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Based on the celebrated comic book arc, this epic action-adventure takes Wolverine, the most iconic character of the X-Men universe, to modern day Japan. Out of his depth in an unknown world he faces his ultimate nemesis in a life-or-death battle that will leave him forever changed. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality, emerging more powerful than we have ever seen him before.
For more about The Wolverine and the The Wolverine Blu-ray release, see the The Wolverine Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 29, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee
» See full cast & crew
The Wolverine Blu-ray Review
He slices, he dices.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 29, 2013
What is it with superheroes these days, anyway? One might think they wouldn't have a whole bunch to complain about, what with their superpowers and everything, and yet more and more films about our favorite good guys tend to wallow in supposedly intense psychological introspection, where moodiness has replaced any simple formulation of a valiant soul fighting for truth, justice and the American Way (or something like that). It's notable that this latest iteration of Marvel's Wolverine character seems to have taken a page from the recent glut of "reboots" like Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy or this year's Nolan produced Man of Steel . And yet it's just as notable to realize that the X-Men franchise has always trafficked in introspection more than the typical superhero outing. After all, mutants by their very definition are different (something that Man of Steel sought to exploit to varying effect). That may in fact be one reason why X-Men Origins: Wolverine met with a fair degree of withering critical response, for it seemed to divorce the character, at least in part, from his troubled psychological underpinnings, delivering instead a more or less straight ahead live action cartoon (some therefore may tend to find the disappointment many felt in this film ironic, considering that it was after all based on a comic book character). The Wolverine may have been marketed as a balls to the wall action spectacular, but it's actually more of a character piece, albeit a character piece with an adamantium skeleton. The film plays up Wolverine's torment over the loss of Jean Grey (from X-Men: The Last Stand), while also investing the character with a rather complicated backstory hinging on his imprisonment during World War II in a Japanese concentration camp. (Maybe a future outing can have Wolverine and Magneto commiserating about who had it worse in this regard.) Wolverine's innately heroic tendencies actually come back to haunt him years later, when a man he helped to save in the camp turns out to have designs on one of Wolverine's most alluring powers—his ability to regenerate, healing himself from any wounds or illness, giving him something approaching immortality.
As The Wolverine begins, Logan (Hugh Jackman) isn't just suffering from nightmares—he's suffering from nightmares within nightmares. The first of these traces back to the waning days of World War II, when Logan is interned—or perhaps more precisely, interred, since he's being kept in a gigantic metal cylinder beneath the ground —at a Japanese prisoner of war camp. A Japanese soldier named Yashida (Ken Yamamura) sees the figurative handwriting on the wall, as it's spelled out by the contrails of B-29s delivering the atom bomb to Nagasaki across the bay. While his colleagues commit hari-kari, Logan suddenly has emerged from the supposedly inescapable cell, gets Yashida to safety and protects him from the nuclear blast with a metal shield. Yashida is stunned to see a badly burnt Logan revitalize before his very eyes. As if that nightmare weren't enough, Logan "wakes" from that with a start, to find himself lying next to Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who of course supposedly expired in X-Men: The Last Stand. The two share a little pillow talk until Logan realizes that he has once again let his claws get out of hand (sorry for the pun), piercing and killing Jean. Finally, Logan really wakes up, though in this particular case he looks like a nightmare—he's an unkempt, haggard mountain man, living out of doors with scraggly hair, an overgrown beard and an apparent lack of personal hygiene.
Logan has made a vow to Jean (post-mortem, but who's counting?) to never again harm anyone with his adamantium "extensions", but he can't help himself after he comes across a huge bear that's been poisoned by a thoughtless hunter. Logan tracks him down and is about to deliver a major dose of justice (he's frankly already delivered a minor dose), when a mysterious red haired Japanese woman who has been trailing him shows up and tells him not to waste his time, since all of the idiots in the place, including the hunter, will soon be dead from various causes. The hunter and his cohorts don't react well, but instead of Logan taking them out, the young lady does with some great martial arts moves and a few quick slices from her ritual katana. She invites Logan out to her car, where it turns out that she is a precognitive in the employ of the now elderly Yashida. Yashida is dying, and he wants Logan to come to Japan so that Yashida can thank him personally for having saved his life all those years ago.
The red-haired katana wielder is named Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who delivers Logan to Yashida's lair, where Logan is soon embroiled in some corporate intrigue involving the aged and mortally ill Yashida (now played by Haruhiko Yamanouchi), Yashida's scheming son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), and Shingen's attractive daughter Mariko (Tao Okomoto). The elder Yashida's motives in getting Logan over to Japan turn out to not be entirely noble, and in fact he wants to barter in a manner of speaking with the man who once saved him. If Logan will impart his miraculous healing powers to Yashida, that will deprive Logan of his immortality, supposedly freeing him from the vampire-esque dolor of never growing old and seeing everyone around him age and die. Logan, while perhaps intrigued, declines the offer, but (initially) unbeknownst to him, Yashida's doctor, an elegant blonde named Green (Svetlana Khodchenkova) decides to take matters into her own hands.
It's at this point that The Wolverine veers perilously close to self parody, as Logan and Mariko find themselves on the receiving end of a Yakuza rampage in one of the first battle scenes of the film. That in turn sets up what is arguably one of only two big set pieces (three if one counts the nuclear bomb sequence which begins the film) that The Wolverine offers to action hungry audiences, a spectacular sequence set atop a speeding "bullet train" where Logan attempts to take out a bunch of Yakuza henchmen who are after Mariko. The two manage to evade her putative captors and escape to an isolated seaside home in Nagasaki, where the two fall in love despite Logan's predilection for having dreams about Jean. Mariko's eventual capture sets the film careening into its hyperbolic third act, where Yukio reenters the story, having had a premonition that Logan is about to meet his demise. She signs on as the hero's "bodyguard", in a role that increasingly looks like something out of Shakugan no Shana the Movie or some similar anime title (replete with the red haired katana wielding superpowered heroine).
