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The Wolverine - Review

The Wolverine

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IF Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise was inspired as much by crime sagas as it was comic book conventions, then James Mangold’s The Wolverine takes its cues from both the Samurai and Western genres.

The director has long believed that the two are intrinsically linked (as did Sergio Leone in adapting A Fistful of Dollars from Yojimbo and John Sturges when turning The Seven Samurai into The Magnificent Seven). The result, in The Wolverine‘s case, are just as enjoyable.

Having been given a lot of freedom to explore the Logan character and allow him centre-stage, Mangold hasn’t missed a trick. Rather, he infuses The Wolverine with a darkness and grit that has only really been hinted at so far.

And while some viewers may bemoan the general lack of humour, this only makes The Wolverine more notable for trying to offer something different without the need to reboot yet again.

Hence, after a pre-credits sequence set in Nagasaki at the climax of the Second World War (which establishes Logan’s Japanese connection), the film picks up after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand as Logan (Hugh Jackman) attempts to live life off the radar in The Yukan.

He’s tempted out of the wilderness, however, by Japanese warrior Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who invites him to Tokyo to say goodbye to ailing businessman Yoshida (Hal Yamanouchi), the man he saved in Nagasaki. But their reunion thrusts Logan into the middle of a power struggle between ambitious Japanese politicians and the Yakuza who are searching for the secret to Logan’s immortality.

In many ways, it is the question of what it means to be immortal that drives much of Mangold’s film, as well as issues of identity, heroism and love. That the film is able to explore them at length is also testament to the director’s desire to pay equal lip service to story and characterisation as he is grand action set pieces.

This finds Logan at his most vulnerable, especially once temporarily stripped of his own healing powers, and adds an element of danger that is sorely missing from a lot of superhero movies. It also enables Jackman to explore a greater emotional complexity (and even frailty), which the actor grasps with both hands.

There’s notable support, too, from the likes of Fukushima as the enigmatic Yukio, Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida (who needs Logan’s protection), and Hiroyuki Sanada.

When the action does come, it’s also suitably spectacular, often supremely well staged and exciting. An extended chase sequence that begins at Yoshida’s funeral and ends on top of a speeding bullet train is an easy highlight, as is Logan’s tussle with some ninjas in the snow.

Admittedly, the film’s climax does conform to a slightly more tried and tested battle against the odds scenario but even then, the stakes involved are more personal as opposed to global threatening.

And a mid-end credits set-up for forthcoming X-Men movie Days of Future Past also succeeds in laying a mouthwatering taster of future adventures to come.

But on its own stand-alone terms, The Wolverine has to rate as one of the better blockbusters of the year and a genuinely worthwhile outing for this particular character. If he does get another movie of his own, it would be good to follow in similar vein.

Read our interview with director James Mangold

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 126mins
UK Release Date: July 25, 2013