A comic book fan’s review of “The Wolverine”

30 07 2013

This review contains spoilers.

The bar has been raised for what to expect from comic book movies. Marvel’s franchise and The Dark Knight trilogy have made super hero movies the new trend. After “X-men: First class” it appeared that the X-men franchise had gotten back on track. “The Wolverine,” however, proved that isn’t the case.

Several websites I follow, such as comicbookresouces.com and ign gave the film decent or even strong reviews. Many making the claim, “This is the wolverine film we’ve been waiting for,” but Fox already made a good “Wolverine” movie. It was called “X-men.” That film did more justice to the character then both his solo films put together.

My issues with “The Wolverine” start with basic story structure. The movie doesn’t know where to go or what material to pull from, large due to the film’s attempt to merge classic comic book story lines set in different time periods. Two major Wolverine tales the movie is based around are Mark Miller’s “Old Man Logan” and Chris Clermont’s stories of Wolverine in Japan. Both of these stories are wonderful and I recommend reading them. They both would also make great films, individually. And that’s the problem, one is an origin story and the other is set in the future. How the hell do you merge a story that is supposed to take place in a character’s past with a story that is supposed to be set in the future, and set in the present? You can’t, because it makes no freaking sense. What we get instead is a film that is poorly organized.

To make it even worse, the underlying plot adds even more confusion to the current continuity issues the film X-men Franchise currently has. In one of the major plots for “The Wolverine” our boy Logan is told that his healing factor can be taken away. This news comes as a shock to him. Our hero is in disbelief that his mutant powers can be removed, which I find amusing because the entire plot of X-men 3 was based around a cure for the mutant gene. If Wolverine really wanted his powers taken away, according to the X-men films, he just needs to hop over a drug store and grab a few pills.

Another subplot involves Wolverine becoming a pacifist. A story about a man created to fight, swearing an oath for peace could be a film by itself. Many great films, in fact, follow this very plot. But instead of watching our character face cross roads of morality between war and peace, the second he sees a bear hurt, his claws pop out. It took the film 10 minutes for Wolverine to break his code of fighting. “I’ll never pop my claws out again….what’s this?! Hunters?! HELLZ NAH!!<SNIKT>” And then ten minutes later he’s fighting again! ”YAKUZA?!?!? Screw those guys! <SNIKT>” Any chance he got to stab someone, he’d take it.

The other part of the plot involves Wolverine protecting Mariko, the heir to a powerful company. I like a good “Hero protect damsel” story, but I never really knew who the hell Wolverine was protecting her from. We had yakuza, ninjas, and a villain named Viper all after Mariko, but it was never made really clear who was working with who and what all the connects where. All we knew where people wanted her captured. Many successful Super hero films don’t hide who their villains are. When we all saw Harvey Dent was in ‘The Dark Knight’ we all knew “Two-face is coming!” So rather then try and make the villian’s turn a big surprise, Nolan owed the origin and focused on the journey of Harvey Dent. Sure some comics movies have a few twist, like in iron Man 3, but we all knew half way through the film that Killian was a bad guy.

BIG SPOILER

In the beginning of ‘The Wolverine’, we meet a young man named Yashida. Wolverine saves him and the guy is grateful. We see him again at the very end, only this time trying to kill Wolverine for his powers. At what point in time did Yashida go from feeling indebted to Logan to pulling bone morrow out of him? We don’t know. We just have to go along with it. There is no build up, no development, no moment where we witness the characters make turn of morality. The film just says to its viewers “Sometimes people go crazy. Deal with it. And sometimes people need to cope with personal issues by building giant samurai body suits,” Which brings me to another issue.

SPOILER ENDS

Directors these days have too much access to CGI. Rather then try and create interesting stories, they throw CGI at a problem and move forward. It’s a waste of money and in many cases a waste of film time. At the start of the film, we see Wolverine has befriended a bear. Why is a bear in the film? And why did they bother to CGI it? Shut the hell up. That’s why. Or how about the Silver Samurai himself. In the comics, the Silver Samurai is one of Logan’s greatest rivals. Instead of telling a heart-ripping tale involving love and loss, the film’s creative team decides to make the Silver Samurai a mech suit.  The fight wasn’t even impressive. It was mostly Wolverine running and dodging, like the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park.

The bear also brings in another issue; fluff. There were tons of characters and scenes that should have been cut out. Scenes and cast members that instead of furthering the plot, slowed it down. “The Wolverine” should have been maybe 40 minutes long. We didn’t need 15 minute of wolverine defending a bear, we didn’t need to have an archer in the film, and the scenes with Jean Grey quickly became tiresome.  Even Yukio, who I was a big fan of, really didn’t have a role in the film besides “Get Wolverine to Japan.” Her backstory was supposed to be “She was brought into the family simply to entertain Mariko. While Mariko became like a sister to her, the rest of the family never took to her.” The idea of Yukio never finding a place to belong would have been an awesome complement to Wolverine’s story of self-exile. Instead we only see the two of them interact when fighting is involved. In fact, we only see Mariko and Yukio talk twice the entire film.

But really, all my frustrations, all my anger, could have been forgiven, if they had one, just one, ninja fight scene. They had Ninjas. They had fights. They never had Wolverine fight ninjas! How the hell do you put Wolverine in Japan, have him encounter an army of ninjas, and not have a night fight scene?! Oh, excuse me, that’s not entirely true. Wolverine faces the ninjas, says to the leader “Is that all you brought” and then he is shot down by arrows. Making our protagonist look like a protaga-bitch.

“The Wolverine,” is a perfect example of how to do a comic book movie wrong, even with the right intentions. But with the announcement of an X-factor film, it’s clear Fox has no intentions on slowing down the X-men franchise, so maybe we’ll still get the wolverine film we want. I just wish Hugh Jackman could be a part of that film, because he really is a great guy. Great guy, great actor, wrong film.