One must start a The Wolverine review by stating that it is legions better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Now, that is not saying much, Movie Fanatic will give you that. But Hugh Jackman has triumphantly returned to the role he originated in 2000's X-Men.
This is a first class adventure and it contains what will surely be one of our top 10 action scenes of 2013. Want proof: Check out this The Wolverine Bullet Train clip! Yes, the action pops and it certainly raises the stakes for X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Our story begins with a scene teased in this The Wolverine clip of a then Japanese prison camp resident Logan (Jackman) saving a guard when the atom bomb goes off. The audience gets to see more of that scene through flashbacks throughout the movie. See, our little wolfie is having trouble sleeping in modern times. And between seeing images of the horrors of World War II in Japan, he is haunted by the feels-like-a-living image of the woman he adored… and killed -- Jean.
Logan is living a rough life in the Alaskan wilderness and just when he thinks he is alone, he learns that Yukio (Rila Fukushima) has been tracking him. She works for the man whose life he saved in WWII. And it is the man’s dying wish to thank Logan personally… in Japan. Reluctantly, he agrees to go, and our adventure begins.
The way James Mangold directs the film recalls the work of another top notch director tackling action for the first time: Sam Mendes and Skyfall. Mangold effortlessly wields his camera with frenetic force in the action scenes while still managing to not lose the momentum when the action pauses for dramatic and yes, romantic plot building.
Mangold also never loses sight of the fact that he is operating in a universe that does not exist in a vacuum. Wolverine can have his moment in the sun, but the character still is part of the Marvel world of the X-Men. Proof of that could not be more evident than in the scene featured midway through the credits. Yes, you must stay while the credits roll!
Jackman excels, as he always does, and he is also surrounded by top tier Japanese talent for the Rising Sun-set story. Fukushima is solid, but the actress Jackman spends the most time with is Tao Okamoto -- who portrays Mariko. She shows a depth of range that matches the Australian lead and even raises his game.
Is The Wolverine a great movie? Let's say this: It is an absolute fun ride that is perfect for escaping the summer heat. How does it stand in the world of X-Men? Why, just below X-Men 2 and just above X-Men: First Class. But, what truly makes The Wolverine utterly terrific is it feels like a red hot baton that is being passed to the next runner taking off down the track.
And of course, that runner is director Bryan Singer who is grabbing the franchise back from Mangold and hopes to cross the finish line a champion with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Once again: Stay through the credits… you will not want to miss it. Kind of like The Wolverine film itself.