The Wolverine Unleashed Extended Cut!

Director James Mangold’s The Wolverine is the most curious of comic book blockbusters.

It received decidedly mixed reviews, managing only a 68% positive rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently sitting at a 6.9 viewer rating on IMDB. It also “only” managed to earn $132.5 million at the U.S. boxoffice, down significantly from the $180 million earned by 2009’s Wolverine: Origins.

The theatrical film is also long: coming in at just over two hours.

Not exactly the kind of credentials that warrant a big extended cut, right?

But that’s exactly what fans will be getting when they purchase the WOLVERINE Unleashed Extended Edition Blu-ray, which also includes 3D Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD™.

Although a precise new running time was unavailable as I wrote this article, IMDB reports that the extended cut adds 12 minutes to the film.

Despite its modest success domestically, The Wolverine performed extremely well overseas, earning $282 million. That performance was significantly better than Wolverine: Origins’ $193 million and especially X-Men: First Class’ $207 million international haul.

Eager to build momentum for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past release, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is pulling out all the stops in promoting this edition.

I got to attend a special preview screening held for members of the press and blogging community that also included a Q&A with director Mangold.

Based on the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller comic book miniseries first published in 1982, much of the action takes place in Japan where we discover that our favorite mutant has much in common with the Ronin, or Samurai without a master.

Mourning the death of Jean Grey by his own hands in X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan (portrayed for the sixth time in 13 years by Hugh Jackman) is hiding out in the Yukon Territory. Plagued with recurring nightmares, he longs for relief from his “curse” of regeneration and immortality.

Lured to Japan by a dying man’s wish, he soon becomes embroiled in a violent conflict between that country’s most powerful family and the Yakuza, or Japanese mob.

There are wonderful action set pieces here, most notably at a traditional funeral and then atop a speeding 300mph bullet train, all set against authentic Japanese locations. Especially beautiful is the village of Nagasaki, which was leveled by an atomic bomb in 1945. The struggle for life, death and rebirth is an important theme running through the film and is among the reasons The Wolverine stands out among comic book movies.

Mangold and writers Mark Bomback and Scott Frank have serious issues on their minds and they remain intent on keeping the film grounded and as realistic as possible. This almost goes awry in the third act when the action becomes a bit too overwrought, especially with the introduction of the comic book villain The Silver Samurai.

But by then we’re too invested in the fates of Logan and the supporting cast of characters to worry too much. The ending is satisfying and, most importantly, places the Wolverine right where he needs to be to step into the forthcoming X-Men film.

I was among those who enjoyed The Wolverine when it was released last summer. Both cuts feel a little long, but I appreciate the effort taken to allow the characters to breathe between set pieces. I also like the entire cast of Asian actors. They more than hold their own with Jackman who is better than ever in the title role.

I thought I’d be able to easily detect the material that was added to this recut, but I didn’t remember a single sequence that was not in the original. The film certainly didn’t feel any longer. It is definitely more violent, featuring more shots of puncture wounds that would have earned this unrated edition an R classification.

According to the Twentieth Century Fox press materials, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to find on the disc when it’s released Dec. 3:

THE WOLVERINE Unleashed Extended Edition – Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD
• The Extended, Unrated Cut – the first for the X-Men franchise!
• THE WOLVERINE Unleashed – more violent and hardcore than ever before
• The Path of the Ronin – an immersive feature following the journey of a hero without a past
• Alternate Ending
• Audio Commentary by Director James Mangold (only on the unleashed extended)
• Sync with The Wolverine Second Screen App for an interactive Second Screen experience
• X-Men: Days of Future Past Set Tour
• Theatrical Trailer

As an X-Men fan and completest, I’ll be happy to add this release to my collection.