The Wolverine ***1/2

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“The Wolverine” has finally arrived and I am excited to say that it is a return to form for the “X-Men” franchise. After three disappointing entries we finally get a movie that focus’ on it’s characters and their personal stories. It is also not a prequel, which the last two were. This movie takes place after “X-Men: The Last Stand”.

When we catch up with Logan, he is living in the Yukon alone. He is located by Yukio, a mutant who has the ability to see people’s deaths. She has been asked by Yashida, a man who had his life saved by Wolverine during the bombing of Nagasaki, to bring Logan to his death bed so that he can express his gratitude one last time. When Logan arrives at his side, Yashida offers to transfer his healing ability to himself, thus curing his cancer and relieving Logan of his curse of immortality.

When Logan wakes up the next day he is informed of Yashida’s death. He attends the funeral and ends up defending Yashida’s grand daughter from a Yakuza attack. They end up on the run and in hiding.

What struck me was how director James Mangold, starts out with some intense action sequences then slows everything down for a touching love story. Eventually everything is on the line in a climax that has real stakes.

The action this time seems more grounded than before. Now that might read as strange considering there is a fight on top of a speeding bullet train, but there are details that most blockbusters leave out for convenience. Most of the violence involves Wolverine’s hand to hand fights with ninjas and samurai.

I will say that the final fight with the Silver Samurai is the film’s weakest moment. Silver Samurai’s awkward size gives him a sort of Transformers effect that I am sure the creators were not going for.

Still this movie has amazing visual style. This is a story that is told with great locations, physical sets and little to no CGI. That is a rare thing these days. The story is compelling and at times truly exciting. Hopefully next year’s “Days Of Future Past” can keep up this momentum and become the best “X-Men” movie to date.

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