An admission: Wolverine was never one of my favorite super heroes. I know he’s super popular, maybe the most popular Marvel character, but even just among the X-Men, he was never my favorite. This probably has a lot to do with me not growing up with many comic books, I did have the Gambit limited series and one issue of the X-Men in which Professor X yells at everybody, leaving the cartoon as my main source for the mutant super team. So, unlike Man of Steel (is Superman my favorite super hero? Maybe…) I was pretty willing to let The Wolverine pass me by. It worked so well for Sexman: Origins, after all. But then my dad wanted to go see this, and I saw it. And I liked it.
A few years ago, The Wolverine was going to be a Darren Aronofsky movie. Remember that? That probably would have been a really interesting movie. Instead, another director with some Hugh Jackman experience stepped up, James Mangold, of Walk the Line and let’s not talk about it fame. And what did he deliver? A movie that feels somewhat in between a surprisingly faithful comic book adaptation (like 2 Guns, apparently) and another frustrating X-Men clusterfuck.
So I read Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, and it was pretty sweet. Turns out that getting in Wolverine’s head is kinda like getting in Batman’s head. That was a pretty straight-forward story – Wolverine goes to Japan to check up on his girlfriend Mariko, finds out that she’s been married away by her crime boss dad, and basically just fights a bunch of ninjas until he can win back his girl. The movie adaptation is… Different.
You’ve probably heard that Silver Samurai is tacked onto this as a robot, but let’s ignore that and focus on the fact that the character who is Silver Samurai is in this, but not actually the Silver Samurai. He’s just a guy with a bow and arrow. There’s an added plot of Mariko’s grandfather, who Wolverine saved in WWII, working with Viper to take away Wolverine’s powers. Viper! How lame. In the comic, Yukio, one of the ninjas who ends up changing sides, acts as kind of a rebound for Wolverine after he gives up on Mariko, per her request. She’s a tough lady, and cool, and conflicted, but also pretty straightforward. In the movie, Yukio is not only a great warrior, but has the mutant ability to see the moment someone will die and is like a sister to Mariko and seriously X-Men movie people, why you always gotta fuck with this shit?
Not everything new is bad. Since this is technically the first sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand, we see that Wolverine’s dreams are haunted by the spectre of Jean Grey. As we know from The Dark Knight Rises, all super hero movies are really just big dumb love stories, but seeing Phoenix after all the years does give a nice sense of continuity and attachment to the films of my youth. I approve.
This has been a lot of talk about plot, when all you really need to know is that Wolverine fights a bear, a bunch of ninjas, and a robot. The Wolverine has some choice action sequences and some dumb ones, and ultimately it’s fine. It drags for a little while as it tries to set up a Mariko love story as plausible, but I think this version is more interesting than the love triangle from the comic. Things get a lot campier than I expected, with ninjas doing flips all the time just to get around and a ridiculously tall complex in the middle of a tiny village, but I’m not above doofy crap. In fact, I’m well into it at this point. That’s me, I like smart TV and dumb movies.