*For those who haven't seen the movie yet, a fair warning: I will talk of spoilers. You've been warned.
Ah, The Wolverine, the superhero movie that totally surprised me and no doubt others. In a summer that had Iron Man and Superman, you stood above them both. Of course you had flaws, four in particularr: the climax (Silver Monger as I like to call the movie's version of the Silver Samurai) being so darn predictable about whose in the suit, yet the reveal being dragged out for so long, “Japanese Hawkeye” (Will Yun Lee wasted on a meaningless role), the dumping of a good villain in Shingen, and, of course, Viper. Oh yes, the worst villain of a superhero movie EVER (on film, though the people behind Man of Steel come in close second. My, how I long for the days of Joel Schumacher. Okay, no I don't, but can Hollywood stop making the same darn mistakes?!). Yet, even with those problems I enjoyed it.
So when I heard that Best Buy would pull a “G.I. Joe Retaliation”: in releasing a version that adds an additional twelve minutes. I wondered if it too would benefit greatly from the additional footage? Well, first off, the new cut makes the movie much more violent. You see Wolverine hack and stab his foes down. You see his foes hack and stab at Wolverine though he does NOT go down. The film is much harder than the original PG-13 and borders on an R, and that's kind of awesome to have an R-Rated big superhero movie.
Of the greatest issues I had with the original cut is now wiped away. Will Yun Lee's character, Harada, gets flushed out more and you get the whole character arc with him breaking free of his “Japanese Hawkeye” limits that bound him in the theatrical version. You now understand his duty of protection to the true heirs of the Clan Yashida, as well of his evolving realization of the madness that has poisoned his clan. The arc is much more satisfying for his character and the climax now. So in that regard, the Unleashed Extended Cut gets a notch over it's theatrical version.
Another, smaller part is a scene involving Shingen and Yashida where the former visits his dying father, expecting to be given what's his and instead rewarded with nothing. The small scene balances and alludes to later ones, but it also reveals the chief plot point for the first two acts (Mariko being made heir, not Shingen) in addition to letting it out again near the end of the second act (with Mariko revealing to Logan as to why the Yakuza are gunning for her). Yashida also gets a few more scenes of his younger self with Logan in the hole, which again explains his later actions a bit more. Logan and Mariko get a few moments of more depth, with the former beginning to realize what a “normal” life with Mariko could be like and opening up more to her.
In short, that's what the extended cut adds. Little bits of extended character shots, getting their reaction to things around them. These little moments help characters such as Harada, Shingen, and even Yashida, explaining their motivations. So, for that, I'll give the extended cut credit for the added dimensions for all of its antagonists. Yes, it even adds a bit more Viper into the mix.
Yes, we do get more of her character as well (she gets an extra scene showcasing her genius in genetics and warning a cocky Harada that Wolverine will be too much for him unless he uses the poison she's supplied him), but I have issues with the character since she's nothing at all like her comic counterpart and really has no motivation at all to move the plot along. Even with these extra little moments, I still loathe the character of Viper. She reminds me too much of a second-rate Poison Ivy, who has all these powers only because the plot demands it. She really has no motive for why she's doing what she's doing or her utter fascination with Logan's genetic type.
Speaking of said scene with Harada/Viper, it is the introduction to the biggest scene added to the film: Wolverine vs. LOTS of ninjas. It's a fun, extremely violent romp, compared to the brief sequence we got in the original cut. No, it isn't just Logan slicing and stabbing ninjas that makes the part so overtly gory. Nope, it's the addition of a Yukio-piloted snow plow as she aims it at any ninja who dares cross her path that does it. The violence was so over-the-top I felt I was back watching a version of Brain Dead (1992), with ninjas now. I get why it was cut, but it's still a helleva fun scene that answers a small plot hole (what happened to all the darn ninjas in the theatrical version), and, again, it's cool just to see Wolverine fully unleashed.
The Wolverine: Unleashed Extended Cut does exactly what's needed. It fixes most of the flaws with the minor and major villains of the piece while also adding some more humanity to Wolverine himself. Overall, it makes the movie much better, heightening the already good parts. The odd thing that's discouraging is the fact that this is the second genre film (again G.I. Joe: Retaliation being the first) in less than a year that has a better cut than the actual theatrical version. This is the version of the movie I'll watch more as it gives the more rewarding experience. Yes the movie has flaws in an annoying side villain, but the main crux, which is nicely layered piece of Logan finding a direction in life again, is just so well done. I just never figured with all the superhero films this year that a Fox movie that's a sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) would beat out all the rest. Even more, this version of the film honestly makes it my favorite X-Men movie as well.
4.5 out of 5