It’s always nice when distributors put a bit of effort into press screenings, and having Hugh Jackman turn up and give a brief introduction to the film really was a treat. His little speech focused on how great it was to work again with director James Mangold (who was also in attendance). Though hardly a household name, Mangold has built up a diverse, if not always striking, CV of films across his career, including Kate & Leopold (which co-starred Jackman), Walk the Line, the 3:10 to Yuma remake and the underwhelming Knight and Day. The Wolverine is probably his best work to date.
Starting with a bang (the atomic bomb at Nagasaki) and continuing with an expert appreciation for danger and spectacle, Mangold succeeds in making this an intensely watchable and furiously exciting action blockbuster. It may well be the movie of the summer.
It’s been four years since Jackman last starred as Wolverine (he had a cameo in 2011’s mediocre X-Men: First Class movie). His last big outing, the tiresome 2009 feature X-Men Origins: Wolverine, left the series feeling limp and pointless, and the character rather boring. Now, both Jackman, Mangold and scritp writers Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, have helped inject a new energy and drive into the franchise with this Japan-based story. It delves deeper into issues surrounding immortality, strength (both emotional and physical) and love.
One of the problems with this summer’s other big actioner, the Guillermo Del Toro helmed standalone feature Pacific Rim, was its incompetent attempts at effective moments of character-based human drama. The Wolverine manages it. The scenes of discussion don’t make the movie drag, but instead give the scenes of action that surround them greater purpose.
The film is also sumptuously shot. Though the 3D is fairly unremarkable and unnecessary (as per), the cinematography by Ross Emery (who worked on The Matrix series) makes good use of the sprawling city-scapes of Japan. The colours of the more intimate scenes are also gorgeously rich. This is the best-looking entry into the series so far.
The final climactic battle sequence (where Wolverine’s famous claws are put under serious threat) does perhaps go on a little too long. Leaving this small nag aside, The Wolverine is marvellous film; brilliantly staged and superbly directed, and the after-credit sequence hints at some big excitements to come.
The Wolverine (2013), directed by James Mangold, is released in cinemas in the UK by Twentieth Century Fox on 25 July, Certificate 12A. Watch the trailer below: