The Wolverine: Movie Review

The Wolverine

I am continually fascinated by Hollywood and the treatment of source material. Specifically, when a movie tries to “improve” upon source material and ends up failing in a spectacular fashion. I’ll preface this review by saying that there will be spoilers so those of you who have been avoiding the internet for adamantium-laced plot revelations should bookmark this page and return subsequent to your having viewed the film.

Hugh Jackman, as always, is perfect in the role, and with every movie release it is getting harder and harder to picture anyone else as Weapon X, even Dougray Scott. So any issues that I had with the film have nothing to do with his performance, or really the performance of any cast member. They all do an excellent job while saddled with bizarre plot choices and a non-sensical third act.

We are first treated to a nice history lesson where we learn that Wolverine survived the atomic bomb dropping in WWII and saved the life of a man named Yashada; this serves to set up some sort of life debt oath.  We then jump ahead to the present where Wolverine is living the life of a hermit in the Yukon, lamenting his decision to kill Jean Grey at the end of X-Men 3 (which possibly was subtitled the search for Curly’s gold, I can’t remember). The Canadian part of the movie uses a great sequence from the original Wolverine mini-series, and unfortunately is the last time where they borrow a good idea faithfully.

The basic premise of the movie is that Yashada is Mariko’s grandfather and wishes to repay Logan for saving his life by taking away his healing power and granting him mortality. Of course we need to ignore the fact that Wolverine doesn’t remember anything pre X-Men 1 so shouldn’t even recognize Yashada, but hey, what is continuity in a comic book movie? Anyway, Yashada dies and Logan saves Mariko from Yakuza gangsters at his funeral. Love develops.

While I am being a bit picky, I would say that the first two acts of the movie are quite strong, especially the scenes with Wolverine and Mariko. We see their affection for each other grow and the most effective parts of the script are the quiet moments where we begin to see the Wolverine move from being animal to being a man. This is why the Mariko arc in the comics worked so well, and why the ending was so tragic. We want Wolverine to be happy.

Unfortunately in the final act the movie goes completely off the rails. Why would you have a scene where Wolverine fights a million ninjas and doesn’t kill them all? You are doing something wrong if the Wolverine vs Ninjas scene in your movie is boring. The ending also includes a very complicated plot by Viper and Yashada (who is alive and in a giant Silver Samurai robot suit) that I’m not sure even they understand. They might have been making it up as they go.

But basically we learn that Wolverine’s healing factor is in his bone marrow (or something) and that Robot Silver Samurai needs to use its Adamantium fire sword to cut off Wolverines claws so he can use drill hands to extract the healing factor. I really wish that I was making all that up.

The characters of Shingen, the Silver Samurai, and Viper are all in the movie, but they are…wrong. I don’t require a perfect panel by panel recreation of comic books, but making Viper a weird snake lady for absolutely no reason does nothing to improve on the original. And making the Silver Samurai a weird mech suit instead of a person makes me think that no one writing the movie has ever read a Wolverine comic. I would guess that stupid choices were made to sell toys but there aren’t really many of those.

As an aside, I feel pretty lucky that I live in a city large enough that I had the choice of viewing the movie in regular 2D. By all accounts the 3D is an awful, tacked on mess and anyone involved in the painfully obvious money-grab should be ashamed.

All of this being said I did enjoy the movie: I’m just disappointed that it could have been so much better. It is almost as if the last half hour of the movie were directed by someone else. All the elements were there but the final execution is so lacking that I would think that anyone unfamiliar with superhero tropes will be left scratching their heads. The Wolverine is another movie in a long, long list of movies where the powers-that-be inexplicably ignore the fantastic source material that made the property a hit in the first place.

Finally, and I know this must have been mentioned in several reviews, but is there anyone out there who doesn’t know to stay at a Marvel movie for a post credits scene? Some people still left before what is arguable the best “secret” scene Marvel has ever done. It makes me want to see Days of Future Past right now.

