Escapism from the real world is sometimes what being a geek is all about. We want to live and experience other realities through comics, movies, video games, books, and TV. As geeks, we spend a lot of time emerged in other places, and go about living lives through fully imagined stories and fictional characters who have a little something extra than us mortal humans, whether it be powers, situations, or worlds.
As I have been busy the past month with the kicking foot which is life, I have had little time for the geeky things of life. And, bub, have I missed it. I just got to see The Wolverine last night, and maybe because I’ve been stuck in reality for too long, but I think I may have enjoyed it more than any other movie I have seen this summer, and I’m one of the fans who had no qualms with Man of Steel. I loved the original Chris Claremont and Frank Miller story the movie is three-fifths based upon, and I felt it did enough justice to that material for a movie in these times. But what I really liked is that it absolutely felt like I was watching a really good comic book story unfold. From the character depth to the off-the-rails plot and big-fight finish, it really spoke to me as a comic book reader. But I have been so much in “work and no play” mode for the past month, it may just be the thing that ended up quenching my thirst.
I do not even tend to think I should write reviews for comic book movies, because I am just so darn happy to have them, which goes against the complaining I see on most website comment sections. Complaints from the largest to most minute scale seem to infest the internet in these times when I just remember when I had none. So I am very gracious for most comic book movies and always see the efforts put forth when there is some. I also am familiar with how studios and production heads treat properties and how things change through different writers and budgeting reasons, so there is a lot I can forgive. I always smile every time I see a comic book publisher’s logo in the opening credits. There have only been a few films based on comic books I have ever not liked. My judgement could be clouded, I admit. The Wolverine may not even be a good movie, but, after such a long stretch with no geeky down time, it was the bringer of life back to this weary soul.
Also, let me preface this review with my admission that I do not hate X-Men 3: The Last Stand like so many others. The only thing I hate about it is the immediate day to night shift which took place after Magneto moved the Golden Gate bridge to reach the island. I noticed that the first time I saw it and it threw me for a loop, as well as the unneeded language from The Juggernaut. Yes, there was a lot changed about the characters, and it sort of left that door open for other movies to do the same, both in good in bad ways. But I liked it…a lot. I rate it above the first X-Men which I found to be pretty stale, and the characters very one dimentional. Also, I guess since I had grown weary over the years of the Pheonix story lines, that I felt what was done in X-Men 3 to be refreshing. So, you have been warned.
Now on to my review, and I will make it short. As we know there is another X-Men movie coming in the future in which Hugh Jackman will be involved, it is not surprising that The Wolverine works to fill in some of the gap between X-Men 3 and the movie to come. I think the fact Logan was still dealing with the events in The Last Stand was something we needed to see, as I felt it was missed in that film, and a great motivation for the character’s search for resolutions in this film. Logan gets away from brooding over the past and becomes a character weighing the future, which ultimately gives him reason to go on as he comes to accept and embrace who and what he is. The bridge created from this movie to the next keeps Brian Singer from spending too much time on Logan and plenty of time to get into events of his new film.
The Wolverine is a more intimate story than any other superhero movie I can remember in a while. The Fox studio has a tendency to muddle up the mutant franchise continuity, so to focus on one character with one story was a great change of pace without bringing in a supporting cast of misplaced characters. Hugh Jackman shows his love for Wolverine and, even with other flaws in the film, solidifies the characterization, making the movie a success. The first two thirds of the movie are straight out of the Claremont-Miller Japan story, and the last third an amped up battle, I feel, straight off any other comic book page. In the end, the villain comes full circle as well as Wolverine’s own resolution, similar to what I feel happened for Obadiah Stane and Tony Stark during the climax of the first Iron Man movie.
The drama within the ranks of the Yashida family give the movie an unsettling feeling as to whom to root for, all against the always interesting backdrop of the Japanese culture and environment. All of the actors representing Japanese characters did an excellent job, especially Logan’s love interest, who I will not spoil here. The only character complaint I have is with Viper, who always seem to have truncated, oddly edited scenes, so perhaps a different actress would have worked better. She also is given abilities she does not have in the comics although for this type of lower scale character this did not bother me. It was close enough that the addition of powers seemed to make sense in Fox’s version of the mutant universe. One scene I wish would have went on longer was the fight between Wolverine and the ninjas, which seemed to be cut short as well, as I felt I had noticed shots in the trailer that I did not get in the final film. Definitely more Logan versus ninjas would not have hurt. Perhaps an extended edition will reveal more.
Overall I think it is a worthy addition to the comic book movie hall of fame and thoroughly enjoyable. As much as we have seen him play the character, Hugh Jackson still brings a lot of life to The Wolverine. That combined with an interesting story, some great action sequences, and the extra scene during the credits, make the movie a great watch. The film is as close as we may get to the seminal Wolverine movie, and is so much better than Wolverine Origins (which I usually do not even acknowledge) that we should all go to let this one wash out the bad taste that one left behind. If at all possible, see this film in the theaters so your ticket booth vote is counted and more comic book movies keep coming. That is all I want, for them to continue, and if they are all at least this good, then we will have a lot to enjoy in the future.
My Grade: A- (possibly graded on a scale) – And the minus is mainly for the foul language kept in the film for no reason.