I am never one who pulls punches or doesn't like to give an opinion. I have definitely never been accused of being afraid to open my mouth and voice my opinion. If anything I have been accused of making excuses for things that I enjoy even if they are considered to be shitty (John Carter was fantastic... fuck all you haters!) At the ripe old age of 34 I firmly believe that I am living in the midst of the Geek Golden Era. With comic books, movies, TV shows, and everything else blurring together, I am getting everything I ever wanted in life handed down to me. 10-12 years ago I could never imagine the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that culminated in The Avengers. Even after groundbreaking movies like Raimi's Spider-Man & Singer's X-Men, we were much more prone to see missteps like Electra, The Punisher and Daredevil rather than epic movies like Watchmen & The Dark Knight. But lately things have been much more hit than miss. Sure, you still get some stinkers... but for the most part, geek movies/TV are getting it right. Why is it all coming together? I think 'The Wolverine' provides us with a perfect explanation of whats right & wrong with geek entertainment culture today. Check out exactly what I mean after the jump...
Let me start this off by saying that I have been intrigued by 'The Wolverine' since the minute it was announced. First off, I always liked Jackman as Wolverine. Yeah he is too tall, but dude plays Logan to a T. I really thought after the last Wolverine: Origins movie that we were done seeing Jackman in the role. Add in the fact that Darren Aronofsky was attached to direct, they planned on using Chris Claremont/Frank Miller classic mini series as the source material, and they wanted to shoot the whole movie in Japan were all things that appealed to me. But once the earthquake in Japan derailed filming for 6 months to a year, Aronosfsky had to drop out due to scheduling issues. Changes in the mini series story were being kicked around, and I though to myself "Here we go again... they are gonna fuck this up for sure". But I must say that after seeing the movie I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it... and I like the direction we are heading in the Fox Studios controlled X-Men universe. Here are a few pros & cons into what I saw in the latest installment...
****POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD****
Cons - Let me start off with what I didn't like, because it was not as prevalent as what I did like:
1) Why change anything from the original Wolverine/Japanese story line? They drastically changed the origin of the Silver Samurai and muddled the two versions of the character that have existed in the Marvel Comics with a third party to come up with the version present in the film. They even toyed a bit with the romance of Mariko & Wolvie, which is epic level comic romance shit. All the changes that were made were not really a big deal, but if it ain't broke... well, you know.
2) I really liked the balls of using Viper as the main villain (more on that in the pro section), but if you are gonna go that obscure with a villain you HAVE to give us a bit more back story. I vaguely remember her from the comics, but I could hear people in the theater whispering "Oh... so the doctor is the bad guy!!" and still not understanding what the fuck was going on. You want her to go from good doctor to villainess... no prob. But after the turn occurs, can we get a little bit of back story?
3) If you are gonna mess with Wolverine's healing ability, just how much abuse/damage can a non healing Logan take? Holy shit... dude had gun shots, knife wounds and stitch needing lacerations all over his body after the funeral that were not doing the typical "zip zip and its healed" magic we are used to seeing from Wolverine. So how could he keep on keeping on? I can understand it is Wolverine, and he is a tough guy who has a unique pain thresh hold... but c'mon now. Not to mention that the whole bullet train roof nonsense (a cool scene, but definitely the most unrealistic scene in the movie) occurred between a very vulnerable Wolverine who has lost his powers and two regular Yakuza thugs. How the fuck are these guys (as well as a wounded and non-super Wolverine) able to stay on top of the train, hop signs, and propel themselves through the air? That scene probably looked great on paper, but sucked on the screen.
4) Why take the film all sci-fi after having the film be pretty grounded in reality for most of the film? The first 1 hour and 20 minutes of the 2 hour movie consisted of hard nosed, physical fighting with ninjas, Yakuza, and Wolverine kicking each others asses in an epic fashion. Viper's mutant poison powers were present but downplayed, and the overall feel of the film was much more based in reality that something like The Avengers (Gods, aliens, Hulk... that movie is full of unbelievable things!). Then inexplicably the movie makes a hard right and goes full on science fiction. Logan has an implanted robot bug sapping his healing factor directly from his heart? He removes said device on his own with a self induced surgery that invoked Prometheus's abortion scene but is even more brutal cause he is doing it himself with his own claws/hands? What about Viper's whole "I'm dead but now I am alive with snake skin that I have to peel off my face to reveal a totally new skinned me"? WTF was that all about??? And don't even get me started on the 8 foot tall Silver Samurai armor suit that is made of pure adamantium (I thought this shit was rare, and they got enough to make an 8 ft tall suit?) and is piloted by the dead old guy from the beginning... and what was up with the life force sucking screws directly inserted into Wolverine's claws? If they needed his blood/access to his body to sap the healing force, why did they have to cut off his claws and go in through the knuckles? It got really weird and sci-fi over the last 30 minutes... and I don't see how that fit into the grounded-in-reality film that the first 2/3 of the film is. Not that I hated all the sci-fi twists... but where the fuck did they come from?
