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The Wolverine Movie Review: Where's The Blood?

Wolverine has become the most overrated character in comics today. I’m not saying that being an invincible mutant with the power to heal, heightened senses, and razor sharp claws is wack… I’m saying that Marvel comics has purposely turned this invincible mutant into a pu$$y. For those who aren’t familiar with Wolverine/Logan/James on a deeper level let me take you on a short trip through the character’s history.

Created as just a random Hulk villain, Wolverine became a member of the 2nd class of X-Men where the fact that he was feral and popped knives out of his fist instantly made him the most celebrated member of that team. Wolverine as we know him didn’t actually become that bad-azz until Chris Claremont and Frank Miller pushed his boundaries beyond the comic code safety net in the early 80’s. The first Wolverine series unchained the monster and made the character ruthless, relentless, and somewhat shocking, but gave him a true purpose by adding in the honor of a Samurai to the troubled beast. Fast forward to the 90’s X-Men animated series (skipping the Australian voiced Logan of the 80’s Spider friends incarnation). This animated Wolverine voiced by Cathal Dodd, is the most known. The gruff voice, the fury, the torment, the straight man to Jubilee’s ditsy valley girl, it’s this version that took Logan to the next level. It was a more simplified version than the comics, but it was a great interpretation.

Due to the popularity of that series Wolverine suddenly became bigger than Spider-Man, but having a guy with friggn’ knives impaling people isn’t as innocent as shooting webs, so Marvel (who now saw children as a huge market for the X-Men) made strides to soften the character after the boom of the 90’s wore off. By the time we reached Bryan Singer’s X-Men films, Wolverine had been scaled back, and besides a few bad guys getting poked every now and then, Wolverine of the comics, cartoon, and Movie were all on the same page: Tough guy mutant with a heart of gold, who only kills robots or non-descript goons who don’t bleed.

It’s ironic, the cartoon is long gone, the Wolverine of the comics has been surpassed in coolness and ruthlessness by Cyclopes… yet the Wolverine of the movie world is here trying to live up to the potential that Claremont and Miller first laid out. To a certain extent, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is the best version of the character today. With that being said I found X-Men Origins: Wolverine to be a hyperactive mess of a movie that bastadized the brilliant Origin comic storyline, made a joke of the Pre Weapon-X crew of Wade, Victor, and Logan, and failed to really connect Wolverine’s life with Xavier’s dream, beyond the Stryker storyline that was done better in X2.

This brings me to The Wolverine. The 6th installment of the X-Men movie world Bryan Singer fist brought to life. This isn’t a sequel to Origins, but a standalone Wolverine tale that promised to give the fans of the character the movie they deserve. Ninjas, actual killing, sexy Japanese chicks, and profanity.

The Wolverine: Non Spoiler Summary
This isn’t a standalone Wolverine movie, it’s a direct sequel to X-Men Last Stand (Remember that piece of S%IT?) that finds Logan hiding out in the Canadian wilderness shortly after popping his claws into Dark Phoenix and saving the world. Logan’s haunted by dreams of Jean Grey, and has decided never to kill again… or at least kill for mutant rights. Of course, like Michael Corleone, every time you think you’re out they pull you back in. Wildman Logan is pulled back by Yukio, a fire engine red head from Japan (Logan loves fire crotches apparently) who’s nasty with a blade and has the mutant power to foresee death. Yukio, as played by former fashion model Rila Fukushima is a scene-stealer, with the kind of strange yet captivating good looks that we rarely see on screen, Rila brings a much-needed sense of fun to the movie and serves sort of the Jubilee role. Once in Japan, Yukio takes Logan-san to see Master Yashida, a man who Logan saved during the bombing of Nagasaki during WWII (I imagine there’s a Wolverine meets Captain America story that we miss out on before Logan saves Yashida in the POW camp). For this act Yashida has sent for the troubled mutant and now wants to help him become mortal… catch is, the now 80 year old Yashida is dying and wants Logan’s healing factor for himself. Of course Logan refuses, the old man dies and the movie turns into Wolverine having to save Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (for fans of the 90’s cartoon you all remember Wolverine screaming MARIIIIKOOOOOO!!! During the “Code of Conflict” episode. If not Netflix it tonight!).

