My Thoughts on The Wolverine



So, is The Wolverine any good, or do we have another The Last Stand on our hands? Continue reading below to read my mildly spoiler-ish thoughts on the most recent film starring everyone’s favorite mutant berserker.

I’m generally loath to give movies numerical ratings or letter grades, but if pressed I’d give the film a C. It’s slightly better than Origins, the last film to bear the Wolverine’s name.

What, you’re still here?

Okay, then let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

The Good: Characters. The strength of any superhero film depends largely on the strength of its characters, and Hugh Jackman wears the role of the Wolverine like a second skin. Famke Janssen reprises her role as Jean Grey, but with a twist: she’s a figment of Logan’s imagination, and she spends the entire movie haunting his nightmares and not-so-subtly urging him to suicide. It’s wonderfully creepy, and Jackman and Janssen have a great chemistry together, which is more than I can say for Hugh Jackman and Tao Okamoto, who plays Logan’s newest love-interest, Mariko. Jackman and Okamoto have zero onscreen chemistry, but I don’t fault either actor for this; I fault the lazy way that too many Hollywood movies try to tell the audience that given characters are in love, without actually giving us any visual, intellectual, or emotional justification for the attraction.

I would have preferred an entire movie about the memories of Jean Grey slowly driving Wolverine insane, but I doubt we’re going to see a tent-pole superhero film that’s more character piece and less dumb action movie any time soon. The audience would reject it. And why shouldn’t they? Superman Returns sucked. Forget I said anything.

By removing Wolverine’s healing factor, the film explored a vulnerable side of the character that was thoroughly engaging. For the first time, the invincible Wolverine is in genuine danger, yet he struggles on despite terrible injuries, trying to defend the weak and to protect the powerless. Classic hero stuff, that. But, of course, in the third act the hero has to get his powers back, and all of the drama and tension drains right out of the film like puss from a freshly burst pimple.

Oh, God, that’s a terrible image. I apologize.

The Bad: Action scenes. Is it really too much to ask for them to stage and film action scenes in such a manner that I can tell what is going on? Every action scene in this movie is shot too close and with too much shaky-cam. The only scene that broke away from this trend was a ninja massacre, but as ninja massacres tend to be, that sequence was over in a heartbeat. The less said about this the better. Don’t go into this movie expecting thrilling action scenes.

The Bad: Villains. I’m sorry, Viper is a lousy antagonist and The Silver Samurai – who as yet has never been cool but still has the potential to be cool someday – is entirely unconvincing is his cinematic depiction as a cyborg grandpa. They try to pull a third act swerve with these guys, but if you can’t see this twist coming from reel number one, you’re probably not paying attention. Newsflash, Hollywood. If you’re going to try to swerve the audience, it helps if every non-protagonist character isn’t clearly diabolical. Just sayin’.

The Ugly: Orientalism. I won’t go into this at length, but let’s just say this film has a very stereotypical view of Japan and Japanese culture. It all seems very rote and surface level: here’s the bullet train, here’s the love hotel, here’s the pachinko parlor. All of the Asian male characters are either sneering villains or sexually inadequate pansies, and all of the Asian women are either exotic, ass-kicking shinobi or demure yamato nadeshiko. I understand that this film was inspired by comic books from the early Eighties, but I wish they would have done a better job than 1995’s The Hunted, which starred Christopher Lambert as the resident gaijin.

The Ugly: Comic book continuity. Like it or not, this film has an albatross chained around its neck, and that bird’s name is X-men III: The Last Stand. If they had just left it at Jean Grey’s phantasmal presence haunting Logan’s dreams, it could have been tolerable. But the stinger that plays during the credits can only bring the memories of The Last Stand rushing back, filling your mouth with the taste of vomit and disappointment. Further, certain events within the movie are inevitably going to jump-start the “adamantium bullet” argument from X-men Origins: Wolverine. If you don’t know what this argument is, count yourself lucky. If you do know what it is and want to hash it out all over again, save us all the trouble by following these easy steps: 1.) Find the nearest mirror. 2.) Stare longingly at your reflection. 3.) Slap yourself in the face. 4.) Call yourself a nerd, you nerd.

All in all, The Wolverine wasn’t grossly offensive, but it’s not going to set any hearts aflutter the way some earlier superhero movies have. I wish it would have had a narrative worthy of its lead characters, or barring that, I wish the whole film had been The Adventures of Hobo Logan and His Friend, the Cartoon Bear.

Seriously, guys. That bear. I was dying. Best sequence in the film.

4 Responses to “My Thoughts on The Wolverine”

  1. It did seem like they were just going for a mindless summer flick and they hit it on the head. I felt rather bad about commenting to my friend during the movie that they killed Smokey when he was just trying to warn us about the dangers of forest fires. I also had to quiet my inner nerd and remind myself that I’ve seen a character survive an atom bomb by hiding in refrigerator and after that anything has to go.

  2. Good review. I felt about the same though I didn’t have as much trouble believing the love story aspect. I do have a low emotional IQ though. I can’t take issue with anything you’ve said. I’d give it a light 3/5.

  3. The Jean Grey subplot bothered me to no end. I would have appreciated Wolverine’s pining and increased mental instability if it hadn’t been for that little detail that Jean survived in The Last Stand. Why on Earth is he pining for a dead-yet-not-really-dead love interest?

    I would have enjoyed and possibly even loved that subplot if Jean had actually died in The Last Stand (which would have done much to redeem that movie for me; I HATED that she survived/wasn’t killed in that movie. She thoroughly deserved to be killed there and even seemed to yearn for it herself).

    • What makes you say that she survived, Nic? There’s been nothing in any of the movies released so far to indicate that.

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