Hugh Jackman returns as The Wolverine and faces his ultimate nemesis in an action-packed, life-or-death battle that takes him to modern-day Japan. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his limits, Wolverine confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality; an epic fight that will leave him forever changed.
After a quick prologue set during World War Two that sets up the core of the story, The Wolverine plays out like X-Men 3.5. Following on from the events of The Last Stand, Logan goes into exile to recover from the trauma of facing off with The Phoenix and is haunted by his consciousness throughout the film in the form of Jean Grey which i thought was a pretty nice addition to the character. Once the plot shifts continents we find Logan going against the Yakuza in Tokyo but with suppressed powers making him vulnerable (similar to this year’s Iron Man 3 in all honesty), it does seems like a natural progression for the character and certainly pays tribute to the original 1982 graphic novel. Despite some pretty decent action scenes (the Bullet train rooftop battle did echo The Matrix Reloaded freeway battle for this reviewer), it’s a more slow paced adventure that builds up anticipation before unleashing The Wolverine in relentless glory. The only problem i found was that it did drag in certain scenes and was hoping the plot would progress quicker and the finale involving a giant adamantiam robot samurai seemed over the top. Overall it’s a much needed improvement on both X-Men: The Last Stand and Origins and finally starts giving Logan his grittier attitude back but you can’t help wanting a bit more from this film.
The Extended Cut of The Wolverine is found on Disc Three in the 3D set and is only available to view in 2D. The extended cut is the highlight of the package as this is the version that should have got released in cinemas. Pushing the boundaries of the 12 certificate to its limits, this cut restores the bloodshed and violence missing from the theatrical version. More graphic detail can be seen now with (digital) blood splatter during the action scenes and Logan’s claws going through torsos. This new cut features some new dialogue exchanges between the characters but also restores two additional action scenes (one of them involving Logan during the mountain village fight battling motorcycle ninjas and throwing them through a snow cutter). The only downside to this new extended cut is that it doesn’t solve the issues of the theatrical cut and now what was originally a bit long in places now feels even longer as the running time is extended to 2 hours and 18 minutes.
The Wolverine is presented on Blu-ray with a choice of three different viewing preferences and will be covered below. Across all three versions of the film, The Wolverine is presented on BD50 discs using codecs MPEG4-AVC (2D and extended cut) and MPEG4-MVC (for its 3D version). All three presentations of the film are framed at 2.40:1 that preserves its original theatrical aspect ratio
Disc one contains the original theatrical version of the film in 3D. This was my first viewing of The Wolverine. Originally shot digitally with anamorphic lenses, The Wolverine was converted into 3D during post production. Whether or not it was filmed with plans to convert it to 3D is questionable but there are some decent scenes that play out well in 3D. The flashbacks to Logan trapped in the well during the World War Two bombing show some spectacular depth thanks to some clever photography, Action scenes and fight choreography are handled well and don’t result in a blur of images due to the fast pace and editing of the scenes. There are quite a few periods during the film where it does come across a bit flat and there isn’t as much background layering as you would expect. Long shots and forest scene scenes tend to be the weakest converted scenes. Not much in terms of pop out either but overall it can impress when it wants to but if choose to view the film in 2D, you’re not missing much.
The 3D/2D Theatrical and Extended Cuts are all derived from the same master and all three editions of the film feature the same in terms of picture quality. Very sharp and detailed, colours are spot on and very vibrant throughout thanks to some lush oriental and modern production design that combine perfectly. The long shots of Tokyo at night with neon lights when Logan arrives in Japan are scatted all over the screen and display some beautiful vibrant colours throughout. Featuring a somewhat muted and colder colour palette for the rest of the film though, The Wolverine never feels overly bright or colourful giving it a more natural look but it can be a bit dark in some places hiding some detail in the shadows. Virtually grain free and featuring no evidence of edge enhancement, The Wolverine is certainly a pleasure visually.
The Wolverine unleashes an English DTS-MA 7.1 audio mix on Blu-ray across all three discs and boy is it a powerhouse! Originally mixed with Dolby Atmos for its cinema release, Right from the opening scene we are put in the middle of an atomic bomb blast that engulfs the entire sound stage with power and aggression with LFE output going wild. Once the film zips the present, the audio mix delivers a superb ambiance during the more quieter scenes with the front and surround speakers in full use. Whether it’s Marco Beltrami’s oriental inspired score or general background sound effects, there is always something going on. When the action scenes kick in, panning and directional sound effects in all seven speakers are sharp and discrete and do create a three dimension quality to them. Beltrami’s score gets more aggressive with a combo of drums and horns that the LFE gives a lot of weight too to increase the tension. Dialogue is mixed nicely into the centre channel and absolutely no adjustments were made whilst viewing. This is quite possibly the best Blu-ray audio mix I’ve heard this year.
The Path of a Ronin (53:44) – A pretty in-depth look at the Japanese aspect of the story and its translation from comic book to film. Plenty of interviews and behind the scenes footage supplement this rather interesting documentary. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio
Theatrical Trailer (2:28) – The Film’s original theatrical trailer. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio
Alternate Ending (1:36) – A pretty cool alternate ending that is bound to please X-Men fans. Why it was cut out originally is confusing. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio
X-Men: Days of Future Past Set Tour (2:47) – A sneak preview of the upcoming X-Men film due for release on 2014. Bryan Singer takes the viewer on a quick set visit and explains how large in scope the film will be. Presented in 1080/24p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio
Second Screen App – Tablet owners will be able to sync up the movie with their tablet and get additional production info and behind the scenes insight whilst the film is playing.
Digital Copy – Rounding off the package a redemption code for a Ultraviolet HD Digital copy of the theatrical version of the film.
For the past few years, I have feared that the X-Men franchise had been more of a “Wolverine & the X-Men” with a lot more focus on Logan than any other of the mutants from such a large array of characters to choose from. The Last Stand and Origins failed to impress the fans and myself until First Class was released and proved that the X-Men universe has a lot of potential. The Wolverine does manage to correct its last couple of cinematic outings by giving the title character his edge back (especially in the extended cut of the film that restores the brutality) and opens up the character’s background a bit more. The plot itself though, whilst interesting but not entirely original, does seem more of a progression for The Wolverine but falls at the last hurdle sadly. Its an entertaining film though and one of the stronger entries in the franchise that successfully carries on from the X-Men trilogy whilst also setting up further adventures and crossovers (make sure you stay after the credits folks!). The Blu-ray package itself is pretty good but why they made the extended cut only available with the 3D set is beyond me as this is surely the better cut of the film that 2D only collectors will miss out on. Demo worthy Audio and Visual with a decent but not eye popping 3D version to boot and a small but very tasty selection of bonus features make The Wolverine something you’ll want to find in your stocking on Christmas day.
You can also check out our fellow colleague Matt Cumming’s review of the US 2D Blu-ray of The Wolverine by clicking this link -> http://www.hidefninja.com/2013/12/08/the-wolverine-2d-blu-ray-review/