The WolverineThe floor of my bedroom, when I was a kid, was littered with Marvel comic books. (D.C. Comics were decidedly uncool at that time -- even looking at one was an invitation to ridicule.) My favorite title was, of course, The X-Men, and my favorite X-Man was Wolverine. I spent many a happy afternoon running around the backyard pretending I was a wise-cracking mutant with adamantium claws. Although my mom drew the line when I tried to duct tape steak knives to the back of my hand. True story.
And so the latest entry in the X-Men film franchise -- The Wolverine, new to DVD and Blu-ray this week -- is a cause for celebration to my inner fifth-grader. The happy news is that it really is a superior comic book movie, with surprising complexity and a story line that doesn't tread the usual superhero territory.
Fans of the old comic book series will remember the Logan-Mariko story arc, in which Wolvie gets mixed up with Japanese gangsters, lethal ninja masters and True Love. The film takes its inspiration from this classic storyline, but goes off in different directions. Logan kicks around Japan all right, with set-pieces in Tokyo and various villainous lairs, but the film also flashes sideways and back to the Yukon and even World War Two.
Director James Mangold (Walk The Line) doesn't condescend to the material, and he treats The Wolverine like a serious drama -- albeit one with sexy telepaths and cybernetic samurai. Hugh Jackman brings a similar professionalism to his performance in the lead role, playing comics' crankiest mutant with a straight face for the most part, then dropping a dry one-liner to keep things in perspective. It's all about tone with Wolverine, who has transcended comics to become a pop culture regular.
The action sequences and fight scenes are expertly deployed, and there's really nothing to complain about here. The Wolverine is a superhero movie, and a good one, and those who are inclined to see it in the first place will not be disappointed.
Extras: Director's commentary track from Mangold, an alternate ending, plus an hour-long doc on ninja, samurai and the story's comic books roots.
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