Runtime: 2 hours 17 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $97 million
We talk a lot about budgets here, but I think it’s important to touch on to put the entire thing in context. Whether we like it or not, money is required to get stuff done. When a particular movie doesn’t pass a threshold of funding, that ends up being quite detrimental. Yet, throwing a $300 million at it doesn’t necessarily make it good either (see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, John Carter, and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies).
James Mangold directed The Wolverine (2013) on a $120 million budget that turned out to be decent. Now after four years, despite inflation and everything, managed to deliver a great movie on a $97 million budget. That really just goes to show how far good writing and respect for the material can go. Yeah, sure it was made possible by Hugh Jackman taking a salary cut, but that emphasizes how far someone will go show respect for the material.
The film eschewed the larger scope for a more intimate road-trip around the U.S. borders of Mexico and Canada. X-Men: Apocalypse’s scale of world-ending drama and a barely worthwhile cameo for Wolverine has been flipped around. The small, character driven story focuses on Wolverine and his interactions with Laura and Professor X. Not that there’s anything wrong with going either way. Again, you just gotta have good writing and direction.
While great, the movie is not without some flaws, but are mostly forgivable. Background characters seem to lack logic in their decisions…which might be able to be explained away with some thinking.
True to what the R-rating would lead you to believe, the movie has violence beyond what typical comic book movies would risk showing. In my opinion, it reinforces some of the themes that they were going for and really added to the movie rather than just there for fluff. They kept most of the movie fairly grounded and didn’t have over-the-top flashiness. The parts that did have action were done well…unlike X-Men: Apocalypse. If you had just randomly turned on this movie while it was on TV, you might not even realize that it’s a comic book movie for a while, especially if you aren’t acquainted with the characters whose roles were reprised by Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart.
Speaking of Stewart and Jackman, their acting, along with Dafne Keen (Laura/X-23), was absolutely terrific. They managed to portray nuance and subtlety in a film that has people being stabbed through the face. Along with the solid writing, cinematography, and a great score, this movie is that is worth going to see (as opposed to seeing because you happened to have two and a half hours to kill near a movie theater).
Due to the success of Deadpool and the predicted success of Logan, people are now clamoring for more rated R superhero movies. That general idea lacks the nuance that the movie had. Only certain characters lend well to the added freedom, others may not.
A Captain America spin-off, following his endeavors through World War II might work as an R-rated war drama, but Spider-Man punching a hole through someone while wise-cracking? Maybe not so much. Let’s hope studios learn the right lessons from this.
Who am I kidding, both those movies were brought to us in spite of the studio. It took some serious heavy-lifting, campaigning and ingenuity by actors and directors during their fight with the studio.
Lost studios give us things like this: