Just came from watching The Wolverine, marking my 7th thing from my list of media events of the year that I was looking forward to that I now have behind me. I enjoyed it, more than I would ever have expected to. True there are some weaknesses and some questions that began to emerge as I reflected on the film on the way home, but they pale in comparison to what there is to enjoy. Still, this is my blog commentary on the film, so… (Spoilers ahead)
There are a few too many people / groups after Mariko. Harada’s shifting loyalties are confusing and not strongly motivated. It’s a little confusing why Yashida has to fake his death – seems like it would have been simpler to just arrange to beat up Logan and steal his healing once it had been suppressed. Or to have just waited for Logan to show up at his house, instead of taking Mariko yet somewhere else to lure Logan there as well. How come Viper’s poison doesn’t actually kill Shingen? What’s the story with Viper anyway? Her mutation seems to be that she is 1. immune to poison, 2. has a snake tongue, 3. can spit out poison, 4. can cure the poison she spits out, 5. can survive and arrow to the chest, and 6. molts (frankly, I could have done without the tongue, I think). This is the next step in human evolution?
Phew, now that that’s off my chest…
What this film had going for it is that it’s actually a strong character drama blended well with its many well-directed action scenes. There’s a particularly gripping one that takes place on top of a bullet train. Hugh Jackman is as good, nuanced, and sympathetic playing Logan here as we have ever seen him. Newcomers Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima both do well in their pivotal roles. The plot, although a bit convoluted, is consistently engaging. And the film surprisingly and somewhat daringly ties itself strongly into the end of X3: Last Stand, which came out 7 years and 3 movies ago (although to be fair, if they were really tying it into that film, there might have been references to that mutant “cure” they invented back then). It was also good to Famke Jansenn as Jean Grey again, even if she is a bizarre waking dream, and even if I had to explain to my non-XMen-fan friend that actually, Jean and Logan never had any kind of actual relationship.
This captures the general problem they’ve had with translating the XMen into films, and that is that the way Wolverine has needed to be at the front and center of nearly everything that we see in nearly every movie. This is certainly not the case with the comics, even if Wolverine is an extremely popular character. And I have never been a particular fan of Wolverine. But in The (note the definite article) Wolverine, I feel like for the first time we’ve got a story that is truly about Logan, not just featuring him, and that makes me care about the character.
The fact that he loses his healing ability for part of the story was one of the factors of this. I tire of the apparent limitlessness of this attribute and of film makers’ enjoyment in showing him recover from increasingly deadly blows. I know that’s a bit contradictory, since I do enjoy the invulnerable Superman. But I think its the combination of Logan’s amorality and arrogance along with his apparent unbeatability that bothers me. So having a Wolverine that feels a bit more vulnerable is something I enjoy, and I was a disappointed when that was inevitably undone toward the end of the film. But that said, they did quite a good job with that last battle, giving us the feeling that Wolverine could indeed be defeated.
And then of course, there’s that mid-Credit sequence, where they even more blatantly lead in to the next step of the XMen movie franchise than their cousins in the Avengers do. Pretty exciting stuff, seeing both Professor X and Magneto back in the game, fully powered and undisintegrated. Overall, it makes for an exciting viewing experience, is the best XMen movie since X-Men 2, and kind of makes me exciting about the XMen movies again for the first time in a looong time.
A bit reluctantly, and not because it’s the greatest movie, but because I did enjoy it and I honestly can’t figure out why anyone who goes to see a movie about Wolverine would not.