They got Yukio way wrong, drastically re-positioned the timeline of Logan’s affair with Mariko Yoshida, and threw a bit of Viper into the mix. This is not Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s epic comic book story of honor, love, and corruption in Japan transferred to the screen, this is something totally different.

That’s not to say that James Mangold’s The Wolverine is a bad movie. It’s not, and relative to this character’s long past on the screen — through three X-Men films, a solo misfire, and a cameo in X-Men: First Class — this may actually be the finest and fullest representation of Wolverine that we have seen, but it’s still far from perfect.

Mild Spoilers Ahead!

 For one thing, the previously mentioned tale is hollowed out at points and replaced by another lazy story about a power mad mortal and their ceaseless campaign for super-human abilities; a story-point that most prominently and regrettably rears it’s head in the third act, leaving a slightly sour taste in the mouth that is only exercised by a splendid post-credits scene that connects this film to the next round of X-Men movies.

Prior to all of that, though, we are treated to a fantastic comic book movie in the best sense of the term that forgets that it is a comic book movie in the worse sense for the first two acts, allowing Mangold to deliver a tense, expertly made thriller with stacks and stacks of action and a keen visual sense that makes the most of it’s setting.

Mangold also re-introduces us to a familiar, heroic, and flawed protagonist.

Wolverine Shadow

As Logan/The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman is spectacular, running around Japan while trying to keep Mariko safe from the clutches of her father, her fiance, and the Yakuza, all while battling a sudden case of human frailty that threatens to bow him with every bullet and punch. Our hero stands, though, continuing on in the name of a promise to a friend whose life he had saved in World War 2. An old man now, who had sent his future seeing foster child, Yukio, (who is more of a mite-sized sidekick and less of a leggy killer that tries to jam on Wolvie’s junk) to seek Logan out in an effort to make him mortal and end his suffering; an arrangement that would also keep the old man alive.

Logan’s suffering is most notably rammed home by the presence of Jean Grey (aka Famke Janssen), who haunts Logan’s dreams, gently coaxing him toward the afterlife like a siren singing a sailor toward their rocky end.

It is his mind playing tricks, using his deeply felt guilt about her death to inflict pain and torture, but it is oh so effective and a brilliant way to tie the past X-Men trilogy to this film, as well.

The presence of Jean Grey’s “ghost” is not enough to keep Logan from Mariko, though, and while they hide near Nagasaki, near the well where Logan and Mariko’s grandfather had survived a nuclear attack (not super feasible, but better than a refrigerator), he falls for her, only to see her father’s men steal her away, leading to the film’s lackluster conclusion.

As I said before, this feels like a comic book movie that forgets that it is a comic book movie up until a certain point, and that point occurs when Viper takes center stage. Portrayed with too much camp and purr by Svetlana Khodchenkova in a performance that feels as if it was inspired by Uma Thurman’s similarly dopey turn as Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin, Viper un-spools the bond that had kept this movie together, teaming up with the obligatory secret lab, huge metal monster, and tacked on final reveal to make The Wolverine seem common at it’s apex point.

With that said, though, I am finally dismissing my obsession with the suck that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine and trading it in for an obsession with The Wolverine‘s near-miss and a hope that Mangold gets another shot (unless Aronofsky is game).

I guess that’s progress.

The Best: The moment when The Hand launches threaded arrow after threaded arrow into Wolverine in glorious tribute to Miller’s visual style.

The Worst: The Viper sheds her skin.

Our Official Pull-Quote: “Though it got close, in the end, it just didn’t make my boney crotch claw go SNIKT!!!”

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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