Action Movie Fanatix Review: The Wolverine

The Wolverine banner

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Hal Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee, Famke Janssen

Director: James Mangold

2013  |  126 Minutes  |  PG-13

“Who says I’m in pain?” – Wolverine

One of my friends recently told me that didn’t like The Wolverine because it only had 1.5 mutants.  It’s actually a pretty astute observation from a non-comic book fan.  It’s actually an interesting complaint too, considering Wolverine alone seems to be Fox’s answer to everything X-Men.  I finally decided to check it out myself to see how astute that comment was.

The Wolverine takes place a number of years after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand.  Wolverine is haunted by the memories of Jean Grey.  Wolverine’s presence is requested in Japan by the very same man he had saved from a U.S. nuclear blast in World War II.  When Wolverine arrives in Japan he finds himself vulnerable and without his healing factor for the first time in his long life.

The Wolverine saves Yashida

The opening scene is awesome, again tying this franchise to events in our familiar history, but it has me thinking… Does Wolverine have super hair growing ability?  After getting hit with the nuke’s blast Wolverine’s skin and hair grow back to pre-bomb condition.  The skin makes sense.  The hair doesn’t.  If his hair could grow that fast he would always look like the mountain man we are shown in the very next scene.  It wouldn’t just stop in perfect Wolverine shape and length.

Hugh Jackman again does a fantastic job filling the shoes of one of Marvel’s most popular heroes.  The Wolverine as a whole fills in bits of Wolverine’s history and also adds so much to his character.  He’s suddenly without a team, without a home and filled with sadness and remorse… and no closer to an end than he has ever been despite the fact that many of his friends and allies have recently seen death.  It’s easy to dive in and understand how he’s feeling, despite never being an immortal being.

Wolverine comic covers

The Wolverine is loosely based around a 1982 comic book arch created by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller.  Frank Miller’s name should be pretty familiar to non-comic book nerds by now with his involvement in 300 and Sin City (not to mention the DVD releases of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 1 & 2).  Chris Claremont’s name may not be so familiar.  Let me make this short and sweet.  Chris Claremont’s writing of Uncanny X-Men (and many other X-spinoffs) from 1975 through 1991 is much of what made the X-Men popular enough to necessitate multiple cartoon series and movies.  His writing is what made me and many other X-Men fans.  Fox’s straying from Claremont’s X-Men writing style is what has made so many X-Men comic book fans not cross over to being X-Men movie fans.

The Wolverine doesn’t stick SUPER closely to the original story but it does enough to make it feel right.  I’m not such a purist that I just want to watch movies based 100% off of the comics I already read.  I’m expecting the movies to make major changes to fit the medium and to tell their own story in some regards.  My problem has always been about the intangible feel of the team, stories and characters… but luckily The Wolverine mostly gets this right.

The Wolverine Viper

Shoehorning Viper into The Wolverine was one of the few BAD decisions, though.  Rather than to find a mutant who could fit this role the writers had envisioned, Fox opted to turn a Hydra agent into a mutant, add new powers, change her country of origin (like Fox has been so apt to do) and drop her into a movie that she didn’t belong.  The point of this character was that she was sneaky and could be the one to depower Wolverine.  She also added an additional bad guy to the equation.  Do you mean to tell me that Fox couldn’t have found a single sneaky mutant who could be made into a legitimate fight for Wolverine and Yukio?  I’m sure if I gave it a few minutes I could come up with dozens.  There’s a character named Phantazia (stupid name) who was once a member of the Brotherhood of Mutants who could fly and turn invisible… among other powers that could make her a threat to any movie hero.

I also hate that the X-Men movies are still using BS wirework.  Wirework should be used in such a way that makes the movement seem exaggerated but still natural.  The X-Men movies are still doing things that martial arts movies revolutionized and then perfected and moved past fifteen years ago.

The Wolverine bullet train


Other than that one complaint, though, the action in The Wolverine is some of the best of the entire franchise thus far.  That is the great thing about Wolverine, despite having super powers, he still gets down and dirty when he fights.  The bullet train scene is definitely a stand out for me and despite having seen it many times in trailers and commercials it still felt new and like something I had never seen before… like something only The Wolverine could be involved in.

Even though I’ve gone back and forth alot about this movie throughout this review, The Wolverine is probably the strongest of all the X-Men films thus far.  It’s really too bad we can’t get an actual X-MEN movie at this level.  It’s also unfortunate that the events of The Wolverine will likely have little to do with anything else.  It seems it will be treated like a Wolverine excursion that is unrelated to the rest of the goings on of the universe.

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