By Sam Adams | Criticwire July 17, 2013 at 12:17PM
The first-reviews of The Wolverine, which sends Hugh Jackman's adamantine-clawed X-Man to Japan -- apparently to get as far away from X-Men Origins: Wolverine as possible -- have started to trickle in, and if you were hoping for a movie that's slightly better than the first Wolverine movie but not as good as the better X-Men films, you're apparently in luck. Mixed-to-negative takes outnumber the few positive ones, but both sides seem to agree that The Wolverine is a departure from recent comic-book movies, though they split on whether this represents a welcome change of pace or a regression to the bad old days.
Simon Reynolds, Digital Spy:
Jackman and Mangold have strived to fashion a character-driven, definitive take on Wolverine. Pulling him away from familiar X-Men colleagues and anchoring the action in Japan certainly gives this a totally different feel to pretty much any other superhero film -- it owes more to cinema's samurai epics than it does the modern-day blockbuster. Ironically, this is both The Wolverine's biggest strength and its undoing. While it only skims the surface of the culture it's enshrouded in, this is the element that gives the film a distinct flavor and sets it apart from the endless wave of pixel-driven multiplex-fillers.
James Hoare, Sci-Fi Now:
In James Mangold (Walk The Line, 3:10 To Yuma)'s expert hands, this is a beautifully shot and deftly structured affair, a constant escalation in danger dovetailing with the constantly moving lattice of human drama and conflict as The Wolverine's classic cinema roots are never far from the surface.... Like one of its stupendously choreographed fight scenes, The Wolverine manages the delicate balance of respect for the source and the convention of the genre, big top sensation, and an unlikely, heart-wrenching emotional punch.
James Hunt, Den of Geek:
A comic book movie that (for the most part) avoids the standard genre tropes and feels more like a Gaijin-in-Japan action movie than yet another superhero blockbuster. If you're feeling fatigued by tights, suits and capes, this may be the antidote.
Pierce Conran, Twitch:
As a Japan-set, character-based and episodic narrative, The Wolverine is almost a success. However, it plays a little fast and loose with some Japanese genre codes (such as a cadre of monks suddenly turning into tattooed, bare-chested, gun-toting yakuzas) and suffers from not being shot in Japan (plans were scraped following 2011's tsunami). Jackman is on form, Mangold lends his solid if uninspired directing style and there's a great Kurosawa reference, but the film lacks the punch it needs. By aiming a little too high and not quite meeting its promise, The Wolverine is a slight disappointment.
There are enough grace notes here -- the opening shot of the B-29 approaching its target is serenely beautiful -- to suggest this will be light years ahead of the lamentable X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And so it proves, even if it never hits the heights of the first two X-Men movies or X-Men: First Class.
David Edwards, Mirror:
To its credit, The Wolverine is less concerned with the let's-level-a-cityscape formula of other superhero flicks such as The Avengers, Man of Steel and Iron Man Three and more interested in character development. The problem is that, aside from the odd moment where our man flashes his claws, this looks an awful lot like one of those burn-and-churn cheapies that Nicolas Cage would sign up for.
Robbie Colin, Telegraph:
Sorry, but didn’t superhero films outgrow all of this five or so years ago? Where is the quicksilver wit and lightness of touch of the Avengers and Iron Man films, or the formal ambition of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy? The previous X-Men film, First Class, was secure enough in its own skin to embrace its comic side. Mangold's picture affects a pubescent snarl instead: that’s the difference between comic and daft.
Neil Smith, Total Film:
It’s a safe bet that fans of the celebrated '80s comic arc from which the story derives will lap up every dojo, kimono and nugget of philosophical wisdom. Come to the material fresh, though, and you may find yourself at times counting the minutes until the next duel, scrap or punch-up.