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Snikt Redux – The Wolverine

July 26, 2013

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Before Robert Downey so effortlessly stepped into Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor, Hugh Jackman made Wolverine his own. This hasn’t been forgotten in the decade-plus since the release of 2000’s X-Men (which really started the snowball that has built into the current, glorious avalanche of superhero movies), but it’s been relegated to the background. An underwhelming conclusion to a trilogy and a dreadful solo film will do that. But let it be clear: though Jackman might not have given us the Logan that hardcore fanboys would crave — NO YELLOW TIGHTS! HE’S NOT FIVE FEET TALL! — he’s given us a well-rounded character, of three-dimensions, who transcends the flat screen. It’s one of the best comic to screen translations we’ve ever had, right up there with Downey and Christopher Reeve’s Superman — and those actor/character combos themselves know a thing or two (literally two) about bad movies.

We can forgive the occasional dud when there’s such encompassing competence. Even when the surrounding movie is found wanting, Jackman remains blameless. We like him. He’s the bright spot in the awful.

Is The Wolverine, his latest foray into Weapon X, awful? Or is it what we dare not hope it could be: a good, solo Wolverine movie?  

I’m pleased to report that this latest X-film is the surprise of the summer. After Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness underwhelmed, it looked like it might be a rough genre season. Man of Steel was a pick me up, but there was a whole lot of “here we go again…” negativity built into Wolverine. The marketing was a tad underwhelming, and that the film’s one time director, Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler), bowed out of the project some time ago was a rough blow to fan hopes that lingered for a long while.

And in spite of all that, it turns out that it’s good. It’s not great — that it devolves into a big, stupid ending keeps it from reaching that marker. But director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) maintains the plot’s focus at all times, keeping it from the scatter-brained mess that the X-Men Origins iteration became. (Hey, let’s have a scene with the Blob. And Gambit — those f**king fans like Gambit, right?) There’s even some nice, relatively understated symbolism book-ending the film, as poisoned arrows bring down Wolverine and a giant grizzly bear. And as for Jackman — he knows his character inside and out at this point, and it’s a pleasure to see him at work once more. That we’ll finally get him back in a team environment next year makes it all the more pleasant — you can enjoy this fish out of water jaunt for what it is: Logan finally coming to terms with his very nature. Try not to focus too much on the exact beats of the venerated comic book source material, and you might be pleased by what you find.

Click over to the next page for some more detailed thoughts about the film and the final rating. Only the mildest of mild spoilers are found therein — not much more than you’d get in the trailers.

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