You know… beyond the seconds long cameo in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, the clawed one has been stuck in fairly atrocious cinematic sewers. Now, as much as I love Wolverine in sewers… This was filmic swill. Wolverine barely resembled the potential character that he could be.
James Mangold’s THE WOLVERINE is a completely different animal altogether. Other than a real needless acknowledgement plot wise of X3… which only serves to remind me sporadically through the film about a really terrible memory, it did not ruin the experience of watching what was otherwise… A fairly kickass WOLVERINE movie. The film is rated PG-13 and has a shit, an asshole and a fuck all uttered by Logan. They are incredibly well timed. But… and this is the big thing. Mangold did the Logan/Mariko initial romantic story – justice. More than that thought, it tells a really good Wolverine story.
The flick starts off at a P.O.W. camp outside of Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945… Not really the place you want to be, but bone clawed Logan is in a well / hot box. A young Japanese officer decides to set Logan free, before joining his fellow officers in seppuku. You see this ritual suicide done off camera and suggested, but it still hurts. This officer is Yashida, and Logan saves him in a VERY COOL SEQUENCE… that’s actually really disturbing… in a cool way.
After this pre-title sequence we find Logan living in a cave in the middle of nowhere listening to classical music on a radio. When his batteries run out, he hikes into town, trailed by a big ol grizzly. This is a Logan that was so ashamed of X3, that he swore he’d never be Wolverine again. He’s haunted by the dream spirit of Jean Grey, who is taunting and torturing his psyche. When some redneck idiot hunters inadvertently wound his bear, that I’ll call Yogi. And Logan is forced to kill the Grizzly out of mercy and respect. And he catches the scent of the cowardly fuck up that caused all this mayhem and decides it is lesson time. All he can stands, he can’t stands no more. He’s being set up as a man with no name meets Jeremiah Johnson type of character. He doesn’t like himself, life is pretty much one Long Weekend. During his revenge we get to meet the first new awesome character of the film… Yukio. Rila Fukushima’s Yukio is wonderful. Really wonderful. She has been sent to find Logan for the now technological super giant genius, Yashida, the same soldier that Logan saved at Nagasaki, all those years ago.
Now by the time we’ve reached this point, we pretty much know this is going to be a pretty wonderful Wolverine movie. We haven’t seen any real super spectacular action, but we are getting great character work and more pure Wolverine stuff than anything we’ve seen in the entire X-MEN film series. This is the closest we’ve seen to anything approaching the Wolverine that I really and truly love.
After a ceremonial sequence in the film is interrupted by a pretty average Yakuza threat – the action stays pretty grounded. There is a rooftop ninja aiding with a bow – and ya know… Having a lil sniper ninja kicking ass for ya is nice. What I love about this action sequence is that it starts modest, like it was going to be a small skirmish type of action sequence. But it snowballs. By the time we’re enjoying the Bullet Train sequence… I’m happy as could be. This sequence further underlines the inadequacies of THE LONE RANGER. Because this rules so much, especially in 3D, this is crazy action. Just crazy.
This leads us to begin the heart of the film, which is where Logan and Mariko fall in love. From the first time Mariko sees Logan, there’s a look she gives him and that he gives her. It’s an instant attraction. Not so much Love at first sight, but a very interested look. If you think about it, she’s been hearing about this eternal man her entire life from her grandfather who favored her over her father, which is definitely a source for curiosity and oddly enough protection. When she sees the mighty Wolverine injured, she begins to care for him. I love this stuff. The whole film in an odd way kind of reminded me of NORTH BY NORTHWEST, only set in Japan and involving Japanese politics, Yakuza films, Ninjas and The Silver Samurai.
I am a bit annoyed at the changes to that character, but visually, they do a pretty fantastic job. In the comics, I never really thought of Silver Samurai as a giant, but as compared to Comic Book Wolverine, the Silver Samurai in the panels was always a lot bigger, since they’re stuck with Hugh’s not-shortness, an outsized Silver Samurai was required.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. THE WOLVERINE is a movie that has a bit of a swagger. That isn’t afraid to really mess Logan up. The bad guys in this – they’ve tailored this nightmare specifically for him. It’s custom concocted. As a result, Hugh’s character isn’t required to be a one note version of his character, he’s going through A LOT. The dreams he’s having are the sort that crush lesser men. That said… he’s got Mariko going for him here – and for Wolverine, to me, it’s like Gwen Stacy for SPIDER-MAN. My favorite romantic character for the other. Like Cyke and Jean Grey. Or Reed & Sue.
The film is limited in how hard it can go due to the PG-13 confines – and the rumors of a possible many minutes longer, unrated Wolverine versus Ninja battle that isn’t in the film entirely… well… Yeah, I’d love to see that. I’ve always dreamt of a more ICHI THE KILLER Japanese WOLVERINE movie that got… severe. Logan is a mythic character, I was reading X-MEN when the new team came aboard and I loved him. I have to say – I was quite taken with THE WOLVERINE. I like James Mangold’s work as a director, Scott Frank and Bomback on Screenplay is wonderful, but Marco Beltrami belts out a wonderful score for this, one with emotional enhancement.
I have to say, there’s almost a euphoric relief that there wasn’t a suffering feeling with a Wolverine movie. To just get to see Hugh Jackman playing the character more fully. Being given a script that he can really dig his claws into. The film also has a big film flavor to it. Like a Wolverine version of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. Though I prefer the NORTH BY NORTHWEST – I mean even the same violent gay bad guy sidekick with Viper. Or the clifftop evil lair. And he starts out the film a bit of a drunk.
But the main thing is… Wolverine suffers, broods, gets hurt, angry and kill crazed. And he falls in love again. This is a real WOLVERINE movie. And, it basically really cleans the palate of the recent bad memories. After the stinger… I’m dying to see DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. I really really can’t wait. I still love X-MEN 2 and X-MEN FIRST CLASS – but this WOLVERINE this is more like it!
As a comic geek, I gave up a long time ago believing I’d get anything close of a faithful interpretation of any of the X-MEN books accurately. This Film timeline is what we have. X-MEN FIRST CLASS is definitely the stronger film, but this is real damn satisfying! And the extended cut on Blu Ray – that’s gonna be incredibly sweet, methinks.