These Marvel comic movies continue to surprise me. Their great strength is the quality of the writing. After years of fairly so-so films they started hiring some superlative screenwriters who were perfect for the task. First we had Joss Whedon's outstanding Avengers, then Shane Black's Iron Man 3 (which I wrote about here) and now The Wolverine.
I had low expectations of The Wolverine. The uninspired UK poster is a dull grey creation which features a Hugh Jackman who looks like he's in acute gastric distress (see below). I only went to the movie to kill time. But I discovered that it was tight, engaging and very smartly written. And at the end, as the credits rolled, I discovered why.
The script was by Scott Frank (co-credited with Mark Bomback). Scott Frank is responsible for some of my favourite movies of all time, notably the best ever Elmore Leonard adaptations the delightful Out of Sight and Get Shorty.
Obviously other talents helped turn The Wolverine into an intelligent thriller which exceeded all expectations. James Mangold is an interesting and talented director. But I can't help thinking that the decisive contribution was the writing of the canny, resourceful Scott Frank. If you're not familiar with his work, try the Elmore Leonard movies I mentioned, plus the interesting low budget thriller The Lookout, which Frank also directed.
Three dimensional footnote: I found the 3D effects mediocre in The Wolverine (were they retrofitted to the movie?). They don't particularly lend anything to the experience, so I suggest you save some money and see it in 2D.
(Image credits: The "gastric distress" poster is from Forbes. The superior samurai-in-the-rain image (actually an animated campaign) is from Orange Co. The cute, sword wielding Rila Fukushima is from Sci-Fi Now. The Out of Sight poster is from Roger Ebert.)