Sunday, April 9, 2017
Sunday Best: Superhero Movies of All Time #13 - The Wolverine
For fans of the comic book adventures of the most popular X-Man, The Wolverine is the jackpot. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a bit of a missfire and Logan is in category all on its own, The Wolverine hits the sweet spot for the character.
One of the things I really enjoyed from this movie is the consequentialism from X-Men: The Last Stand. The X-Men franchise is notoriously bad at its continuity and having things matter from movie to movie. But I love the fact that the film begins with Logan (the always great Hugh Jackman) still dealing with the loss of the love of his life. He has retreated from civilization only to be called back by an old friend who offers to make him mortal. Along the way he becomes involved with Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a sword-wielding semi-psychic, and Mariko (Tao Okamato), the inheritor of great fortune who is need of protection.
In terms of action, this is one of my favorite in the franchise. I would put the bullet train scene up there against similar scenes in movies like Mission: Impossible. It was also fun as a comic-book fan to see Wolverine cut loose in ways that he would normally do in the comic book. Whether he was plowing his way through a yakuza ambush or being shot with arrows by a cadre of ninjas, this movie brought with it the visual flair that some of the great Wolverine stories of the past had done. The chases are fun, the fight choreography is exciting, and the pacing is fast and furious.
The change of scenery was also a nice pallet cleanser to the franchise. Gone are most of the familiar mutants. In fact, the presence of other mutants like Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is more of a distraction than a help to the story. The film may have been stronger if it had simply made Wolverine the only mutant. Ironically, it is the shoe-horning of the different comic book elements (e.g. The Silver Samurai) that are the films weakest parts. Regardless, the immersion into Japanese culture was enjoyable and fascinating.
The two lead supporting characters are also great. It is true that Yukio and Mariko fall into the love triangle trope with Logan. But Fukushima and Okamato bring great charisma to their parts. Yukio always has a twinkle in her eye and a slightly shifty demeanor. Mariko carries herself with all the grace of a Disney princess while demonstrating poise, wisdom, and courage. In the comics, Yukio is a reflection of who Wolverine is: dangerous, underestimated, wild, and violent. Mariko is a reflection of what Logan wants to be: noble, wise, heroic, and compassionate. In the comics, Yukio and Mariko have nothing to do with each other. But in the movie, they are the oldest of friends. And these two characters are bound my mutual sisterly affection that any potential romantic rivalry would feel out of place.
Jackman is also at the top of his game in this film. He takes Logan to a new level of emotion and weariness (that only seems less so because of his work in the follow-up film). But you can clearly follow his emotional journey every painful step of the way.
Thematically, the movie touches on those universal ideas of loss, love, life and death. Director James Mangold lays the groundwork for a deeper exploration of these in his final outing with the character. As a result, The Wolverine may suffer in comparison. Whereas Logan is essential a tragic Western, The Wolverine is a superhero action film.
So it is important to celebrate what The Wolverine is, not what it isn't.