Monday, July 7, 2014

The Wolverine

Almost a year ago, Marvel released The Wolverine, something of a makeup for the disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman once again reprised the role that made him famous, and director James Mangold surrounded him with an almost entirely Japanese cast. Surprisingly, this movie attempted to continue the already convoluted X-Men movie continuity by taking place after X-Men: The Last Stand.

I'll start by adding a point for the captivating opening of this film. I loved seeing Wolverine during World War II — at Nagasaki, no less. It's about time we saw some of Wolverine's past adventures not in a montage.

And I'll raise the score to a 7 for this lovable, charming hermit Wolverine. It makes sense that he would want to retire from all civilization after a lifetime of wars culminating in him having to murder his girlfriend, Jean Grey. And the bits with Wolverine, the bear and the hunters were great. And it was really funny, too. That's one advantage of having Jackman play this character for so long — he knows how to inject just the right amount of humor without overdoing it.

I've heard there are some epic Wolverine stories that take place in Japan, but I've never read them. However, I will add another point for putting this movie in Japan. We got to see a lot of both traditional Japan and modern Japan. And I think both are fascinating, visually appealing places. I also enjoyed how this movie followed the same subtitle practice used on the TV show Lost. Whenever Wolverine was around and not understanding what anybody was saying, we weren't given any subtitles. It sometimes made following the story difficult, especially with all the foreign names, but I don't mind having to work a little to understand the story.

My first deduction will be for the ridiculous fight on the train. Wolverine is fighting normal humans — ninjas, but not mutants — and they are somehow able to stay on top of a bullet train moving 300 mph by jamming their knives into the roof. No. Wolverine can do that, sure. But not these guys. Or maybe you could show them try, but then fail. But no, this scene just went on and on and on with these ninjas jumping and stabbing the train and crawling on its roof. Just too much for me.

I'll take the score down to a 6 for Wolverine sleeping with Mariko. I don't care if she was his girlfriend in the comics. In this movie, it feels completely out of place. Wolverine looks old enough to be her dad, and he's spent all movie talking about saving her grandfather. Plus, he's been having nightly dreams with Jean. Everything about him sleeping with Mariko felt creepy and wrong.

But I will bring the score back up to a 7 for the intricate plot. We've got ninjas, double betrayals, corrupt politicians and family members. It's all really great. Now let's add on to that an injured and very angry Wolverine. We've rarely seen him actually kill anybody, and it was actually kind of refreshing.

Yashida is an interesting character, but his ultimate plan really fell apart at the end. Ultimately, he wanted Wolverine's healing factor so he could live forever. It took him a year to track Wolverine down and get him to Japan. He made his proposal, which was a fairly convincing argument. Wolverine naturally refused at first, but then he slept on it and had a dream with Jean, and I think he was leaning toward taking Yashida's offer. But instead of waiting for Wolverine to change his mind, Yashida immediately enacted Plan B, which involved faking his death and retreating to a giant samurai suit made of adamantium. That was just too much for me. Minus one point.

And now we fall down to a perfectly average 5 for the disappointing character of Viper. I really liked her showing up to the funeral in a glittery gold dress and happily recording all the fighting with her iPhone. I was really disappointed to find out she was a mutant, but this is an X-Men movie, so I guess  we need at least one mutant for Wolverine to fight. But what really made me mad was how disappointing her mutant powers turned out to be. I was fine with her simply manipulating poisons, but then she got shot and dramatically shed her skin. That was kind of exciting, and I was hoping to see some hideous snake creature underneath. But no. She ripped off her skin to reveal ... the exact same person underneath. Oh, and she lost her hair. Big whoop.

Now, if the movie ended there, this would simply be an average superhero movie, which is more than several X-Men films can say. But this movie doesn't end here. As is the case with all good Marvel films, we have a mid-credit scene, which is by far the best mid- or post-credit scene I've ever seen. Sure, seeing Samuel L. Jackson introduce himself as Nick Fury was pretty neat. But seeing Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart return as Magneto and Professor X was infinitely more exciting. I had forgotten how fun it was to have those two together on the big screen. This was the perfect tease to X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Final score: 6

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