Other than that, I was pretty much ok. Now here is what I LIKED about the film:
1) Way to go on adapting the Claremont/Miller epic mini series!!! Lol... I know this contradicts my first con above, slightly anyway. While I didn't like the few things they DID change, in reality they kept it pretty much grounded in the reality of the original plot laid out by Claremont/Miller in the epic 1982 mini series. And that is exactly what this character needed if they were going to make any more Wolverine based films (which it sure seems they will be... more on that in a minute).
2) The action, fighting, and overall death toll was quite impressive to me. Wolverine is a bad ass brawler who often fights reckless and without giving a fuck due to his healing factor. He is not tactical like Batman when he fights, cause he is not avoiding blows from his enemies... on the contrary, he often exposes himself to harm in order to put himself in a better position to deliver a death blow. Think about his fight with Yashida's son/Mariko's dad in the dojo. He literally allows Yashida junior to put a samurai sword COMPLETELY through his chest, knowing it don't mean shit... and then promptly extends his claws through the close up enemies chest, killing him instantly. Then he just simply remove the sword that is buried in his chest and the gaping wound fills itself in. Enemy done, game over. I also like that Wolverine only possess this "no fear" approach and often still employs it even after his healing factor is being sapped from him. This is when we see him over exert himself and often fight till he blacks the fuck out from his wounds that aren't healing. That tenacity and technique is why Wolverine has been a fan fave in the Marvel Universe for the last 30+ years.
3) Yukio was awesome! Truly awesome. Often the sidekick character can become over wrought and cliche. But not in this movie. As soon as I saw the cartoonish dress, flame red hair, and school girl like appearance of Yukio I saw cliche written all over the role. But on the contrary, Yukio was a complex character who helped drive the story. Not to mention that she was kick ass to watch fight. He sword game was bananas, and she complimented Jackman's macho character perfectly. She is also the polar opposite of Mariko in appearance and stature, her faux sister. The best part is that Yukio often cracks jokes at the expected cliche she portrays. She refers to herself as Logan's "bodyguard". At first it is a joke, but as the film progresses she actually take on the roe as Logan's protector literally and saves him repeatedly. By the end of the film she is still cracking the same joke, but Logan isn't laughing... shit, he knows that he has an ace on his team and even lets her tag along on the plane ride to no where, going against his loner persona. Pretty cool.
4) Viper & Silver Samurai, as well as the Black Ninja clan were all pretty bad ass in their own respective way. These are the main challengers that Wolvie faces throughout the film, and all come through in some way or another. Viper is played fantastically by Svetlana Khodchenkova, who is one of the sexiest women I have ever seen on film. But she is not some fembot... when she is on screen, she commands respect and comes off as a viable threat. Silver Samurai is also a great embodiment of the character. Sure, they changed just who SS is and what motivates him (I addressed my feelings about this above), but they make it work. Often when significant changes are made to a character/back story from the source material then the movie usually suffers. But not here. I also liked the Black Ninja clan and the scene when they take on Logan. He is back to full strength, and he battles these dudes to a T. It takes about 25 of them to impale him with arrows that are tied to ropes to finally stop his progress towards where Mariko is being held... and even then, it is quite a scene to see all those arrows sticking out if him as he treads through the snow step by step. I like that no one villain/group plays the main baddie and that the group dynamic doesn't really get muddled as it can in these comic book movies with more than one bad guy (Spider-Man 3 comes to mind). Played out really well...
5) Now that is how you tie up a movie and then open up the possibility for a sequel!!! What a great ending/beginning for Wolverine as a character. As I gush, let me digress... when Wolverine: Origins came and bombed, it was no big deal. This was a movie of mostly flashbacks dealing with Logan's past. It was easy to move forward with the character because all the events of the film happened before the events of X-Men 1 thru 3. Then X-Men: First Class came out and was positively received. That means sequels to a studio, but how could they correct years of contradictory continuity moving forward? And would Wolverine be a part of this new future? No one realized just how much The Wolverine would set the table and determine the future of the X franchise... until now. The Wolverine brings Wolverine back into the world of the living after his self imposed exile for killing Jean Grey in X-Men 3. He is back again, level headed and ready to contribute to the good guys. And then in the after credit sequence we get a visit from Professor X & Magneto (played by Patrick Stewart & Ian McKellan! Yes!!!) and a proper set up for Days of Future Past, which is being billed as a sequel to X-men: First Class. When that sequel was announced, everybody had their panties in a bunch because Wolverine is so important to that original comic story line. Then Jackman was announced to be appearing in Days of Future Past, and people got even more mad because he would only be making a cameo and that isn't Wolverine's role in the story. But now... it sure looks like Jackman will be the driving force that he is supposed to be in Days of Future Past, and the full cast of returning X-Men cast members (Cyclops, Rogue, Storm, Magneto, Xavier, and all the rest) all make much more sense in the time traveling story. Both the original movie X-Men and the 60s team from First Class all seem to have a part to play, but Wolvie seems to be the glue that will bring it all together... and if that works, then we might see another plethora of X films over the next 10 years!!!
All in all, I liked The Wolverine much more than I thought I would. Also, it is serving as an excellent middle man between the past X films and what lies ahead. I didn't see that coming, and if it becomes just that... well, then I am A-OK with that. Check it out... and leave comments debating anything I have written above! I am looking forward to hearing others thoughts on the movie!!!