Monday, December 09, 2013

I finally saw The Wolverine...or is it meant to be pronounced Thee Wolverine...?

I just saw the latest Wolverine movie, The Wolverine, on DVD this weekend. I had meant to see it in theaters this summer, but I had the impression it wasn't playing in theaters for very many weeks. Maybe it was, and it was only during weeks when I was sort of busy and not thinking about spending a few hours in a theater, though. Anyway, I find it interesting that we've now reached a point in not only comic book movies, but comic book superhero movies that it's possible for even someone like me—who, remember, not only reads the damn things, but spends a significant part of my life writing about them for an insignificant amount of money—no longer feels compelled to go see them in theaters, like, opening weekend (I similarly failed to get to the theater in time to see Amazing Spider-Man before it stopped playing).

The Wolverine seemed really, really, really good to me. I think that was in large part due to how bad the previous Wolverine film, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine was. That struck me as a pretty terrible movie, the only good parts I remember being that Hugh Jackman was in it and he's really good at being Wolverine in movies, and that the part where he fought a helicopter was pretty funny. Oh, and Liev Schreiber was pretty good in it too, I guess, looking more like Jackman's evil counterpart than Tyler Mane did in the original X-Men film

Part of X-Men Origins: Wolverine's problem, aside from having about two words too many in its title, seemed to be that it was re-covering ground already covered in 2002's fact, X2 seemed more like a Weapon X moive than X-Men Origins: Wolverine was (Also? Wolverine: Weapon X is a better film title than X-Men Origins: Wolverine), part of it was filling a Wolverine movie up with X-Men who weren't the X-Men from the previous, better movies, and then basically doing nothing at all with them (Why bother casting and introducing Gambit if you're only going to have him make a few cameos, for example? Why create new characters like John Wraith and Agent Zero when there are something like 12,450 pre-existing X-Men characters?).

(Oh, and what was up with that part where Wolverine met John and Martha Kent, they gave him a jacket and motorcycle, and then got totally blown up a few seconds later?)

At any rate, The Wolverine is the best movie with the name "Wolverine" in the title by far, is what I'm trying to say, but that's not really saying a whole lot*.

•I was a little thrown by the fact that it was set after the events of 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, which I barely remember (Like, I guess I forgot that Wolverine killed Jean Grey in it...?), and I guess my X-Men movie timeline was also a bit discombobulated by the fact that the last two movies—X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class—were set before the other three X-Men movies, in terms of chronology, and I just sort of assumed the Japanese setting of this meant it would take place before them as well, that it would be a sequel to origins and a prequel to the X-Men trilogy.

•I was additionally surprised by the presence of Famke Janssen's Jean Grey, in a small but key role. It was nice to see her, as that character and actress sort of got the short end of the stick in the previous films (ditto poor Cyclops; the franchise lost a lot of energy when that love triangle collapsed under the weight of Wolverine's popularity). She was rather well-employed here, I thought, and that particular plot-line was among the artier aspects of the film. It was one of several aspects that made it seem like a movie-movie, rather than just a silly superhero movie, although it would certainly get sillier as time went on.

For example:

When Brian K. Vaughan put Wolverine in Japan for the dropping of an American atomic bomb, I thought that was pretty crass and tasteless. Perhaps it was because BKV managed to desensitize me to it a bit, or perhaps film seems a better medium for it, being somewhat less exploitive of the poor audience member (it was a few minutes of a film I watched for free in one sitting; not part of a $12, three-month storyline).

•I only read the 1982 Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Wolverine miniseries once, long, long ago, and didn't really like it at all (It was pretty Claremont-y, and the Miller who drew it hadn't yet become the Miller of Dark Knight Returns), so I don't know how much this movie was based on it, but I recognized a lot of the Japanese people's names.

•It was sort of weird seeing Wolverine's big Japanese adventure set in the present, or after all of his X-Menning, rather than as part of his mysterious past. This isn't a fault of the film or anything, just an observation: As a reader of Marvel comics, it was weird for me to see a Wolverine who couldn't speak Japanese, ate with a fork instead of chopsticks and didn't know how to hold a samurai sword.

•Rila Fukushima's Yukio, a red-haired maybe-mutant (a word only used once in the whole film, in Japanese dialogue), was a nice addition to the film, playing Wolverine's kinda sorta sidekick. She slotted quite nicely into the young girl-sidekick-to-grumpy-old-Wolverine role played in the comics at various points by Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, Armor and so on, and in the original X-Men movie by Anna Paquin's Rogue (Watching stretches of this, I found myself hoping the next Wolverine movie would feature him teamed with either Kea Wong's Jubilee, confined to two cameos in X2 and Last Stand. or, less likely, Ellen Page's Kitty Pryde).

•Tao Okamoto, who played Mariko, was pretty.

•Is Viper a new character? I can't think of any X-folks with that name or power-set, but I'm not an X-Men expert by any stretch of the imagination. (Wikipedia offers me a confusing answer on a Viper's existence in Marvel comics; I guess movie Viper is an original remix of several versions of different characters, maybe...?)

