Curiously nerdy posts.
So yesterday I went to go see The Wolverine. I’ll be completely honest here and say that all the horrid reviews, from both critics and word of mouth, kept me from watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine, so I can’t really compare the two together. But this one generally got really positive reviews, and those people that said it was bad were either incredibly picky, or had no real reasons that would dissuade me. After all, I’m a big fan of the character. What’s not to like from a burly man’s man who gives no cares about what other people think, and stays a hardass loner? He was my favorite X-man until I actually read the comics*. Even so, he still stars in my favorite issue of The Uncanny X-men**. If you ask me, he’s a more valuable character to Marvel than Spider-man… but I may or may not be crazy.
*I lucked out and got a 40 Years of The Uncanny X-men on CD-ROM off Amazon a few years ago. It has every issue in pdf format, even down to the ads. So yeah, I’ve read a lot of X-men. It was a steal at $30, I only wish I’d grabbed The Avengers one too. Now they’re out of print and extremely pricey, if I recall correctly. Anyhow, Storm is my favorite X-man, hands down. Specifically 80s Storm, with the mohawk. And no, I’m not kidding.
**Issue #183, if you’re curious. Wolverine takes Colossus to a bar to have a man-to-man about how Colossus dumped Kitty Pryde, and there they find the Juggernaut. An awesome bar fight ensues.
But anyway. On to the meat of the post!
I really, really liked how they set up the start of the movie. It really drives home how immortal Logan is, looking exactly the same at the end of World War 2 as he looks in modern times. Also, it shows rather than tells us the central motivation for the plot coming, so it doesn’t seem nearly as random as forced as it would have otherwise. I’m not going to get into a “movies don’t understand how atomic bombs work” thing, because this is a universe that includes people that can read minds, bend metal, shoot eyebeams, etc. I can believe a man can survive a nuclear blast. After all, one Japanese man did it twice. In real life.
Then they move it along nicely to the present. Wolverine, living alone in the Canadian wilderness like a crazy hobo mountain man? That’s a cool visual, but also tells a nice story that furthers the character’s psychology. He’s still haunted by having to kill Jean Grey in X-men 3, and has nightmares all the time about it. So he moves out into the wilderness, for his safety as much as anyone else’s. Having a man who almost cannot be physically hurt instead be wounded mentally is a great story, and I liked that. And even though it’s brief, it gets the point across.
The Japanese girl who comes to bring him to Toyko, Yukio, is an interesting enough character, and shares a fun camaraderie with Wolverine. I only added the worst because it felt so much like the writers took Kitty Pryde, and decided to make her Japanese just because. But really, it makes more sense for it to be a Japanese girl, considering her connections to the major point of the plot. She’s implied to be a mutant as well, but has a pretty unreliable power at best. No, it’s how she and Logan get along that made her character endearing to me.
If you’ve seen any number of movies at all, it’s not really hard to see what’s coming. I saw this one coming a mile away, and while I read/watch more things than the average person, I don’t think any of this will surprise much of anyone.
Wolverine returns to Japan to say goodbye to the man he saved in WW2, Yashida, who is now the owner of the biggest tech giant in Asia. The man didn’t only seek out Logan to say goodbye, though… he came to offer him a chance to become mortal, citing reasons that make a lot of sense. Logan doesn’t bite, though, and decides to leave. That same night, the man finally dies. It could be a coincidence, right? Nope. Coincidences don’t really happen in movies. The medium simply doesn’t have time to show things that don’t matter, when it’s trying to be a good film.
(SPOILER) Basically, Yashida doesn’t want to die, and thus researches a way to get Logan’s powers via transfer. He brings Logan to his deathbed to ask politely, to see if Logan will give it up voluntarily. Once he’s turned down, he immediately shifts to his elaborate “by force” approach. And presto, we have a plot. (SPOILER END)
It’s not a terrible plot, but somehow the way it was presented made it pretty obvious.
I’m not really sure why so many big movies this year want to include trains, but I can’t complain much. So far, most of the train scenes have been really good, even in movies that otherwise weren’t very good. I especially liked this one, because it was on a modern super-fast bullet train instead of a old-timey steam engine, like what you see train fights on 99% of the time. I really wish they’d left pieces of this out of the trailer, but it is what it is. I especially like how Logan fakes out one of the guys he fights on the roof into getting hit by a sign. Leave your brain behind a little (as these trains go WAY too fast for any human being to hang on with only a knife), and this is good fun.
