Unexpectedly, The Wolverine is a great movie.
Not that I thought it would be terrible. I was more expecting something slightly above average. He has had his stand-alone movie before with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one that didn’t really resonate with me.
But there is something special about The Wolverine. It took me by surprise from its opening scene and never relinquished the hold, even after the teaser for X-Men: Days of Future Past came amidst the rolling credits.
The Wolverine takes place after X-Men: Last Stand and is based on the classic early 80’s comic book series titled “Wolverine” by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. Now, I should have read the comic series by now. Embarrassed to say, I never bought it as a kid. I remember seeing it on the comic book rack, wanting it, and now looking at how that would have been a good investment, let’s just say my rear end is a little red right now. The only saving grace was that I didn’t know the story-line. A sliver lining, as the twists and turns in The Wolverine were completely fresh, engrossing and even shocking.
The Wolverine opens with Logan, played once again by Hugh Jackman, in a Nagasaki POW camp at the tail end of World War II. As the atomic bomb is about to be dropped, a young Japanese officer named Yashida opens the lid to release Logan from his underground cell. The bomb hits and Logan pushes Yashida into the hole, protecting him from the blast. Fast forward to the present, Logan is living in the Yukon. He is haunted by dreams of Jean Grey, his love who he had to kill at the end of X-Men: Last Stand. In a bar, Logan is asked by Yukio, a pink haired, samurai sword wielding femme fatale, to come to Japan to visit a dying Yashida. Seems Yashida wants to pay his life debt to Logan. But things are not as they seem for the Wolverine in Japan. As the story unfolds, his metal is tested, not only with his spirit but his adamantium claws as well.
What makes The Wolverine so great?
The answer falls greatly upon the broad shoulders of Hugh Jackman. Jackman has clearly not lost his passion for playing Wolverine. He comes off fresh, giving the character consistent depth and sincerity. He is in tremendous physical shape and has become the embodiment of what the Wolverine represents – a fierce soldier.
The Wolverine is an expertly crafted story, as well. The plot never sags, always pushing forward, layered with depth, to the dramatic crescendo at film’s conclusion. The action never takes away from the story-line; it enhances it. I’m not one for 3D movies, but the battle on the bullet-train was made far more exceptional with the glasses on. Further, the cast surrounding Jackman is solid, never taking away from the Wolverine’s presence, but not diminishing the story in any way. James Mangold’s direction appears effortless, creating a comic book movie with heart, edge and tension.
Logan is easy to watch. Which begs the question – why has the Wolverine become such a popular character? What is it that people are drawn to about him? He is one of the most successful comic book characters in the Marvel Universe. But, as a film character, he’s exposed himself to a far greater audience. And he has not disappointed. This is his second stand alone film. What does Wolverine have that other X-Men characters don’t? Simply, he’s a great anti-hero. With elements of Batman and Han Solo, Logan is a loner with a big heart. His greatest and most enduring attribute is that he pretends not to care, but he does more than most. There is a reason that he can still function within The X-Men; it’s the depth in which he feels. That feeling is so intense and hidden beneath all the anger and ferocity he bears, but its there, perhaps his purest driving force. Logan has true courage, willing to take on whatever he has to, no matter how insurmountable the odds. He’s a man’s man. As well, he’s attractive and tortured; a true drawing card for women (from what they tell me).
We all want to right the wrongs we cannot. That’s why we have heroes. They fill that void. Wolverine isn’t held by the constraints that we are, or even by other superheroes. He makes his own rules, administering justice as he sees fit. His public endearment comes from the kind of justice he dishes out. It’s violent, aggressive, and instinctively primal.
There has been some internet buzz about Jean Grey herself in The Wolverine. Throughout the film, Logan is tortured by consistent dreams of the woman he loves, but had to kill. The buzz itself swirls around her scantly clad outfit lying next to Logan in his bed. I disagree with the criticism wholeheartedly – and not only because I’m a guy and Famke Janssen in an attractive woman. Logan is remembering Jean as he would dream her to be, physically close to her, something he couldn’t be in reality. His desire for Jean was intimacy; why would his dream consist of anything else?