Movie Review | The Wolverine: Unleashed Extended Edition
Movie Summary: When Wolverine is summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, he is embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons. (IMDb)
First off, I have to say that I enjoyed the original version of The Wolverine when it was released in cinemas, but the Unleashed Extended Edition is definitely a step-up. Timeline-confusing mid-credits scene aside, this version of The Wolverine definitely feels closer to Logan than any of the other X-Men movies.
It obviously helps that James Mangold directed both The Wolverine and Logan, and you can definitely see where he wanted to take the character. If Logan is a Western, The Wolverine is a Samurai film – and almost as good.
Genuinely, a lot of The Wolverine is really great stuff, with Hugh Jackman putting in yet another fine performance as Logan. The separation from the more ‘regular’ mutant action of the other movies certainly helps, with Logan’s healing powers dampened to make for more even fight scenes with regular opponents.
Famke Janssen does put in an appearance as Jean Grey, with Logan dreaming of her following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, but otherwise this is Wolverine ripped out of his usual setting and dropped into a violent struggle in Japan that he barely manages to keep up with.
The fact that the film is set in Japan means that there is a lot of subtitled dialogue, which I am glad to see rather than forcing the actors to speak only in English. The Japanese actors still speak a fair amount of English, but allowing them to speak in their own language most of the time allows them to concentrate on their own performances rather than having to worry about pronouncing a foreign language correctly.
The shining star of the Japanese cast is Rila Fukushima as Yukio, who aids and annoys Logan in equal measure, with the actress looking like she’s having a lot of fun with both. I was actually a little disappointed that another actress (Shiori Kutsuna) played a character called Yukio in Deadpool 2, as I would’ve liked to see Fukushima return.
Hiroyuki Sanada, who I loved in The Last Samurai as Ujio, is also fantastic, although his fate is a little anti-climactic and I think he would’ve been better as the true antagonist of the movie. He’s such a force of nature on-screen that I just wish he had more to do as he absolutely commands attention whenever he appears.
Tao Okamoto is also very good as Mariko, and she makes it very easy to understand why Logan comes to care for her so strongly in such a short space of time. She’s vulnerable, but never weak, and never feels like a burden despite how often she needs aid, often proving more than capable enough to help get herself out of danger.
The only real disappointment from the Japanese cast is Yashida, played by Hal Yamanouchi and Ken Yamamura. It’s more to do with the writing than the performances, but Yashida never really feels anything other than a two-dimensional type, completely lacking the depth of the other characters.
At least Yashida is still better portrayed than Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who is evil because…? And it’s not a spoiler to say that, because she’s pretty obviously sign-posted as a future opponent for Logan from the scene she’s introduced.
The character of Viper isn’t particularly great to begin with, but Khodchenkova is just not good enough for such a large role. It might be because, unlike the Japanese cast, the role didn’t allow her to speak in her native tongue, but she’s definitely nowhere close to the standard of the others on-screen.
She’s only really convincing when threatening others, and that’s more due to the character’s abilities rather than her performance. Otherwise, physical action, emoting and even her line deliveries are all so forced that it does drag down the movie whenever she appears.
As for the film as a whole, the final showdown Logan faces is where things do go off the rails and verge on ruining even the fantastic work that came before it. It’s Wolverine against a CGI creation, and it’s not good at all. In fact, it doesn’t even approach the general neighbourhood of ‘good’, instead heading straight to the wrong part of town and setting up home there.
It doesn’t help that it all unfolds with a tedious inevitability as well. Going from some of the beautiful scenery and locations earlier in the film to a generic futuristic laboratory just makes things worse, robbing the movie of having anything unique or interesting about its finale at all.
It’s a crying shame too, because so much of the film is so, so good and deserved a better ending. I don’t want to blame James Mangold too much, because it does feel like a studio-influenced way of wrapping things up and doesn’t really fit with the look or tone of the rest of the movie.
The Wolverine is a mostly excellent movie with only a terrible finale and a couple of poor performances dragging it down. At the very least, you’ll be enable to enjoy the majority of it and hopefully remember the excellence of the early scenes to get you through that ending.