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Anthony Falcone
Anthony Falcone is a freelance writer living in Toronto and he is the Ayatollah of Rocknrolla. You should definitely follow him on Twitter.
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5 Comments

  1. I liked the movie as well but the thing with the healing factor and cutting off the claws was just weird.

    One thing I wanted to point out is that the movie contains two really good action sequences. The fight at the funeral was really fun to watch with a small influence from the Jason Bourne movies. The sequence on the bullet train was equally good.

    Also, I thought Yukio was pretty cool.

  2. I wanted to love this movie. I really did. But I didn’t hate it, and I didn’t have a fun time watching it either. I know there is a lot of hatred for Wolverine Origins, but I enjoyed that movie a lot more than this one.

    I agree with you Anthony… it’s not Hugh Jackman. He is the Wolverine. There is no other actor I’d rather portray Logan than him. So now that’s off the table we can move on.

    I think it was the tone of the movie that was such a downer. The main theme was Logan wants to die. We don’t want to see Wolverine die. We want to see him pop claws and make other people die.

    Since the tone of the movie had so much to do with death, and the loss of his healing factor, it over shadowed everything else.

    This should have been a love story, but it didn’t come through. It was lost in the plot twists and deceptions from the other characters. If done differently this could have been an amazing story, that just happened to star a mutant with shiny bones.

    BUT….

    I AM EXCITED for what’s next. The end credit scene (SPOILER AHEAD) blew my friggin’ mind. When the metal started moving at the airport security station, you knew it was going to be Magneto… but which one? I was seriously thinking Michael Fassbender was going to be there instead of Ian McKellan. Fair enough. That was very cool.

    BUT WHEN THE PEOPLE STOPPED MOVING IN THE BACK GROUND!!!!

    You could feel the energy in the room by the die hard fans. Professor X!!!! I couldn’t believe it.

    That was an amazing scene and I think it overcast the whole Wolverine movie. It felt like The Wolverine is the place holder for the next big X-Men movie. Which is a shame since Wolverine could have been so much more.

  3. I enjoyed the Wolverine because I felt it was a step in the right direction, that is, this was a movie about crime and power set in Japan that happened to feature Logan, who is a comic book character.

    The movie could have ditched the Viper character’s eccentricities (that were different than those seen in the comics), and they could have left her as Asian instead of making her this blonde bombshell.

    The Silver Samurai robot was a terrible miscalculation, and the movie stops being a human drama and instead becomes another superhero movie when it starts moving. That being said, I was annoyed by the claw cutting scene but on some levels it made sense, the secret of his healing factor was in his bone marrow and that was the most likely means of accessing it. The secret of the Silver Samurai was a little bit predictable, but the ending more than makes up for the silliness.

    The Silver Samurai wasn’t even an element in the original mini, he and Viper joined that party when Logan and Mariko were to be married in the pages of Uncanny X-Men as Harada claimed to be Mariko’s step-brother and heir to clan Yashida (the crime family).

    I liked the changes in the story, and they are a natural evolution of the movie character, bridging X3 and X:DoFP. The original mini was a story about love – winning it and losing it, and eventually earning it back. But the movie Wolverine had not met Mariko, so it was necessary to give him a reason for coming into contact with her in order for that love story to evolve. Adding another generation of Yashida gave us the WW2 sacrifice element, which does work on some level as an excuse to get him to Japan, and gives the villain a motivation.

    There’s still the swordsmaster/disapproving father element, but Shingen is a bit toothless in this one, and he certainly doesn’t kick Logan to the curb as he does in the comics – thus giving Logan a reason for fighting back for the woman he loves. Instead, love is now the cure for Wolverine’s suicidal thoughts after the death of Jean Grey – the great triumph of the Wolverine movie is that it brings Logan back to being Wolverine and not this mopey woodsman that he became at the end of X3. He wants to die, and the irony is that now that now that he can, he has found a new reason to live, and on that level I think Mangold’s film succeeds dramatically.

    I kind of hope this is the precursor to a new type of superhero film, one that features these characters in a fully rounded human dramas, not just end of the world battle royales. Who wouldn’t like to see a mystery/suspense story featuring the Batman where we didn’t have to have him reveal his identity and blow up the batcave.

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