•The bullet train fight scene was pretty cool, I thought. It certainly bordered on the ridiculous, and occasionally stepped/flew over that border, but for all the fight scenes set atop trains in action film history, one set atop a bullet train was, of course, inevitable, so good on The Wolverine for going there. Hell, it may not even be the first fight set on top of a bullet train, but it is the first one I saw.

•The Silver Saumurai was fucking ridiculous (see above), and I had a hard time wrapping my head around the exact plan to steal Wolverine's healing powers from him...apparently, if you chop off the adamantium claws, you can use the claw holes of his knuckles as, like, access ports with which to siphon out his immortality. Or something?

•Unless Wolverine was all special effect between Hugh Jackman's neck and waist, that dude is in really fucking great shape. And he's a decade older than me! I went to bed after planning to do so many push-ups the next morning! But I ended up sleeping in and then not having time to work out.

•Ninjas don't really work in live-action movies, do they? They seemed super-cheesy in this. And, as I was thinking about it, I can't recall any movies—at least made in America ones—where ninjas didn't look at least a little like men in pajamas playing dress-up. In comics though? Ninjas work just fine in comics.

•You know the part when that one bad guy asks Wolverine what kind of monster he is and he says "The Wolverine" and pops his claws into his throat...? He totally should have said "The (Whatever That Japanese Monster Mariko Told Him Her Grandfather Said He Met At the Bottom of the Well With the Claws, The Monster That Would Always Protect Her)." That, or "The (Japanese Monster). The Wolverine."

•So I wonder what's next for Wolverine, in terms of solo movies? An eye-patch and Madripoor? Tyger Tiger? I hope so; I really like the name "Tyger Tiger," and would love to hear highly-paid actors say it out loud repeatedly in a movie theater.

•It looks like the X-Men people are taking a page from the Marvel Studios people, and teasing their next film during the credits for whichever one just finished, as Professor X and Magneto show up for a few minute scene with Wolverine in this, apparently teasing Days of Future Past.

•After I finished watching the movie, I watched the trailer, which is something of a habit I have. When I did so, I noticed a few elements that didn't make it into the final cut:
Wolverine: Smoking!

Wolverine getting beat up by a motorcycle! Okay, you can't really tell from this image, but, at the film's climax, Wolvie must fight his way through a snowy village full of ninjas before he can get to the boss level and fight The Silver Samurai. In the final cut, this basically entails him running while ninjas shoot arrows at him, until they hit him with so many ropes-attached-to-arrows that he is pulled to the ground.

In the trailer, there are a few glimpses of ninja's on motorbikes, including a moment where one of them pops a wheelie on the front tire, and smacks Wolverine across the face with the back tire.

•And then I watched the trailer for Days of Future Past, which looks sort of intriguing, although I was sad that X-Men I would most like to see more of—Alan Cummings' Nightcrawler, Taylor Kitsch's Gambit, James Marsden's Cyclops, the aforementioned Wong's Jubilee—aren't in it, but Halle Berry's dumb-ass Storm is. And Havoc. And, ugh, Bishop too.

*Disclaimer: I've never seen this 1921 silent movie called The Wolverine, but I'm pretty confident it is not about the mutant with the funny hair and claws named Logan.


Eric Lee said...

I felt The Wolverine really felt like a serious dramatic movie-movie as u called it, but then got really crazy at the climatic battle scene. Crazy as in, it felt really bizarre and disconnected from the rest of the movie.

Aki Alaraatikka said...

Yep, movie Viper`s an amalgam.

JohnF said...

Hdefined has a point. It's easy enough to find out that John Wraith and Agent Zero AKA Maverick have been around for years. Not that they're particularly memorable, but they're not new.

Anonymous said...

My first memories of Logan, Mariko & Silver Samurai were courtesy of Paul Smith:

Ridiculous or not, 173 was the most cinematic a comic had ever looked to me. An incontrovertibly excellent introduction to an absolutely ludicrous franchise. Still have it, point of fact.

Yeah, I'm going to keep skipping this flick. Much as I like Hugh, I'd rather watch him spend his time on something worthwhile.

Caleb said...


Well, I did look their characters' names up in IMDb before posting, rather than saying "the black guy in the cowboy hat and the one guy with the guns"...

To be fair to our research department, they did change the race of Agent Zero, and called him "Agent Zero" instead of "Maverick" who I have heard of, if only in the context of "some guy who used to work with Wolverine."

All my X-Men knowledge comes from half-forgotten viewings of that awesomely terrible '90s cartoon, and what few X-Men comics and trades I've read since 2000 or so. Anything pre-Morrison I'm pretty hazy on.

Anonymous said...

Poor Bish. I almost feel bad for Whilce Portacio. The character amounted to nothing b/c nobody felt particularly compelled by a black Cable. Not as though the time cop aspect couldn't have been played up better...