The Wolverine – Major Spoilers

I’ve been an X-men fan for a long time.  Longer than I care to remember.  I pretty much stopped reading around 1990.  There were two reasons for this.  Firstly, I was completely pissed off with the gigantic cross-overs that were becoming increasingly common (I note with distaste that they haven’t slowed down) and secondly, I was completely fed up with Wolverine hogging every comic he was in.  The X-men were no longer a team; they were Wolverine and his side kicks.

With heavy heart, I stopped buying the X-men.

I was never wholly convinced by Wolverine anyway.  I was of the opinion that he was pretty much a “one note” character and, while I was reading X-Men, I’d often skip the Wolverine bits.  Then came the four part mini-series that saw Wolverine relocated to modern day Japan.  That, despite the unintended racism, was something of a revelation. Wolverine had depth.  Who’d have thought?

Of course, they totally buggered it up by having every other issue set in Japan so the whole noble Ronin thing could be played out ad nauseum, but that mini-series stands as a testament to a character that could have beeb so much *more*.

Skip forward about 20 years and we get the first X-men movie. A lean little thriller with not so much as a wasted scene.  Hugely enjoyable, but it annoyed me that it focussed on Wolverine.   What about the originals? Where were The Beast, Ice-man and Angel?  And if you were going to go with the original  New X-Men team, where was Thunderbird?  ANd why was Wolverine there?   He didn’t even show up for the first few years!    And when the second movie focussed almost solely on Wolverine origin, that annoyed me too.  Who’d have guessed?  Although to be fair, it was a great movie. But even still, BLOODY WOLVERINE!!! <Imagine a shakey fist here>

Anyway, X-Men: The last Stand came along and we wept for the end of the franchise,  largely because it was utter cock from start to finish.

It did, however, contain a very important sequence.  One that is picked up on in “The Wolverine” (see, I got round to it eventually, oh ye of little faith!).  THe less said about X-Men Origins: Wolverine the better, I think.  Although better than the abortion that was The Last Stand, it was such a confused mish-mash, it doesn’t deserve any kind of kudos. The Wolverine ignores it altogether, and so should we.

So.

THis morning, my Facebook status read thus : 

“The Wolverine” day… my justification is that it can’t be worse than “Wolverine”
Mind you, I said that about “The Dark Knight”. And “The Dark Knight Rises”. Do I never learn?”

Well colour me pleasantly surprised.  What an absolute joy this movie was.  No really.  This is probably the most satisfying of the Summer Blockbusters that I’ve seen so far.

It starts with The Wolverine saving the life of one of his captors in the A-Bomb attack on Nagasaki.  THe survivor becomes the leading industrialist in Japan and, on his death bed, charges his adopted daughter to find the man who saved him.

Logan, however, has gone more or less feral while trying to cope with the fact that he killed Jean Grey in The Last Stand (either that or he’s so embarrassed by that movie he’s hiding to save his shame).  

HERE’S YOUR MAJOR SPOILER.   LOOK AWAY OF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE IT.

 

He dreams of Jean, the role reprised by Famke Janssen, and seems to be talking about how he wants to die in order to be with her.  All very grim, but with that cursed healing factor, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

Unless of course, that soldier who you saved and became Japans foremost and powerful industrialist just happens to have a Wolverine fixation as he’s dying and really wants to live forever.

Oh wait!   That’s exactly what happens!  The adopted daughter finds Logan in a bar, battering some hunters who are using illegal weaponry to kill bears.  Limbs are lost, there’s dying and mayhem and soon, he’s flying off to Japan.

Naturally, there is bad shit afoot.  In what seems like appalling ingratitude, the ex-soldier contrives to forcibly steal Wolverines healing factor in order to give Logan an opportunity to die, regardless of what Wolverine wants.

He has employed an expert biochemist, who happens to be a mutant,  to bring him down.

But the comic elements aren’t really what impresses – although there are some fantastic set pieces, the fight on top of the bullet train is wonderful! – it is exactly what the mini-series did which is to give the character some depth.  Whether thats with his relationship with Mariko, the return to Nagasaki or the conversations with Jean Grey.   He just seems much more rounded and with more of a raison d’être than the spurious Alkali Lake thread in the first two movies.  Hugh Jackman, who spends most of his time looking like John Mclane and the rest of the time without a shirt, did a great job.  No really.

If anything lets it down, it’s the great revelation of the Silver Samurai and the Viper. Neither really convince as characters, although the realisation of the Silver Samurai and the fight scenes are fantastic and The Vipers demise is as brutal as it is comic.

Obviously, this being Japan, the Yakuza and huge amounts of martial arts has to figure but thats fine.  It actually complements the plot for once. 

I’m actually struggling to find negatives.  Can you believe that?

The only thing that jars is probably the bit that I’ve just spoiled.   Not in the way you might think though.  The scenes themselves and the content are absolutely fine.  I don’t have a problem with them per se, but they do seem to have been filmed separately to the rest of the movie, mostly with what looks like a body double – they never seem to appear in the same frame together (at least not the faces).   I presume this was to hide the fact that Jean Grey was appearing in the movie by not having her turn up on set.

But that’s fine.  The scenes worked.

Bloody hell it was a good movie.

And Im as surprised as you are . . .

Oh, and if you go to see it, do stay for the end credits 🙂

 

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