and the pacing an obstacle to satisfaction. The film does its job in providing action sequences, but it intersperses several moments of symbolic soul searching, cryptic metaphors and relationship building that serve as pavement for Wolverine’s self discovery. This movie can still be enjoyable without interest in Wolverine’s inner conflicts however. With an outstanding supporting cast, a beautiful setting, and gripping and intense action sequences, it plays a lot like a token Bond film for those unfamiliar with Wolverine.

    Whether you are familiar with the original comics or not, this movie will certainly provide entertaining thrills and intriguing themes. If, however, you are a fan of the original comic books, this film is a wonderful achievement.

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