Analyzing 2013 CBMs - THE WOLVERINE

Analyzing 2013 CBMs - THE WOLVERINE

The third of five editorials looking back at the CBMs of 2013. Now in his fifth appearance as everybody's favorite shaggy-haired, bezerker rage fueled mutant, does Hugh Jackman still have that X-Factor? Pun fully intended...

What up CBM – Minty’s back! Sorry for the slight delay - I’ve been a little busy this past week, but now I’m back with my latest editorial (and review) on this year’s third CBM (on release date). Thanks again for all your comments and support from my last two pieces - I hope you continue to like reading my stuff. Once again, there will be SPOILERS – please read/skim, comment and enjoy!

The Wolverine

Studio: 20th Century Fox/Marvel
Release Date (US): July 26, 2013
Director: James Mangold
Box Office (Global): $414 million

The Good

- The Lead: Hugh Jackman just keep getting better and better as his now legendary clawed character, and in this movie he arguably gives his greatest performance yet. He is the very heart of this character-driven film, excelling as the tormented and weary protagonist. No actor in the comic book movie industry gives as much as Jackman, whether its weight gain & muscle work (and boy does he look ripped here), or love and knowledge of their character. His performance has been universally praised by fans and critics alike, and is my favourite of the five leading roles this year.

- The Setting: The film’s main strength comes first and foremost from its unique location, and the isolation it enforces upon its central character. Mangold brings the city of Tokyo to life magnificently, bringing a new take to the CBM genre that is refreshingly different from the countless stories set in New York. My one criticism is that perhaps Mangold could have embraced the Japanese culture even more than he already did.

- The Action: The film contains the two best cinematic fight sequences of the year, augmented by some superb visuals from cinematographer Amir Mokri (who also did a great job on Man Of Steel). The first of these is the already famous bullet train sequence, which really was exhilarating to watch, and is a rare scene that actually justifies 3D. But my favourite was Logan’s ferocious battle with Shingen, set perfectly to thunderous lightning and rain and a pulsating score. The haunting image of Wolverine slowly removing the samurai sword from his own chest after killing Shingen will stay with me for a very long time.

- The Direction & Tone: After being jettisoned into the director’s chair following Darren Aranofsky’s disappointing departure, James Mangold does an exceptional job in the movie’s first two acts in creating the Wolverine film we have always wanted. He balances fast pace, brutal action sequences with strong emotional undertones of loneliness and betrayal – even pulling off a surprisingly pleasant change of pace in the middle act. But then, it was as expected from the man responsible for '3:10 To Yuma' and the brilliant 'Walk The Line'.

- (Some) Supporting Characters: While Hugh Jackman may have carried much of the film by himself, he was joined by a few notable performances. Rila Fukushima is the only other truly stand-out performer as the deadly yet strangely adorable Yukio, showing great chemistry with Jackman. Meanwhile, Will Yun Lee impresses as Harada in a role that should have been expanded, while Hiroyuki Sanada’s Shingen is easily the best villain of the piece.

The Mixed

- The Viper: Widely criticised as an unnecessary addition to the plot, I felt a little less harsh about the Viper’s inclusion. She fills her role, as a mutant, in adding an extra level of sci-fi to an otherwise fairly grounded movie, but aside from that she was misused. Her allegiance to Yashida somewhat makes her an annoyance, rather than a serious villain, when she should have been independently one of the major threats herself. Her powers, while initially threatening, quickly become a little redundant, and she isn’t allowed to be half as twisted as the trailers had promised. At times, weak acting from actress Svetlana Khodchenkova (who was great in ‘Tinker, Tailor’) also undermines the character.

- CGI: Something that the entire X-Men film series has suffered with a little is visual effects (bar X2). Here, while arguably the most ambitious scene is pulled off without a hitch (the bullet train sequence), other effects in the film don’t feel up to scratch – including during the Nagasaki explosion, the Funeral scene and the much-maligned finale (yep, the one with the robot - I’ll get to that…).

- The Plot (At Times): While the film was stuck in development hell, it underwent its fair share of script re-writes and overhauls. As such, at times the final product doesn’t yet feel complete, and suffers from a few niggling issues. The most grating of these is the whole plan around taking The Wolverine’s power, which feels generic and overdone, while the romance arc with Mariko is a little undeveloped also. The big departures from the comics with regards to the Silver Samurai (see below) and the addition of Yukio’s mutant power come across as very unnecessary as well.