Even if you don’t know Japanese, you’ll hear lots of the random thugs yelling that as they try to take down Logan and his love interest Mariko. It’s a word that simply means “foreigner”. I found myself constantly perplexed by just how ignorant Wolverine is to the Japanese culture, though. I wasn’t expecting him to be randomly fluent in Japanese, and being a master of every Japanese martial art like he is in the comics. After all, this is a movie, and the whole “foreigner knows nothing, but learns our ways eventually” plot is always a go-to for Hollywood.
But let’s be real here for a second. Wolverine fought for the US, or Canada, or whatever in World War 2. He was even a POW near Nagasaki when the bomb hit. And he doesn’t even know basic conversational words in Japanese? I know a smattering of it myself, and that’s only from watching Japanese movies in subtitles, and a few episodes of this show on PBS designed to teach you how to speak it. I don’t think it would’ve been unreasonable for him to be able to somewhat keep up in a conversation. It just sort of annoyed me.
The movie is good comic book action faire so far, but then in the middle act, right around where Logan follows Mariko to her childhood home to hide from the bad guys, the movie just grinds to a halt. There’s lots of attempts at plot exposition, but it’s all done in a very deliberate fashion, and none of it couldn’t have been presented elsewhere more efficiently. No, the real reason why the movie slows down is so when Logan and Mariko finally sleep together, it doesn’t feel so forced. Luckily for us, though, this does lead to one of the best scenes in the movie.
Wolverine has another nightmare, and wakes up with his claws out, ready to gut someone. This also wakes her up, and leads to a wonderful conversation.
CLIFF’S NOTES VERSION:
Her: Who’s Jean? You keep shouting that name.
Him: Someone I used to love. I killed her.
Instead of suddenly being afraid, instead she lovingly touches his claws with wonder. She tells him her grandfather would tell her stories of the man with the claws who saved his life, and who in turn would keep her safe. Once she discovers that he is in fact a real person, and not just a legend, she readily believes everything else she is told as well. What was a story to make a little girl sleep easier evolved instead into a solid belief in the adult Mariko that Logan would protect her, and never harm her. No matter how scary he looks.
With just one simple story, we know why she came to love him so easily. We know why she trusts him. And we know why she’s not afraid of him, like everyone else rightly is.
Hate all you want on the rest of the plot, but this scene rocked.
It feels weird typing this. It has everything the little boy in me could’ve ever asked for. It has a Wolverine vs samurai warrior duel. It has Wolverine vs an entire clan of ninjas in a snowy mountain village. It has Wolverine vs a giant cyborg robot of doom.
But each part has problems.
1) Wolverine fighting a samurai when the samurai has no actual chance to kill him makes it boring and pointless. Wolverine gets run through several times, and just shrugs it off, because of his power. There has to be some sort of peril to make a duel exciting, sorry.
2) The ninjas smartly stick to the rooftops, and decide to arrow the heck out of Logan instead of fight him head on. So what does Wolverine do? He runs down main street, and gets arrowed a lot. If I knew an entire clan of ninjas were going to make me a human pincushion, my first thought would be to get out of their line of sight.
3) This… is just weird. So superheated Adamantium can cut through normal Adamantium? There was no explanation for this, and just made it silly. I get the feeling the writers wanted to be able to use the image of Wolverine’s claws killing the big bad, even (SPOILER) after they’re cut off (SPOILER).
But seriously. There was no set up for this at all, and no precedent. It just felt cheap. And the identity of the big bad was, as I said, screamingly obvious at this point.
One of the few benefits of this being a Fox movie and not a Marvel Studios movie is that you only have to sit through the first wave of credits before the bonus scene, instead of the entire freaking 10 minutes of scrolling credits.
It did genuinely make me interested in what they’re going to do with the next X-men movie. Hope it’s better than The Last Stand.
All in all, I give this one ***. It’s a good movie, but ultimately way too slow in the middle to be one I’d want to see many times. But if you’re a fan of the character, go see it. Definitely worth a watch, and even moreso if you like Japan.
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