The Wolverine - Now in Theaters

The Wolverine – Now in Theaters

Before I delve into my thoughts on The Wolverine, I want to let you know I really was not expecting much from this film. The X-Men started fairly well, but each movie was a little bit worse than the one before it. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a particularly low point for the franchise. On the other hand, X-Men: First Class was quite good, so really, I felt like the newest addition to the series could have gone either way. To protect myself, I kept my expectations low. While that may have contributed to my enjoyment of this film, I feel I would have been pleased with the film even if I hadn’t approached it in that way.

The Wolverine is primarily set after the events of X-Men: Last Stand, although there are some flashbacks to World War II. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is tormented by the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and has secluded himself from the world. However, nothing is ever easy for the world’s most popular mutant, and events conspire to draw him back out into the open. In this case, that draw is Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a young Japanese woman who has been searching for Logan for some time. Yukio works for Master Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a man Logan saved during World War II, and the former Japanese officer is dying. After some convincing, Yukio and Logan head back to Japan to fulfill Yashida’s dying wish, allowing the old man to thank Logan one last time before he dies.

I know, we all know this. We saw it in the previews after all. I am only recapitulating it because it underscores one of the important themes of the movie. Logan is a soldier who fights for causes, and his actions affect the world on a level he sometimes fails to grasp. Being immortal, Logan takes on more causes than the average man, and that weighs heavily on him. It is not the kind of burden I envy, that is for sure. Sometimes things work out well, and sometimes… Well, sometimes you have to stab Jean Grey to stop her from destroying the world.

Master Yashida: “Eternity can be a curse. The losses you have had to suffer… a man can run out of things to care for, lose his purpose.”

The Wolverine hangs it’s hat on Logan’s emotional turmoil, and that is perhaps the strongest aspect of this film. Even within the confines of such a short time, the writers managed to develop interesting relationships not only between Logan and his new love interest Mariko (Tao Okamoto), but also between Logan and Yukio (who I really hope we will be seeing in future X-Men films). These new relationships are balanced against his love for Jean Grey, and his anguish over having to kill her. The poor guy can’t even get a good night sleep without her ghost haunting him, and you really start to feel bad for him. This all makes for a great story, which is laced in between some of the most action packed mutant fight scenes we have seen to date.

Where the movie suffers though, is a combination of a script that could have used a few more passes, a few characters who were downright disappointing, and the occasional “meh” bits and pieces.

While Mark Bomback (writer) and Scott Frank (writer) captured the emotional drama of Logan’s life quite well, and James Mangold (director) filmed some great fight sequences, the plot that links all of these moments together seems flimsy. It even feels downright forced at times, and out of place with the rest of the movie. Sometimes, things happen off-screen, and the audience is never told why. We’re left to decipher events out for ourselves. I call this the DVD syndrome. There is a scene there, or a line, that sets up the next scene. For whatever reason, these bits are cut from the theatrical release, and we just have to wait for the DVD to see them.

Kenuichio Harada: “What are you?”
Viper: “A chemist, a nihilist, a capitalist… a viper.”

As for individual characters, while some were fleshed out well like Yukio and Mariko, others needed some work.

Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is a feeble villain whose most graphic power, the ability to molt her skin, is only used during the worst possible time, the climax of the film. Don’t ask me why she decided to molt then, I don’t know. It doesn’t really make sense to me. Other than that she is immune to toxins, and can synthesize toxins which she delivers through her saliva. I had some really bad flashbacks to Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin. Viper even sported several funky hairstyles to make the similarities even more disturbing.

Harada (Will Yun Lee) is an idiot, or at least he was accidentally written that way. As the leader of a centuries old ninja clan, this did not sit well with me. The film needed a face for the clan, and he filled that role well, but then he was also shoehorned in as a former sweetheart of Mariko (when they were less than teens). The addition to the story wasn’t needed, and it added pitiful aspects to a character who otherwise would have worked quite well.

Then there were the “meh” parts of the film. Ninjas are awesome, but they played such a small role in this film I was disappointed. Even at times when you knew they were there (we saw them), they didn’t come out of hiding to do the one thing they existed to do, protect Master Yashida’s family. For an elite fighting force, who existed for a sole purpose, they really sucked at doing that job. They helped Logan look cool, which I guess is something to note.

Overall, I enjoyed the film because it delivered in ways I had not expected. Compared to the previous Wolverine flick, this one is much, much better and most of the movie was entertaining and enjoyable.

For the “wait through the credits crowd,” there is a great stinger, which starts approximately one minute into the credits. It ties the end of The Wolverine into the upcoming 2014 film, X-Men: Days of Future Past. I highly recommend sticking around to watch it.