I love the X-Men. Wolverine isn’t my favorite (that honor goes to Gambit) but he’s so gruff and hilarious I can’t help but care what happens to him. I thought X-Men Origins Wolverine was pretty good but I pretend that The Last Stand doesn’t exist. The trouble is, this movie doesn’t have that luxury, so I wondered: would the festering shadow of X-Men 3 drag it down?
Wolverine, struggling with his guilt over killing a friend, is brought to Japan to help a dying man he once saved from a nuclear explosion.
I wasn’t expecting anything profound from The Wolverine. When they tried to do profound last time (in X-Men Origins) all the fans made fun of them. So for this one they kept it simple – a one-off story that takes no leaps and doesn’t advance anything in the long run – like a comic book or a TV episode. And in that context, it works.
We pick up the story after X-Men: The Atrocity That We Don’t Speak Of. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is a scraggily cave-hobo (literally) who lives in the woods and rights the wrongs inflicted on mother nature by asshat hunters. Though he can’t be that opposed to hunting or he’d be begging in the street for his bread.
Please sire, alms for the poor and guilt-ridden?
Logan has nightly dreams of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who is dead, killed by Wolverine after she went evil in the aforementioned crime against humanity. Jean isn’t really Jean, she’s just a manifestation of Logan’s guilty conscience, so she mostly just tells him never to hurt anyone ever again and suggests he should do the world a favor and off himself. The problem, of course, is that he can’t. His healing powers won’t allow it.
Oooh, Logan, I’d much rather be here with you than in dead bed with my real husband…
Enter Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a samurai mutant with the power to predict when people will die. Her powers must not be that reliable, however, or she’d have been able to prevent the plot of this entire movie.
I predict… that this movie needs for me to shut up right now.
She’s come to take Logan to Japan, ostensibly to say goodbye to his old pal Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), whom Logan saved from the Nagasaki nuke in 1945. Of course, Yashida has an ulterior motive. He wants to repay his debt to Wolverine by helping him die, which involves transferring his healing powers to another person.
Please man, I need them. They’ve got me lying on the world’s least comfortable bed.
Unsurprisingly, Logan’s not THAT suicidal. He refuses to hand over his powers. Yashida dies and Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is suddenly #1 on the Japanese mob’s hit list thanks to her asshat father and his connections. Logan, being Logan, forgets his vow to fake Jean and leaps into the fray to protect Mariko. He goes claws-out and charges into the bullet hailstorm head-on, whereupon he discovers that his body has lost the ability to spit them back out like watermelon seeds. Oops.
Ouch! Owie! Oh Jesus…
Given that Logan takes as many bullets as a REAL person in a firefight could be expected to, this causes a few problems. Luckily a mysterious Hawkeye-crossed-with-the-Prince-of-Persia style archer named Harada (Will Yun Lee) is looking out for him. Logan and Mariko escape and go on the run together. The results are predictable and annoying. Where is it written that two hot people alone together have to fall in love? Especially when both of those people profess to love other people?
LOGAN: Stay behind me and don’t forget the condoms. We’re gonna need ‘em.
MARIKO: But I want to marry Harada! And you’re in love with a dead lady!
LOGAN: Details details.
Other than that, though, The Wolverine is a good action movie. Two people on the run from a huge organization of killers, gradually unraveling the big conspiracy that drew the targets on their backs and taking out the people pulling the puppet strings from behind the curtain. It’s what The Bourne Legacy could have been if it hadn’t decided to end in the middle of the plot.
Although Bourne Legacy gets points for not having any giant robot samurais.
Contrary to the instructions in the action/superhero movie writer’s guidebook, Yukio and Mariko aren’t helpless princess types who are only good for patching up the hero after he absorbs bullets on their behalf. Yukio’s almost as good with a samurai sword as Wolverine is with his claws and Mariko used to be a knife-throwing champion in her village.
I predict… that I will fu**ing gut you, dickwad!
So I appreciated that tiny crumb of not-sexism. There’s a fair amount of not-racism too, because the movie’s set in Japan instead of freaking New York (AGAIN). Not all the evil people are Asian and not all the heroes are white. But then it kind of ruined all that by having Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), one of the villains who is ostensibly a medical doctor, prance around her villainous lair in a shiny green catsuit that wouldn’t have been out of place in a movie like Batman and Robin, which, I will remind you, also featured Bat-nipples.
Let me slip into something more comfortable.
Ahh. Much better.
So The Wolverine ended up being just as irritatingly sexist as every other superhero movie, not that most of the audience will notice, because of Logan’s awesomeness and total disregard for the lives of henchmen.
Yeah flying clawface moster ahhhh!
In the end I liked The Wolverine but my favorite part of the movie was the tag scene at the end of the credits that sets up the next X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, which I’m looking forward to like Christmas morning, mostly because I hope the implied use of time travel can undo the botched conclusion to the original X-Men movie trilogy. So see The Wolverine if you want a hacky-slashy good time, but for plot/character development you’ll have to wait for Days of Future Past.
Thanks for reading. I’m on vacation this coming week (luckily nothing interesting is coming out) so come back next Tuesday and we’ll pick up where we left off.