Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee
Adapted primarily from the 1982 limited run series from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine sees Hugh Jackman reprise his role as the Canadian mutant for the 6th time in a feature film. In this installment, Logan (Hugh Jackman), following the events of X-men 3, is invited to Tokyo Japan at the behest of envoy Yukio (Rila Fukushima) for Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) a Japanese soldier he met during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki who is now an old man at death’s door. Offering the impossible, Yashida offers a way for Wolverine to bypass his healing ability so that he may live a ‘normal’ life, one where he may live out his days without violence. When Yashida dies unexpectedly, Logan will be caught up in a power struggle for Yashida’s company, the most powerful in all of Japan and serve as protector for Mariko (Tao Okamoto) Yashida’s daughter and next in line to inherit the company that can affect the future of a nation.
Hugh Jackman, an incredibly likable actor, brings Wolverine to life with his gruffness and sarcastically weathered take. At this point he pretty much owns the role and it will be hard to see him go, which is an inevitability in this industry. Newcomers Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto, models in their native Japan, turn in solid performances. Okamoto is quite a bit younger than the Mariko I envisioned but she handles her scenes well with the much more seasoned Jackman and convinced me of their budding romance. Fukushima is quite good, both at her action scenes and trading barbs with Jackman as well; she’s one that I expect to see more of within the film industry to come. Hiroyuki Sanada chews up scenery here and his action, as is typical, is terrific. He is always welcome in nearly any movie and while he doesn’t steal the film, he more than makes his presence known. Will Yun Lee also has an alright role as Harada, bodyguard to the Yashida family, but is a lesser force than I expected considering who his character will become in the original source. Faring poorer still is Svetlana Khodchenkova who plays Viper, a totally unnecessary character with little to offer the advancement of the film. She’s quite pretty but the character seems to have been included simply because they needed more people with powers in a superhero film.
This ‘Unrated’ version, directed by James Mangold, offers quite a bit more character moments and is more than a little ‘stabbier’ than the original theatrical release. More sequences with Wolverine at Nagasaki 1945 shed light on his relationship with the young Yashida and a brief scuffle with Yakuza at a hotel show that Mariko is not as helpless as he may think. The biggest change is an absolutely surprising finale in a ninja village which literally has walls showered with blood. The most graphic and violent depiction of Wolverine thus far, it is a welcome scene that certainly fits in more with the tone of the character from the comics.
Showcasing the colorful night life of Tokyo as well as the quieter rural life of Nagasaki, Mangold crafts a unique character study of Logan which is much more cerebral and true to the character than many will expect. Wolverine is brooding and troubled, his guilt over the finale in X-men 3 is his driving force throughout the film and his journey to make it up to those around him mirrors his desire for identity, a recurring theme in classic Wolverine stories. While not as action-packed as other superhero films, I truly appreciated the attention to character detail given and hope that this will be a staple of superhero films to come.
A solid film, the original version went on to become my favorite superhero film of 2013. This extended cut undoubtedly improves on the original with its interesting character scenes and the inclusion of blood and gore not expected for a marquee character such as Wolverine who adorns children’s clothes and toys. With its respect for the character and offering probably the most introspective take on a superhero character, The Wolverine (Unrated) is the Wolverine film fans have been waiting for.