Mariko is now the heir to a billion dollar company and the Yakuza want her dead before Yashida’s will is read. Of course, Wolverine vs Mobsters isn’t fun, so enter the mysterious Viper who strips Logan of his healing factor, making this a fair fight. In the end The Viper, Yashida, and Mariko’s father all play a crucial part in a plot that leads to Wolverine finding his… well inner Wolverine in time to face off against a super-sized Silver Samurai. The ending is a little predictable, but there is a big moment where you’ll remark, “WTF, did they just do what I think they did to Wolverine?” While not Fatal Attractions rip the adamantium from his bones level epic, it actually changes the way Wolverine will now be seen on film. No Marvel Comics movie can go off without an added scene, so I advise you stay put and bask in the glory of a scene that sets up Bolivar Trask and Days of Future Past.

What It Gets Right

The Wolverine is much more focused than the other X-Films in that, like Iron Man 3, it’s not about plot so much as about one man’s journey to find himself again. Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, for all that the X-Men movies got wrong, the one thing they got right was Jackman, and this shows us exactly why he’s born to play this role. Loner, smart azz, protector, murderer—all of those conflicting things mesh because Jackman is so damn good at what he does even though what he does isn’t always scripted very nice. Tao Okamoto (another fashion model… or does every Japanese chick start off a model by default?) who plays Mariko is where it really comes together story wise. Batman Begins, Man of Steel, and Thor had to work in spite of horrible love stories and bad chemistry. Amazing Spider-Man and Iron Man exceled because of clever love stories and good actor chemistry, and now I’ll add The Wolverine to that list. While we all roll our eyes at how quickly people in film fall in love over a few days (I’ll still never let go Rose), Logan and Mariko’s arc is believable and makes you care even when you have no idea what the hell is going on in terms of “umm so why do they want to kill her” plot.

The Action sequences lack blood, and I’m sure there is an unrated version to be made from this; but it doesn’t really hurt the film. Director James Mangold clearly likes intimate fight scenes as opposed to the big explosions of the first Wolverine movies, and it pays off. There are three well done sequences, the best being Wolverine battling a Yakuza member on top of a bullet train. Let’s face it, Wolverine can’t really fight, he’s a guy who knows he can’t get hurt and throws himself into danger, but once the healing factor goes there are scenes that play off of Logan having to think before he acts which are subtle but great if you pick up on this.

Jean Grey. What starts out as Wolverine dreaming of a lost love, turns into some really weird Dark Phoenix mind manipulation. Jean Grey fans will flip out as it plays out through the movie, because we know exactly what’s going on, for the casual fan these scenes may just come off as creepy. Easter Egg search for my comic book fans who read Phoenix Endsong and AVX: White Hot Room.

What It Gets Wrong
In a perfect world this movie would have been done in all Japanese with subtitles. The fact of the matter is most of the foreign actors are good, but struggle with English, leaving several scenes that don’t connect due to the awkwardness of the delivery and others that were clearly written around what these actors could say. Less is more in the Logan/Mariko scenes, but when Wolverine is playing detective, the exposition can be too much. The Viper character is also a miss for me. Apparently, Mrs. Justin Timberlake aka Jessica Biel signed on to play Viper but pulled out. I think they would have upgraded the role as more of a 3 dimensional character If she stayed. Here Viper just comes off as a Bond villain with no real motivation.

The plot isn’t anything amazing, but it didn’t need to be, it’s just Wolverine in Japan trying not to get this girl killed. However, they add too many twists to compensate for the simple story, and it just seems like way too much for nothing. The master plan of the movie isn’t really a big reveal as it’s spelled out in the first 20 minutes, but the Silver Samurai creation could have been done much better. As it stands, the reveal is lazy. Walk into a room—there’s a big azz robot thing that we really don’t understand unless you point to the line in the beginning, “one foot in the past with an eye to the future” but that line will go over most people’s head and in the end, they’ll think… “Why the hell did these people blow billions on an adamantium suit shaped like a Ronin Warrior character?”

My Verdict
Is this better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Hell yes. On so many levels and more. Is this the Wolverine movie his fans have been waiting for? I don’t know because I’m not a Wolverine fan as he’s portrayed in the comics. There are ninja’s, there’s fighting, there’s discoverybut what those die-hard Wolvie geeks really want isn't redemption, they want Wolverine covered in blood decapitating fools for 90 minutes.F**K this, where’s the blood dude, I want Crazy James Howlet to kill kill kill!” That movie will never be made you blood thirsty nerds! Blood doesn’t make or break this movie, story does.
While the plot is weak, the characterizations are strong. This film comes close to giving me what I think Wolverine truly is, the feral beast mixed with the tortured Samurai that made the Claremont/Miller book work and it also adds the big brother mixed with hopeless Romantic Logan that made the 90’s cartoon so great. This isn’t Dark Knight Epic or Iron Man fun, it’s just an entertaining story of a Mutant who goes to Japan and finds himself again, and I’m cool with that.

3½  Shurikans out of 5.
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