This is basically a tale of two movies. I know Hugh Jackman wanted this movie to be an adaptation of the classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller comic book mini-series. You can see bits of that story here. But then you have this other stuff, far removed from that story, that seems to be studio-imposed and ultimately hurts what could have been one of the best comic book movies to date. The good stuff, the stuff worth watching this for, are the slower, quieter parts of the story. The Wolverine and Mariko parts, basically. But all of the special effects-heavy parts and the loud, flashy action sequences suck and take away from the impact the movie would have otherwise had. There's probably no better example than the different climactic battle scenes. Wolverine vs Shingen is a much more powerful, emotional scene than the shallow, garish stuff with Viper and a guy in robot armor.I don't really blame James Mangold. No doubt it was Fox's interference that caused the problems and also caused Darren Aronofsky to bail before filming. You can see a better movie underneath this one. But Fox didn't have the guts to make that movie. Probably felt it wasn't commercial enough. Needed more robots and CGI fights on top of a speeding train. Still, it's good enough to watch and enjoy most of it. It's certainly miles better than the last Wolverine movie. But I can't help but feel sad thinking about what might have been. They very well could have given Wolverine his own 'Batman Begins' but instead we get just another watchable popcorn movie with hints at something more substantial.
I've been a fair fan of the series of the whole. Even the weaker installments I thoroughly enjoyed, so my review is already weighed in favor of this film. I will say even from a critics point of view I thought it was really well done. It's not the standard comic book fairy tale, but more of an intrinsic study of the Wolverine character. He shows a lot of depth and vulnerability in this outing, far more than previous installments. It's a risky but necessary move to see him operate on a balance challenge where he really is prone to death at any moment. The humor is matched well with the drama for an interesting viewing all the way through. All the supporting roles I found interesting as well. I really enjoyed the presence of Yukio who provided invaluable aide despite Wolverine's incessant protests. I found it nice to see his character finally develop some closure after all the time we've get to see him in all his cinematic installments.
I didn't much care for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman still was, and always will be, a brilliant Wolverine, but the other characters felt lackluster, the villain was weak and the storyline didn't fit well with the other X-Men movies. It didn't have the same feel.For some time it seemed that the poor critical performances of both that and X-Men 3 would mean there would be no more movies with Wolverine in them, at least in a leading role. Luckily, the film makers decided to do one more and if this particular movie is going to be the last one, I for one can move on happy with what I got.The Wolverine is a movie that works both as a continuation of the X-Men storyline, as well as a standalone movie. The focus is kept heavily on Hugh Jackman, which works for the movie's advantage. There are some callbacks to the events of the trilogy, but as a whole I think this film could have worked just as well without them, if not better, as they are a bit distracting from time to time. But most of the time the focus is on where it should be. In this movie Logan travels to Japan in order to meet an old acquaintance, who wants to settle old scores before his demise. In Japan we get some gorgeous scenery, nice atmosphere, intriguing settings, believable characters, all that good stuff.I especially liked Tao Okamoto's character Mariko, the granddaughter of Wolverine's old friend. Jackman and Okamoto have brilliant chemistry together and when the movie slows down during the second act to give them time to simply interact with one another, it feels justified. Usually that kind of slowing down in an action movie feels boring and unneeded, even sappy, but here it works because the actors have the skills to pull it off. Which is a great thing, because it gives the movie more depth and we get a chance to know Wolverine in a new way that the Origins movie tried to reach, but never could because of its lack of emotional maturity.Unfortunately this film has one major flaw and that is the unbelievably weak villain, known as Viper. Her actress, Svetlana Khodchenkova, just doesn't have the screen presence or acting skills to give the character any memorable attributes. She merely stands there, struts around in her skintight suit and spouts the dialogue. That's it. Sure part of that is poor writing, but it's still rather jarring because the two main protagonists are so damn good. If only the villain had been as good, this could easily have been one of the best Marvel movies yet made.As it is, it's still fine. The two main characters are very good, most of the side characters do a good job as well, the action works wonderfully, the Japanese setting gives the film a nice coating of majesty and even the story, while nothing that extraordinary, functions well enough for us to enjoy it. The villain is weak, very weak in fact, which keeps the film from being great, but you can overlook it and focus on the good stuff.