Often times, comics are adapted into film sort of sloppily. Like movies executives basically look at the most basic of outlines written by interns and throw whatever they think the character is on screen. Wolverine, likely the most famous of the X-Men, is no exception. The last movie with the character, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, proved that movie exes didn’t care what the story was – throw Wolverine into it, and some other random characters from the X-Men universe and they figure its going to be a hit. But in the wake of faithful adaptations hitting the silver screen, fans demanded a wolverine that was actually the way he was in the comics. Hollywood got the message…sort of, anyways. Is this new Wolverine an improvement or a downgrade?
(Feel free to read Judge’s opinion here.)
The movie begins after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, i.e. the X-Men movie everyone loves to hate, with Logan running around the Canadian forests as a shaggy hermit. Yukio finds him about to beat the ever-living crap out of an asshole hunter and tells him that a man named Yashida wants to thank him for how Logan saved his life during the bombing of Nagasaki. Yashida proposes a mutually beneficial trade: take away Logan’s super healing to let him die and let old dying Yashida live forever. I won’t get any further into the plot, but I will say that the writing is a little strange in the way it releases information. It likes to drop important information randomly around the big fighting set pieces, and pulls the predicable “huge twist” right at the end because it’s what Hollywood does.
The writing’s not all bad. The plot deals with Wolverine’s psychology with way more complexity than the other films. After all, a lot of what audiences love about Wolverine is that he’s a badass with a lot of issues. He lives forever, he’s killed two women he’s loved, and he has no memory who he was. The only problem is which continuity do we follow – the Origins one which would mean he’d have no memory of Yashida, or that of the comics which isn’t set up in the films? It would be great if they could straighten that out soon, considering that as they make more and more films. The plot moves smoothly between the action set-pieces and provides a story with real emotion to it, which seems to be James Mangold’s speciality.
There are lots of flaws with the characters though. Yukio has a bit of depth but it still set aside in the plot, meaning that all she does in the film is run around fighting and being Wolverine’s guide, which is a shame since she might be in future films. Yashida’s son and the head of the ninja clan Harada are both flat leads because their motives are one dimensional and their actions are ultimately unimportant. I wonder if they included these characters just to be a shout-out to the comic book fans, or if they were genuinely planning to do something with them. The worst is the female villain, Viper. She is incredibly obvious and a one-note character, despite being the main antagonist. She’s vaguely sexual and threatening as if trying to be Mystique but ultimately comes off as flat and of no consequence because she has no deeper motivations or interests. Why did she even sign up to work for Yashida? Boredom? Greed? Love of killing people?
Still, the cinematography is great, presenting bright and stylized colors that fit the comic book style. The scenes in Japan go from solemn and traditional, to bright and colorful seamlessly. The CGI on the giant robot (you saw it in the trailers, don’t be surprised) is actually pretty good, and the fight choreography is seamless. Jackman and Fukushima (the woman who plays Yukio) are both great in their roles and have a lot of energy to make the action feel believable, even if Fukushima had stunt doubles. The shots and transition are fluid, the locations and sets are well chosen and designed, making this one of the better looking X-Men movies.
In the end, The Wolverine ends up being just okay – it’s not the disaster that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was, but it’s not the great film we were waiting for. It’s worth the watch if only because out all the films in the franchise, this is probably the second or third best, depending on your views of First Class. I’ll take what I can get until Days of Futures Past comes out, which promises to be a most excellent film so long as they can put together a strong script and someone can reign in Bryan Singer.
– Good writing.
– Great action.
– Great cinematography.
– Flat characters.
– Some issues with overall plot.