For once Unleashed Extended Edition is NOT hyperbole
Largely succeeding as both a stand-alone outing for this, the most popular, X-Men character, and as a satisfying resolution of the events in the disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine loosely adapts one of the best of his solo comic book tales.It sees Logan, haunted by recurring nightmares of his lost love Jean, drift into the middle of a convoluted feud in Japan. Ostensibly intrigued by the notion of finally getting a worthy death but - when seemingly robbed of his healing ability - finally finding a reason to live and, maybe, just maybe, a reason to love someone again. This version adds 12 minutes to a tale which was already quite hefty; a solid narrative which, on the one hand, rightfully puts character development at the fore but, on the other, suffers from a slightly unconvincing love angle - something, unfortunately, which is integral to the plot. Thankfully the extra footage largely amounts to added action, for a change, and certainly pushes the boundaries of what you'd expect in a 12 certificate.There is one particular sequence - where villains get chewed up by a snowmobile and blood is sprayed out of the exit vent - that is particularly gratuitous. The best scene in the film, however, is easily the initial assassination attempt, where a 'wounded' Logan slaughters his way through the streets of Tokyo, and this has also had some upgrades to the violence - his blades now more visibly penetrate, and wounds are significantly more bloody. Throw a couple of extra F-bombs into the mix and this is a tougher, more adult cut, although credit is due with respect to the maturity of the original story, whose examination of death and mortality, and whose Samurai references, truly level-up this journey.
Like the Magneto origin story in First Class (but not the rest of that movie) and the more character-driven Iron Man 3, The Wolverine proves that Comic Book Superhero Blockbusters can have substance too.
Adamantium VisualsThe best release of The Wolverine is this, the 3-disc Region Free UK equivalent to the US’s 4-disc (because it also includes a DVD) counterpart. It’s labelled the Unleashed Extended Edition, and it comes with the Theatrical Cut in 3D, the Theatrical Cut in 2D (along with most of the Extras) and then the Extended Cut in 2D, featuring an Audio Commentary from the Director. Understandably it costs a pretty penny, and I’m sure fans are very upset that they have to essentially fork out for the 3D edition in order to see the superior Extended Cut, but this really is the best package.
In terms of visuals, the 2D releases – whichever cut – look spectacular, boasting demo quality 1080p video presentations in the original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Detail is impressive throughout, offering up strong clarity and fine object observation; decent close-up facial coverage, clothing weaves and background textures. The Japanese setting allows the image to stand out further, with a distinctive colour palette that boasts vibrant blood reds and deep and rich blacks, as well as warm but not-too-hot skin tones. Digital defects are largely non-existent, with no signs of any significant DNR over-application, no intrusive edge enhancement or wavering noise levels, and no artefacting. It’s an excellent presentation, easily demo-quality.
Overall the 2D Extended Edition is still probably the definitive way to watch the movie, but the 3D option is far from terrible, and even works quite well more often than not.
On the 3D front things are a bit hit and miss, but arguably more impressive than anybody had any right to hope for from this conversion. Admittedly conversions have been getting better and better, but The Wolverine didn’t exactly have the time and love and attention to detail that, say, Pacific Rim received, so you shouldn’t be holding out for anything particularly special. That said, it looks better than the average conversion, with some surprisingly subtle depth adding a nice amount of unobtrusive dimensionality to the piece, without taking away from the already visually enticing cinematography. Certainly the image is more about positive than negative parallax so there’s very little pop-out moments, but that’s only really a good thing, as I think it would threaten the more serious nature of this instalment if claws were to start popping out of the screen. It’s character roundness and solidity that’s the least impressive element – always the hardest thing to get right when it comes to conversions – but they’re still far from cut-outs staggered back into the screen. The 3D doesn’t come recommended over the 2D by any means, but it’s also more than just a gimmick alternative.
Regenerating BombastOn the aural front the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 tracks are almost equally stunning across all three versions of the movie. And I say almost because, for some reason, the Extended Cut appears to have a slightly more gravely mix – in a good way – which makes fractionally better use of the LFE channel. I’m not talking about the effect of the additional footage (although perhaps the sounds of violence were dulled down as well as the bloody visuals), but more the general input of the LFE channel, which feels slightly more significant.
Either way, however, these are three great tracks, offering up clear and coherent presentation of the dialogue, predominantly from across the fronts and centre channels.
Effects are dynamically presented across the surrounds, with the more boisterous moments packing a fair wallop when it comes to bringing the LFE channel into play – whichever version you’re watching. Certainly everything gets tipped up a notch as the stakes are raised; the score picks up steam, the editing is faster and more furious, and the track pulls you along with the fury, crafting a wonderful atmosphere that literally transports you into the heart of all the key set-pieces. Yet it’s the quieter moments that also stand out as examples of a great track, as the atmosphere never really lets up, with ambient noises creeping in across the rears and keeping the soundstage active irrespective of the lack of overt action. Overall it’s a stunning audio accompaniment, raking in a high 9 score which is demo quality through and through.
Bone ExtrasIn terms of extras, the 2D Extended Edition disc comes with a Director’s Commentary that has Mangold detail the production process whilst also highlighting some of the changes he made to the longer cut, and the upped ante in the violence department. It’s interesting and informative, and cleverly placed on this version of the movie, as clearly the Director too feels that it is the definitive version. The 2D Theatrical Cut disc comes with the rest of the extras, including The Path of the Ronin, which has the cast and crew – including Jackman and Mangold – discussing the original comic stories and the transition to the Big Screen; a fan-tribute Alternate Ending that features Wolverine’s original comic costume; and X-Men: Days of Futures Past – Set Tour, which further teases the next entry in the extended X-Men family franchise; and the Theatrical Trailer.
Three discs to play with and you'd have hoped for more extras, but few will be disappointed with three versions of the movie as well as a Commentary and a Documentary.
What's The Rub, Bub?The better of the Wolverine movies, and arguably one of the better entries in the X-Men film 'universe' as a whole, The Wolverine distinguishes itself from the other chapters with its more personal tale - in the same vein as Iron Man 3 and parts of X-Men: First Class - and further stands out here with an Unleashed Extended Edition that certainly does not disappoint. It's harder and more violent and easily the definitive version to watch.
Unfortunately, in order to watch it, you'll have to fork out for this expensive 3-disc set, and pay for the privilege of owning the 3D version of the movie too, even if you don't have a 3D set-up. Still, in return, you get a fairly impressive package which certainly comes recommended, irrespective of the sneaky marketing tactics. Certainly don't miss out on seeing the movie the way it should have been released in the first place.
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