The Bad

- The Third Act: What stops this film from ever becoming truly great is its very weak third act. In its last few scenes, the filmmakers almost undo their excellent work on the rest of the movie. The set-up scene with Logan and the ninjas is a little disappointing, and could have been executed as well as the earlier fight, but the real injustice arrives with the giant Silver Samurai robot – which comes across as completely out of style with the rest of this very subtle and non-standard Hollywood movie. After working so hard to create a unique type of CBM, Mangold reverts to common tricks by adding a Transformers-esque villain. The resultant removal of Wolverine’s adamantium claws also comes across as trying too hard to affect canon, especially given the positive standalone feel to the rest of the film. It appears as well from the ‘Days Of Future Past’ trailer that Bryan Singer has decided against continuing with the bone claws, making the change irrelevant, for now at least.

- The Villain: Simply put, Old Man Yashida was the worst CBM villain of the year. His very inclusion in the finale acted as a catalyst for the huge decline in quality in the film’s third act. His whole plan is ridiculous, from absorbing Wolverine’s powers, to running around inside a giant robot, He also detracts from other villains, especially The Viper, who is just reduced to being his pawn (instead of a powerful villain in her own right), while Shingen would have made a far better overall villain, and Harada a much better Silver Samurai (and more of a personal rival for Wolverine to fight).

- PG-13/12A Rating: In my view, the biggest obstacle this film has is its watered-down rating. While I understand why Fox decided to do this (greedy, selfish, money-grubbing… goblins), it unfortunately prevented us from truly seeing the Wolverine at his most dangerous. The fight scenes would have gone from great to legendary with more gore to support their ferocity, while I’m sure the finale wouldn’t have been tailored, as much, to mainstream audiences if it had an R-rating (with more awesome hand-to-hand combat and ninja action, and less old man robot hi-jinks!)


Overall, The Wolverine succeeds in where it dares to be different, embracing the intrigue and individuality of Japanese society and pushing the boundaries of its shackling PG-13 rating with first-rate action sequences. To me, the worst part of this solid movie will forever be the ‘what could have been’ element that surrounds it, and that blame must be taken by the studio as much as the filmmakers themselves. I look back at this film as not only as visually entertaining, but emotionally relevant as well, and feel it succeeds in its overall aim: to produce a respectable standalone Wolverine movie.

I would rate this movie 3 out of 5 stars – noting that a poor villain and third act lets down an altogether very solid movie with some truly exceptional action and solid character moments.

Stray Observations...

- When Wolverine checked into the love hotel with Mariko, I honestly half expected Michael Fassbender to pop-up with his own one line cameo. “Kinky…”

- When she’s not working for creepy old guys or spitting in people’s faces, I imagine the skin-shedding Viper would make for an excellent model for any skincare or cosmetic company out there. L’Oreal, sign her up - because she’s worth it! (*Groans*)

- Barney Stinson really needed to make an appearance in that deleted alternate ending scene with the classic costume… “Suit up… Bub!”

- The X-Men films are becoming notorious for their wardrobe choices – from Bryan Singer’s strange leather suit addiction, to Emma ‘I’m definitely not a prostitute’ Frost in First Class - and now to The Viper’s rather… colourful clothing choices in this film. Honestly – she would have fit right into ‘Catwoman’. Sorry, that was too far. No one deserves to be compared to that film!

- In the end, this movie this movie should be universally applauded - simply on the grounds for not including: Will.I.Aint, a Merc-With-A-Mouth-Without-An-Actual-Mouth, and a story about Koo-Koo-Ka-Choo. I mean seriously…

- One way that (albeit still great) mid-credits scene could have been improved upon would have to have had Cyclops, Jean and Rogue all powered up alongside Xavier and Magneto and carrying huge sign saying: “[Frick] you Brett Ratner!”

Anyway, hope y’all enjoyed this latest piece. I’m having a great time writing them. What did you guys think of the movie - and how it could have been improved most importantly? Please comment and thumbs-up if you liked it – and argue away if you didn’t!
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