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The Wolverine

I really like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. It’s unfortunate that I don’t really like the majority of the stuff that they’re doing with him (and really the X-Men franchise overall in the modern string of movies). This new movie just feels like it comes up short in so many areas that I left the theater feeling like it was a bit of a waste of time. It’s not like the movie was really that terrible, it just didn’t feel like there was enough that was great about it to overcome the generally confusing plot and decisions of the movie.

I should start off by talking about some of the things that are good about the movie. As I already mentioned, I enjoy Jackman as Wolverine and he is consistently good in this movie (as he always is). He manages to do his best to portray some depth in the character but where he really shines is the moments when he can make Wolverine a little “funny” (like when he throws someone off of a balcony into a pool that he “didn’t know was there”). I also like the character of Yukio and that she was included in the movie (even if I wasn’t wild about the way she was portrayed). I also really liked the actress they got to play Mariko (Tao Okamoto). It was also nice that the movie wasn’t over saturated with obscure mutants and cameos. They don’t even mention directly whether or not certain characters (like Harada and Yukio) are actually mutants or not because, ultimately it’s not important. We know mutants exist in this universe as well as extraordinary people, what each person is isn’t as important as what those people can do.┬áSome other positives are the depiction of Japan (they had some beautiful sets and locations) and a couple (not all) of the fight scenes. Specifically the escape from the funeral and the subsequent fight on top of a moving bullet train.

The negatives, in my eyes, are numerous. The most offensive may actually be the lack of faithfulness to the comic book source material. As usual, I’m trying to not let knowledge of the comics affect my opinion of the ┬ámovie. However, the plot of this movie seems to have nearly taken a complete departure from almost all of the story lines it references. This is particularly significant for this movie because the plot of the movie itself is not very well explained and many of the motivations and reasons for why things are happening just aren’t explained. Normally in a movie like this, I would assume that it’s happening because they’re trusting that you read the source material and that it will fill in the blanks. But, in this case, having read the source material would just confuse you more.

One of the things that makes Wolverine a popular character is the fact that he is a “darker” character. Despite the fact that he is nigh immortal and can heal from almost any injury, he still feels pain (both physical and emotional) and has spent almost his entire lifetime experiencing it in one way or another. Despite that, he continues to throw himself back into battle and to try to do the right thing. In my eyes this makes him one of the more noble characters that Marvel has (even if he isn’t the most virtuous).

A problem that the movie adaptations of Wolverine have is that it’s nearly impossible to capture the source and depth of all of that pain in the span of a movie. So it’s really hard to develop the kind of pathos that the Wolverine character carries with it, especially when you are deviating from the stories that everyone knows. In this movie, for instance, they depict Wolverine’s relationship with Mariko as well as the loss of his adamantium claws (just the claws, not his entire skeleton as in the comics). Both of these are story arcs involved at lot of pain for Logan, but in this movie there’s almost none by comparison.

Subsequently, when the Logan in the movies is playing up the dark and depressed side of the character it seems pretty unwarranted. A good portion of this movie is dedicated to Logan trying to deal with his “demons” which, for the movies, mostly consist of his guilt over killing Jean in the earlier movies. Really, it just feels like an excuse to put Famke Jensen back into a X-Men movie as the whole dream haunting thing doesn’t feel like it adds to the movie more than just being continuous inconvenience for Wolverine. I mean, we all know when we’re watching the movie that he’s gonna get over it, so why keep milking this. I would’ve been happier to have just one (maybe two) “Jean dreams” in the movie.

Another aspect of Wolverine’s character that’s largely ignored (and in some cases being actively destroyed) is his connection to Japan. Japan has usually been a big part of Wolverine’s back story and a place where he can occasionally find peace. He’s often depicted as having spent significant time there and being very familiar with and respectful of their customs. I believe he’s also supposed to be a decent swordsman and able to speak Japanese. At least, I would assume he can seeing as how he’s had several relationships with Japanese women (even fathering a child with one). So for, all they do to make Japan look good in this movie, it seems a little like a missed opportunity that they chose to depict Wolverine as a complete foreigner instead of as a person who could bridge the gap between cultures. It’s also a little strange that the character of Yashida who, to my knowledge is a new character created for the movie, needed to be a survivor of the bombing of Nagasaki as well as the primary villain. That part also felt a little bit alienating when it came to the way that they depicted the Japanese culture. Maybe they felt it was poignant to reference that point in the country’s history or maybe they just couldn’t come up with a way to introduce Wolverine to this story line since he couldn’t come there with the rest of the X-Men like he originally did. Either way, I just felt like there could’ve been a little more done to bridge the culture gap in the movie aside from just picking good looking locations and using some generic Japanese terms.

Something else I could’ve used more of is exposition. A lot of times movies can feel like they’re over explaining things and not giving the audience enough credit for their own intelligence. In this case, the movie does the opposite. There’s a lot of motivations and back stories that are completely left out of the movie. Especially when it comes to Viper. We are never really told what her motivation is in all of this. Is she doing this because of some kind of loyalty to Yoshida? What exactly are her powers, specifically, WHY DOES SHE SHED HER SKIN!?!? Why is is it necessary to suppress Wolverine’s healing factor if it could still be taken without it being suppressed? Why was Harada (who’s the “real” Silver Samurai) working with her? Where exactly did all of those ninjas come from and were they supposed to represent or be part of the HYDRA organization? And, speaking of Harada, what is going on in Harada’s head and just who’s side is he on? Anyway, I think you get the idea.

Where things really fall apart in the movie is in the final scene. Wolverine, Yukio, Mariko and Harada end up fighting the Silver Samurai and Viper. The action isn’t really that great and consists largely of Wolverine taking single shots at this mini-mecha version of the Samurai in between someone getting punched/thrown across the room or falling from one level of the building to another. The lack luster fighting plus the random displays of powers from Viper left me feeling like I was almost watching a different movie and I think it severely colored my perception of the whole film. When I walked out of the movie I felt pretty bad about the whole film, but upon further reflection I really think most of that is because this fight is the last thing you really experience in the film and I just didn’t find much good about it.

During the fight the Samurai cuts off Wolverine’s claws using his adamantium swords that seem to be infused with fire or something. Of course, this means the return of Wolverine’s “bone claws” which are a very distinctive look for him, although they seem to be introduced here at the worst time possible. I say this because the “easter egg” scene (which I think may have been the best single scene in the movie) shows Wolverine being approached by Magneto and Professor X about needing to deal with an imminent threat. Now it’s fairly well known at this point that a large part of this threat is going to be the Sentinels and I just had to think “what good is Wolverine going to be with bone claws fighting against giant robots”. I’m just hoping that, moving forward, that’s the biggest concern I have about the direction that the X-Men movie franchise is going as they get ready to take on their next big movie project. Because, while the X-Men are some of my favorite comic book characters, I have to admit that they feel like their at the bottom of the pile when compared to the recent major super hero movies that have been released.

Rating C+

It’s 2/3 of a good movie and 1/3 of a train wreck.

Recommendation

I really want to recommend that this movie be ignored, but I can’t do that in good conscience.

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