“… one half great action movie, one half boring drama.”
Last night I watched The Wolverine and honestly I didn’t hate it quite as much as I remember, but it was close. Just to get this out of the way, I did watch the “Extended Cut” of the film but I’m not really sure if there is much difference between it and the theatrical cut. So if any of my criticisms don’t make sense, first ask yourself if I’m just being an idiot, but then remember that it was the extended cut of the The Wolverine that I watched. The Wolverine picks up a little while after X-Men: The Last Stand and follows Wolverine, now a certified mountain man, as he gets a mysterious invitation to Japan from an old acquaintance of his. When he arrives, Wolverine discovers that this acquaintance, a man who Wolverine saved from a nuclear explosion, wants to take Wolverine’s powers away from him and use them for himself. Wolverine is then all like “LOL, go fuck yourself”, but then he mysteriously loses his powers anyway. The rest of the movie is Wolverine fighting, falling in love with a woman, all the while dying to find out what the fuck happened to his powers.
Now, like I mentioned before I did not like this movie when I first saw it in theatres. That was so long ago however that I can’t really give you specifics on what I didn’t like about it. This may be a case of me just remembering all of the bad and none of the good, but let’s just suffice it to say that my opinion of this movie was not very high when I went into it last night. What I found when I watched The Wolverine was a pretty good acton movie; well, at least for the first half of the film. The Wolverine opens very strong by giving us a very vulnerable look at Wolverine. He lost the love of his life and is now aimlessly living in the mountains of Canada, abusing hunters as he pleases. He then gets an invite to Japan and instantly we have the good old Wolverine back. Turns out, he wasn’t that sad he just needed a shave and a haircut. Fast-forward past all of the exposition that the beginning of the film gives us and we are met with a few very cool action sequences. Both the temple fight and the train fight are absolutely wonderfully done on every front. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that the train fight that happens toward the middle of the film is the best Wolverine fight we’ve had in any X-Men movie. These fights are so great because not only do they have amazing action, but they also have the element of a “powerless” (he still has his claws) Wolverine. This doesn’t really humanize the character, seeing as his claws are still present, but it does add a sense of danger to these fights that we have never before experienced. We, much like Wolverine, are confused at the first gunshot that strikes Wolverine in the stomach and brings him to his knees. By the time we figure out what is going on he has already been shot a few more times and isn’t looking too hot. This adds a depth to these fights because Wolverine is no longer this unstoppable force. He now has to pick his moves carefully so he doesn’t get shot in the skull. This plot point really is cool, but I did have a slight problem with it. Why did his claw-wounds heal? We’ve seen in previous X-Men films that Wolverine has to cut through his skin every time he uses his claws, so why weren’t his hands bleeding profusely throughout the film? I understand that it may have been over the top at times, but it felt wrong to me that the filmmakers decided to pick and choose what heals for the sake of plot (or possibly rating).
Anyway, after these wonderful action sequences the film had essentially lulled me into a false sense of security. “This movie is great! I wonder why I hated it so much” I thought to myself confidently as Wolverine and his new companion travelled to the south of Japan. Then it happened; The Wolverine went over the metaphorical hump, it’s peak being the fight on the train, and was now headed into a downward spiral. What happens next in the film is exactly why I hated it the first time I saw it. And what is it that happens exactly? Nothing. Nothing happens for about forty minutes and that is exactly what is wrong with The Wolverine. There is a shitload of story and exposition and characters interacting with one another, but the problem is I don’t care about any of that. I want to see Wolverine kick-ass, so if you have a story you better make it compelling; unfortunately The Wolverine didn’t get this memo. This second half of The Wolverine is terribly boring. Sure there are some fun moments such as the ‘surgery’ fight and the fight in the village at the end of the film, but overall it is just a bore. And to top all of that off, the final fight in The Wolverine is either one that you will immediately buy, or one that will (much like me) have you shaking your head in disbelief for thirty minutes. This portion of the film is what I like to call “Real Steel”, and it consists of Wolverine fighting a ten-foot tall CGI robot. Now the CGI isn’t bad, but it is extremely obvious that Hugh Jackman is fighting nothing, and the actual enemy was added in post. This means that the entire climax of the film is, well, terrible. Instead of making me worried that Wolverine is getting his ass kicked, I was laughing at how outrageous this fight was. Forget the fact that the ten foot tall samurai looks like it belongs in a Transformers film, even small details like the literal lightsaber that Wolverine picks up is enough to make you double over with laughter. And even the supplementary fights are pretty comical, mostly due to The Viper or whatever the hell her name was. The only thing that is good about this scene is when Yukio does the finishing move on The Viper, and that was only because of how fucking brutal it was. Really the second half of The Wolverine is exactly what left a bad taste in my mouth the first time, and unfortunately it did so again.
Even past the story being lackluster, there were quite a few other issues that I had with The Wolverine. A few of these issues I have mentioned (mainly Wolverine not having terrible open wounds on his hands) but there are a few others that bothered me. Really the main issue I had with The Wolverine was with the character of Viper, more specifically her voice. Maybe I am a crazy, but to me it sounded/looked like all of her dialogue was dubbed. Now I’m not sure if she was Darth Vader-ed, if only her audio was shit despite her sharing scenes with normal-sounding people, or if her dialogue was fine and she just has a really weird voice; whatever it was, something was definitely off. First of all, quite a bit of her dialogue didn’t fit her mouth. She was saying the same words, but there were very subtle differences in the lips that are impossible to not notice once you see it. There was also this really weird disconnect with what she was saying/how she was saying it and her demeanour. Now I’m not telling people how to talk, but if you look like you are speaking very sternly and your voice is a sultry whisper it doesn’t look right. It honestly felt like the filmmakers just found some ASMR videos on youtube, and got a random actress to lip sync the dialogue. And the biggest tip off was that the audio didn’t sound right. I’m no expert, but I know that sound bounces off of every surface, each producing a different sound. This is perfectly natural, and we as humans are used to hearing that because it is present every time we talk. This process is usually picked up by microphones on set, and that is how movies are made (you’re welcome). The issue is that Viper’s voice wasn’t doing that. When everyone else’s voice seems to have that added depth (for lack of a better term), it sounded like Viper was speaking softly into a microphone in a recording booth somewhere. Apart form that rather annoying issue there were a few CGI hiccups that I noticed. Now for the most part the CGI in The Wolverine was great, but every now and then (and during the final fight) it was hard to not see the terribly fake blood flying everywhere. One of the worst offences of this was during the street chase where a bit of blood gets splashed onto the screen. Now this is a huge pet-peeve of mine, but what makes this worse is that it was immediately followed by another pet-peeve of mine: the fake digital zoom. This is a very small thing to get annoyed about I know, but I felt that it had to be said because that moment, despite being very short, almost ruined that scene for me. And also, how does Wolverine get his adamantium claws back? Does he have them in the beginning of Days of Future Past? If so, did he get injected again? It’s weird that this movie just left such a glaring issue hanging in the air like that.
Overall The Wolverine is one half great action movie, one half boring drama. The action movie is great, and the ‘drama’ movie is terrible, so really The Wolverine averages out to “just okay”.
I give The Wolverine a C