The Wolverine ends up being a rather odd entry in the X-Men franchise. It's obvious that the creative staff wanted to get away from what was perceived as a disappointment in the previous "origin" story given to the character, but they also can't help but include even more backstory in this outing. What's increasingly odd about this entry is its reliance on Japanese mythologies, including ultimately a gang of ninjas and a gigantic samurai mecha which itself could have been ported over from any given anime enterprise. The film is surprisingly low key, with only the aforementioned bullet train sequence and Logan's final showdown with a not very surprising arch- villain as the "knock 'em, sock 'em" aspects. The film obviously wants to set Logan up for a reentry in the superhero sweepstakes after his self-imposed exile (make sure to stay tuned during the closing credits sequence for a little setup for the upcoming film), but that ultimately makes The Wolverine something of a transition film where it can seem like the character is biding his time—while working through all sorts of inner turmoil—before he can enter the mutant fray once again, supposedly with a coterie of colleagues helping him out.
While the Japanese elements, as odd as they are, can at least be traced directly back to Marvel source material, other decisions by the creative crew seem downright derivative. Dr. Green, who ultimately is revealed as yet another mutant, this one named Viper, ends up shedding her skin (and hair), playing out the final moments of the film as a near doppelganger of Persis Khambatta from the first Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And that selfsame climactic scene has a showdown between Logan and his chief nemesis which is oddly reminiscent of the final conflict between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, at least in setting if not in familial import.
Still, there's quite a bit to like in The Wolverine, including Jackman's world weary demeanor throughout most of the film. And director Mangold, who proved his action mettle in Knight and Day, stages the (few) action sequences with considerable flair. Oddly, the most charismatic performance turns out to be by Fukushima as Yukio. Though she's a bit hard to understand at times, her expressive eyes and slyly humorous manner invest the role with a lot of spark and energy, something this curiously tamped down offering otherwise labors fitfully to consistently achieve.
The Wolverine Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Wolverine slashes its way onto Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The Wolverine boasts a gorgeously sleek and well defined image, courtesy of the Arri Alexa. While director James Mangold and his DP Ross Emery have occasionally rather aggressively color graded certain sequences, the bulk of the film features a natural looking palette with extremely well saturated color. The opening Nagasaki sequence is tinted to a suitably late summer amber color (see screenshot 3 in this review as well as screenshots 6 and 7 of the Blu- ray.com The Wolverine 3D Blu-ray review), while Wolverine's exploits in the Yukon are cool blue (see screenshot 4 in this review and screenshot 9 in the 3D review). Later, when Logan gets to Japan, a seminal moment in Yashida's compound is similarly blue tinted (see screenshot 14 in this review). Fine detail is exceptional throughout this presentation, offering beautifully precise renderings of things like Mariko's finely textured kimono or the henna red strands of Yukio's hair. A lot of The Wolverine is rather dark, which does tend to rob the film of shadow detail, especially in the climactic scene in the mountaintop fortress. There is also one noticeable moment of motion judder as the camera pans quickly left during the funeral scene at about 35:46, but otherwise this is a problem free presentation.
The Wolverine Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Wolverine's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is one of the best examples of total—and at times smart— immersion in recent memory. What may shock some listeners is the relative lack of "oomph" at the first expected moment— when the atom bomb hits Nagasaki, but there's a low frequency rumble that soon builds to impressive proportions, quelling any doubt that this is going to be a very forceful and aggressive mix. But even better than that obvious approach are some very subtle touches. Listen, for example, in the Yukon scene when Logan traipses through the woods with a grizzly bear walking nearby. The occasional "caws" of crows are brilliantly placed around the soundfield, as is the crunch of the ground under both Logan's and the bear's feet. Later, when Mariko's erstwhile lover, now a ninja, shoots arrows to and fro, there's a fantastic "whoosh" that zings through the soundstage and may provoke an involuntary "duck" response. The quicksilver sounds of Logan's adamantium claws as well as Yukio's katana are given nicely metallic foley effects as well. Dialogue is cleanly presented, though it must be stated that several of the Japanese actors are a bit hard to understand at times (there are optional subtitles to help in this regard). (It should also be noted that some of the film is in Japanese, with subtitles automatically provided.) Marco Beltrami's score is rather well done for a film of this type and is effective while being relatively unobtrusive most of the time (for those who pay attention to this sort of thing, listen to how Beltrami seamlessly segues during the climax as different characters' activities are being explored).
The Wolverine Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: This list of supplements is based on the Theatrical Version Blu-ray disc included in The Wolverine 3D.
The Wolverine Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Say goodbye to the cigar chomping, quipster Wolverine in The Wolverine. This is a much more tamped down enterprise, for better or worse. Action fans may come away from this film (in any of its versions) wondering if there was enough "there" there, but the film, while patently odd at times, benefits from strong, sure performances and one incredibly visceral thrill ride on top of a speeding bullet train. The Wolverine may ultimately be seen as a kind of cinematic placeholder, a virtual calm (more or less, anyway) before what may be the storm of X-Men: Days of Future Past. That aspect may wear on some fans' patience, but the good news is it seems Logan is poised for battle once again by the end of this film. This Blu-ray sports exceptional video and audio and comes with some appealing supplements. Recommended.
The Wolverine: Other Editions
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The Wolverine Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Wolverine Blu-ray - October 1, 2013
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will release on Blu-ray director James Mangold's blockbuster The Wolverine (2013), starring Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Tao Okamoto, Hiroyuki Sanada, Famke Janssen, and Svetlana Khodchenkova. ...
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