THE WOLVERINE – Marvel’s main man gets a script to sink his claws into.

Posted on July 30, 2013


It would be easy to be cynical about yet another entry into one of the many superhero franchises that seem to dominate the landscape of modern cinema these days, but at least with “The Wolverine” there seems have been a conscious effort to mark the film out as more than just another comic book summer blockbuster.

Adapted from the limited series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, “The Wolverine” sets out to do what all good films should do, and that’s to allow the characters to drive the story forward and thread the narrative with an overarching theme. In short, “The Wolverine” attempts to be more of a structured drama than a comic book adaptation, and in this it mostly it succeeds.


Set sometime after the events of “X Men: The Last Stand”, Jackman’s Logan has forsaken his identity as The Wolverine and is living rough in a cave in the Yukon mountains, hanging out with grizzly bears and playing naughts and crosses on the trees. On a depressive, downward cycle, he mourns the death of Jean Grey, (Famke Janssen) whom he visits in the netherworld between life and death, which the film would have us believe is a soft-focus boudoir. Jean tempts Logan to join her in the afterlife, yet – as much as he wishes it – his immortality means he must remain tied to this world.


This overarching theme of mortality is hammered home when Logan is interrupted from his usual dishing out of justice to the ignorant local hicks, and is brought to Japan by the precognitive mutant Yukio.


Once in Japan, he is lead to the deathbed of Yashida – a Japanese soldier whom Logan saved at the bombing of Nagasaki. Now, I’m not saying this is convenient, but Wolverine does get about, doesn’t he?


In the intervening years, Yashida has gone on to become the head of the powerful Yashida Corp. Like many powerful and ailing men, Yashida yearns for immortality. He offers Logan a chance to pass his immortality on to him, allowing Logan to live – and, crucially, die – as a normal, mortal man. However, Logan isn’t ready to pass on his “gift” to anyone, seeing it more as a curse. He turns Yashida down saying “Trust me bub – you don’t want what I have”, and he resolves to return to his man cave.


However, before Logan can get back to his usual hobby of beating up rednecks in bars, he encounters Yashida’s beautiful granddaughter, Mariko. Logan has a hard time saying “Mariko”, it appears. Sometimes it sounds like “Margo”, other times “Michael”. It’s three syllables, bub.


Mariko is her grandfather’s favourite, and that puts her at great risk from her father, Shingen, who likes to slap her about and incite her to suicide. This behaviour doesn’t sit well with Logan and it gives his protective instinct the opportunity to turn over into hyperdrive.


Is this not the face of an unloving father?

When Yashida passes away and Logan’s “gift” is forcibly taken from him by the mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), Logan is forced to not only protect Mariko from the Yakuza, but also to come to terms with his own newfound mortality.


Samantha had grown tired of Sex & The City

This allows for a number of set pieces where the reluctant and vulnerable Logan must unleash his wild side and let the Wolverine’s claws come out.


However, as he protects Maiko, he slowly begins to fall for her. Perhaps now he has something to live for again?Wolverine_Mariko

However, it’s not long before the tables are turned and we find ourselves marching squarely into a proper comic book third act territory, full of fights, falls, and explosions. And the much anticipated Silver Samurai makes his appearance.


Sadly, although this is where all the stops are let out, this is where the film is let down. Despite all the eye candy on screen, this is also the point where all the characters must find their resolution, which is never easy in an exploding villain’s lair where everyone is fighting each other.


Viper’s new toilet was doing nothing for Wolverine’s piles

Viper, it is revealed, has an issue with Logan – and men in general – but her character and her motivations are never really explored or developed further than this, and she ends up being the most directly caricatured of these comic book characters.

Yukio and Mariko, who have spent the film as loyal sidekick and damsel in distress respectively, seem suddenly to have little depth as soon as they are not fighting or running away from Yakuza.


Logan – now squarely Wolverine once again – does actually get something of a resolution as he comes to terms with his mortality and finally, rather than running from his nature, embraces it.


The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. And no claws.

“The Wolverine” is, without a doubt, a more character driven comic book film than many we’ve seen in recent times, and it’s theme of mortality is deeper than one than we’d be used to encountering in this kind of film. However, “The Wolverine” is a little too self-aware of its attempted cleverness and often it feels as though it thinks it’s smarter than it actually is.

Despite this, “The Wolverine” still manages to be a great deal of fun. Whilst it doesn’t pack the visual punch of “The Avengers” or “Iron Man 3”, it does have more coherence and heart.

Jackman, although stepping into the Wolverine’s boots for the sixth time, still brings the same energy and vigor to the role he did when he first took it on thirteen years ago and any signs of weariness only serve to highlight the character’s mental fatigue. He is clearly very comfortable in this character’s skin (and muscle), which is fortunate, because, if the de rigueur post-credits teaser is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing him in the role again soon.