Those "retro" Force Awakens posters.
Release Date(s)2013 (December 3, 2013)
Studio(s)20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
The X-Men franchise gets another side film, and it’s another film all about the character of Wolverine. And it’s called, The Wolverine. It’s essentially a second shot at doing a movie about the Wolverine since the last attempt didn’t come up all roses, but this time around it’s not an origin story. It’s also an opportunity to re-establish the character and get things back on track for the upcoming X-Men: Future Days of Past.
On a technical level, The Wolverine is a much a better movie than its predecessor X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Both movies are quite different from each other when it comes to story content. While Origins was all about how Logan became the Wolverine character that we all know from the original X-Men trilogy of movies, The Wolverine is essentially a movie about Logan coming out of hiding after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand in which he was forced to kill his love Jean Grey (making it a sequel, as well as a stand-alone film). Feeling guilt and self-doubt, he vows not to take part in the fight any longer. He hides in the wilderness but is rediscovered when a young woman from Tokyo is sent to find him. An old Japanese man, who is on his death bed, wishes to see Logan before he dies. Many years before, Logan saved the man from being obliterated after the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Once Logan agrees to come along, his reawakening as a warrior begins just as a plot to steal his powers with the aid of the mutant Viper begins to unfold.
To be clear, I’m not a fan of the comics that this franchise is based on. I have scarcely read any comics in my life outside of Batman. My knowledge about the X-Men comes from my exposure to the animated TV show when I was a kid and, of course, the movies. So if there are major issues with character changes or timeline discrepancies when it comes to the source material, I’m blissfully unaware of them, and really, I just don’t care all that much. I know that this movie’s storyline is based on a set of comics, but I’ve never read any of them. So my opinions tend to skew towards what I’ve seen on film in this universe. First and foremost, if I have to compare this to Origins, I have to admit that I like Origins a little better. That sounds like blasphemy to many, I’m sure, but as far as entertainment value goes, good and bad (and so bad that it’s good at certain points), Origins is the more enjoyable of the two. The Wolverine, on the other hand, is a more serious effort, with more attention paid to character and pace. The only time it tips over into zany bad guy territory or contains any over the top antics is in the last act of the movie. And it doesn’t help that no other characters from the other films are featured in the main plot at all (other than Jean Grey). The action is solid and the character growth is fine, yet I really feel like the movie could have used more characters from the already established universe, but that’s just me. You do have to keep things in perspective though and try to remember that this is a one-off, and hardly none, if any, of the characters in this film are likely to appear again in future films.
However, any flaws that The Wolverine has are made up for during the post-credits scene which features the return of Magneto and Professor X. It’s really great and leaves you clamoring for more, which will hopefully will be satisfied in the next film. And even though I like Origins better, The Wolverine is still a worthy movie for the X-Men series. It gets the farthest away from the formula that the films have followed so far and seemed to have gone in its own direction, but that’s ok, and I suppose it’s a bit refreshing. I may like it more upon further viewings of it because the action, the effects and the characters are all great. In the meantime, I’ll just wait patiently to see what Bryan Singer brings us in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
There are a couple of Blu-ray releases of The Wolverine. One is an Unleashed Extended Edition version, which is unrated and contains a bit more violence, and also a standard Blu-ray release of the PG-13 theatrical version. We’ll be taking a look at the latter (read Todd Doogan’s review of the Extended version here). The presentation of the film is stellar. Fine detail is abundant in both foreground and background, especially close-ups. Skin tones are also quite excellent, and look very natural. The color palette, which features a wide variety of color grades (to give the film a less mechanical look, I’m sure), is very robust and quite rich. Blacks are super deep, and I couldn’t see any noise within them. The contrast and brightness are perfect, and I didn’t spot any evidence of unnecessary digital tinkering. It’s a rock solid presentation. And the same goes for the audio, which comes in five options: English 7.1 DTS-HD, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish & French 5.1 Dolby Digital, and an English 5.1 Descriptive Audio track, as well. The 7.1 mix is quite aggressive. Dialogue is perfectly clear and audible, but the film’s score and sound effects are the stars of the show on this track. There’s plenty of ambient noise found in the surrounding speakers and the action moves around quite rapidly during some of the bigger moments. LFE is outstanding as well, especially during the scenes in Nagasaki. The score really shines as well, being given plenty of room to breathe. In my opinion, it’s one of the most immersive experiences I’ve had from a home theater system as of late, especially from a big Hollywood release like this. You should be left with absolutely nothing to complain about with both the video and the audio. As for subtitles, you’ll find them in English SDH, Spanish and Portuguese if you need them.
Extras aren’t abundant, but there’s a nice little assortment to scan through. First and foremost is a set of featurettes entitled The Path of a Ronin (Inspiration: A Ronin’s Journey, Design: Mastering the Arc, Execution: A Killer Team, Hugh Jackman: The Man Behind the Mutant, and Reflections: The Evolution of Wolverine); an X-Men: Days of Future Past Set Tour; an alternate ending; and finally, a Second Screen App option. For the DVD that’s been included, there are no extras, but the audio is in English 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital and subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish. There’s also an insert with this set that includes Digital Copy & Ultraviolet codes.
The bottom line here is that if you’re an X-Men fan in any capacity, you should probably pick this or the other aforementioned release of the film up on Blu-ray. While the extras leave a little bit to be desired, the presentation is fantastic, and is reason enough to check it out. Now bring on Summer 2014.