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The Wolverine Review: The Bridge The X-Men Franchise Needed
The X-Men movies have been the epitome of big screen comic flicks. Now, I don’t mean that in a masterful way. Instead, the X-Men franchise truly shows the ups and downs of the comic world. A comic book will never have the same writer and artist throughout its entire run. There will be teams that come and go. You’ll have your favorites and you’ll dread others.
The X-Men movies have been through a lot of teams. Director-wise we’ve seen Bryan Singer tackle the first two movies while the third was helmed by Matthew Vaughn. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was directed by Gavin Hood. Vaughn returned to lead First Class. James Mangold directs The Wolverine and next year Singer will return for Days of Future Past. Whew.
The point of all of this is that the X-Men movie franchise has had many up’s and down’s. The first two films were received in a mostly positive light. The Land Stand, however, was demolished by critics and fans. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was… well, let’s not even go there. First Class, while completely dishonoring the source material, was an entertaining and fun movie.
That brings us to The Wolverine, Fox Studio’s second try at a solo movie for Weapon X. Initially, many scoffed at the film due to Origins bombing out but as the plot details and set photos began to release the hope for a good Wolverine movie started to come back. That’s exactly what we get with The Wolverine, too. While it may suffer from occasional plot devices that just don’t work, this is a damn good Wolverine movie.
After The Last Stand
Sigh… X-Men: The Last Stand. The promise of bringing in the Phoenix was so exhilarating. The execution, however, was horrid. While The Last Stand brought with it some cool action scenes and the culmination of the X-Men trilogy, it left so much in the air. How would the X-Men and Xavier’s mutant students continue on after what happened?
Originally, I had thought that The Wolverine would confirm a complete retcon of The Last Stand. From what director James Mangold and even Bryan Singer have said, it seemed that The Last Stand would go the way of Wolvie’s comic origins and become one giant redo.
It feels weird to say this but, thankfully, that’s not what happened. The Last Stand’s events are fully intact in The Wolverine and it actually does the story some good. Logan is constantly haunted by the memory of Jean Grey and because of what happened on Muir Island, he has taken a vow to not harm anyone. Obviously, that doesn’t last, otherwise this just wouldn’t be a Wolverine movie.
However, the incessant dreams and visions of Jean never let the watcher forget that this is a continuation of the X-Men trilogy. Jean was the center of Logan’s romantic life and the good side of him. That side survives through his experiences in Japan. The way he goes through heartache, breaking his vow, and eventually accepting who he is and what he does is a great tale.
The Wolverine delves into the character’s psyche, struggles, depression, and eventual turn around. This isn’t your normal superhero flick and The Wolverine is a better movie because of it. You won’t see Logan going berserk a lot because that’s not the point of this movie.
Good Story, Messy Plot
The Wolverine has a good story. It’s entertaining and has a masterful mix of seriousness and Jackman’s expert portrayal of Logan’s humor.
The problem with the movie itself comes from failed plot devices. There are some things in The Wolverine that just don’t make sense or aren’t clear.
** MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD **
For starters, why is Viper there? I could go into how Viper shouldn’t be used since Hydra can’t or how badly they butchered her character from the source material, however, the problem with her lies in her motives. I reiterate: why is Viper there? They never explain her motives or what she seeks to gain. The only possible answer, from what I can tell, is that she hopes to gain control of… wait, no, I can’t see a possible answer. Viper is a deus ex machina in The Wolverine. The story needed someway to make Wolverine weak and with Viper’s expertise in chemicals, poisons, and toxins she… implanted a small machine… to attach to Logan’s heart… to weaken him? Okay, let me start over.
Viper is a useless character in The Wolverine. She does not need to be there and has no reason to be there. They never explain her motives and she makes absolutely no sense. She’s just a villain who is there and does stuff. Superhero movies do not need multiple villains just for the sake of having multiple villains. If it doesn’t make sense in the story, then don’t add multiple villains. I’m looking at you Spider-Man 3.
Viper isn’t the only issue within the plot, either. While they did a fantastic job with bringing the Silver Samuari to the movieverse, what he does to Logan makes no sense. The Silver Samurai has two adamantium swords that have the ability to heat to a boiling point. He then uses them to slice off Logan’s claws. Wait, I’m sorry what now?
In X2: X-Men United, Stryker tells Logan that once adamantium hardens, it is impossible to reforge it. That means heat should not be able to melt forged adamantium. In the comics, there are two ways that forged adamantium can be cut or destroyed: the Muramasa blade and Silver Samurai’s tachyon fields. If the comics give the Samurai a way to break through Wolverine’s adamantium, then why not use it? Either that or just make the “Separator” katana the new Muramasa blade.
Both of those alternatives make a lot more sense than taking something that was explained in a past X-Men movie and then throwing it out the window. Instead, you take adamantium blades, heat them up to a boiling point, and use that to slice through adamantium. That makes no sense.
Bridging The Franchise To The Future
The X-Men movies are far from over. While The Last Stand ended the trilogy, First Class started up a new story. With Days of Future Past, we’ll see both stories come together and The Wolverine is what bridges them.
The events of The Wolverine successfully show us Logan’s life after Muir Island. It makes sense that Logan is the key figure in this X-Men story after Xavier went down, Magneto’s powers were just about gone, and the X-Men focused on the continuation of the school. Logan was the only soldier left after The Last Stand.
With the upcoming movie bridging the two stories and casts together, there needs to be a key figure and after watching The Wolverine it is clear that it will be Logan.
With that said, fans of the previous movies will find plenty to enjoy here. The well crafted story, dive into Wolverine’s problems, and exciting action does plenty to outweigh a couple messy plot devices. This movie successfully begins a story, keeps it interesting, and ends it. There are no questions left open with The Wolverine. It’s a tale that dives deep into Logan and at the end of it you feel more connected with the character and you’re ready to go for the next movie.
I was excited for Days of Future Past before seeing The Wolverine. I’m especially excited to see Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask. After watching this movie, I really can’t wait for Days of Future Past.
Don’t let X-Men Origins or The Last Stand sour your perception of an X-Men movie. First Class was a nice step in the right direction and The Wolverine puts the franchise right back on course. It’s all up to you, Bryan Singer, to continue that.