Review: The Wolverine

The Wolverine poster

So, The Wolverine. I did not go in with high expectations for this one. It’s generally been agreed upon that it’s better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. It was better than Origins, and with 100 percent more ninjas. It could be fun, but it could also leaving you asking “…why did he do that?” This movie was a mix of good and bad, averaging out into a feeling of “meh.” Other reviews I’ve read seem to be split between “I love it” and “This is a travesty beyond all comprehension.” I think I fall firmly into the “it was okay?” camp. There were some things that I really liked and other things that I just didn’t care about.

This film takes place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, another not-so-great installment in the X-Men franchise. In that one, if you recall, Logan had to kill Jean Grey, who had become The Phoenix and was trying to kill everyone. If you don’t remember that then you might be a bit lost, because this movie doesn’t bother with catching you up with the pre-established canon of the films. I didn’t mind because I remembered what happened before, and I was actually glad they didn’t waste time with restating stuff that any X-Men movie fan knows off-hand. Anyone new to the franchise or who hasn’t seen all the films in it might be left wondering what’s going on.

Logan shirtless again

If you’re a fan of Hugh Jackman’s abs, then you will love this movie.

The movie could have been called “How Logan Got His Groove Back.” It’s his journey to find meaning in his life again, a reason to live after having to kill the woman he loved. (Though didn’t he become a teacher at the mutant school at the end of Last Stand? I guess it didn’t agree with him.) He can’t deal with the fact that he killed Jean and now he’s living in the woods alone. And he has weird dreams/fantasies about Jean talking to him in bed. It’s a little weird, because Jean and Logan never actually achieved that level of intimacy, so you know that this is just Logan’s fantasy version of her, a version that never existed and is only there to torture him and increase his man-pain.

The plot is dragged along by Logan basically having nothing better to do. When he decides to protect Mariko, it’s not clear why he’s doing it other than the obvious romantic setup. And that’s only based on them staring at each other significantly when they first meet, and then suddenly stuff happens that forces them to take care of each other because of reasons. Plot is not this movie’s strong point, because things just kind of happened without good cause and characters seem to lack motivation. A lot of characters also lack that tricky thing called character development. Oddly, in a change from most superhero/action movies, the characters who lack the most development are actually the male characters. In fact, the characters who stand out the most besides Logan are the women.

Yukio fightingYukio was my favorite part of the film. I don’t really have a better way to describe her besides “cool.” She got to kick butt, have agency, and call herself Logan’s bodyguard. I liked her, she can stay. In a departure from the comic books, she has a mutant power: the ability to see a person’s death. The only purpose this seemed to serve was to have her see Logan’s death, but you knew he wasn’t going to die and it was wrapped up shortly after it was introduced. It didn’t go anywhere and I didn’t see a point to her having that power.

When changes from the comics are made, I know that most of them are to serve the story or simplify things for a two-hour action movie (Spider-Man’s web being part of his mutation, for instance, or even The Phoenix being a suppressed alternate personality of Jean Grey instead of trying to navigate the confusing labyrinth of the various versions of the Phoenix storyline). But Yukio’s new power served no purpose other than useless, see-through drama.

However, I did like her relationship with Mariko. They were like sisters, and even though they have just a couple scenes together, I liked seeing that dynamic. We don’t have enough best friends/sisters on screen these days. I also liked Mariko, though it took some time for me to warm up to her. She’s introduced as the obvious romantic interest and she is usually used as a damsel in distress, but she also showed an inner strength. As well as a nifty talent with knives.

Viper holding Logan captiveViper, on the other hand, stands out more in a bad way. It felt like she didn’t belong in this movie, her character too overblown for what they were trying to achieve with the tone. We also know very little about her. The motivation of the villains in this film is not well established at all. When Yashida is revealed as the Silver Samurai (by the way, this movie does not follow the comics at all, so if this is your favorite story ever, be prepared to be traumatized by what they do to it), you don’t understand why he’s evil. He seemed like not such a bad guy, but suddenly he’s a crazy, megalomaniac-style evil. I think this is where the lack of character development really shows. That and with Yashida’s son, who we barely know anything about other than that he’s bad and Mariko’s father. Same with Mariko’s fiance. We also get such a tiny bit of information about Harada (FYI, in this he’s a childhood friend and ex-boyfriend of Mariko and not her half-brother for some reason) that you don’t really care about him at all, which I think hurts the movie. When you don’t care about the characters, then you don’t care about what happens. And that’s a bad thing.

If you’re not expecting much from this movie, then it turns out not half bad. The action is fun and there are a couple funny parts (but the dialogue can be pretty weak – no Joss Whedon level of banter here). If you like Wolverine, then getting to see him in action again will be something to enjoy. But this movie is not what it could have been. The best part was actually the mid-credits scene, which sets up X-Men: Days of Future Past. That scene made it worth watching, but really it just made me wish that I had been watching Days of Future Past instead. If you’re a big X-Men/Wolverine fan, then you might want to see this just for fun (though you will also probably be the most critical of it). If you like action/adventure movies and don’t mind lack of coherent plot or character development, then this could be a enjoyable ride. Otherwise, feel free to pass.