Even though the most ardent movie nerds have mentally shifted their focus onto next May’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (think The Avengers with X-Men characters), everyone’s favorite clawed hero Logan/Wolverine still has a movie out in theaters, and it just might be the best of the summer's Big Three superhero movies (the others being Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel) — which is sort of ironic, since nothing here even closely resembles a typical genre offering.
Everything about The Wolverine feels so … anti-comic book movie. Instead of semi-bored A-listers and overtly epic action sequences bookended by a serviceable plot, we’re given a relatively small yet poignant character study that hinges itself on Hugh Jackman’s sometimes graceful, sometimes snarky, sometimes fierce take on the character.
Jackman’s portrayal of the indestructible X-Man has been among the more underrated superhero portrayals so far. He’s shown up in every X-Men movie, and no appearance has ever felt even close to dialed-in (say what you will about Origins outside of Jackman’s performance). I love Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark as much as the next person, but Jackman should be getting the same sort of recognition for crafting one of the hallmark film characters of the Aughts.
Outside of Jackman, director James Mangold holds his own in a tough genre to crack. Actually, the motion poster above is a pretty great tonal capsule for what the movie has to offer, due in large part to Mangold.
If Iron Man 3 was the summer’s superhero appetizer and Man of Steel the main course, The Wolverine sneaks in at the last minute to deliver a delicious dessert. (For the metaphor’s sake, RED 2 is the cigarette receptacle outside of the restaurant.) And as much as I liked those two, I’m pretty okay with calling The Wolverine the best comic book movie of that set.
Be sure to stick around for a quick second during the credits for an extra morsel of stuff, which may or may not set up next summer’s big X-travaganza.
Also, this would make a fascinating double feature with Pacific Rim if you’re game to spend a little cash. Whereas Pacific Rim delivered a loving ode to the classic kaiju films, The Wolverine fortifies its backbone with a strong reverence for Japanese culture and history. So if your weekend is looking thin, there's an option.