For those of you who have been fans of the original X-Men comics, as well as the numerous films which have moved forward and backward in time over the past few years since Bryan Singer’s orig
For those of you who have been fans of the original X-Men comics, as well as the numerous films which have moved forward and backward in time over the past few years since Bryan Singer’s original X-Men movie in 2000, the news of a new Wolverine movie may have brought about feeling of extreme trepidation.
This feeling would have been entirely justified. The last Wolverine incarnation was whole-heartedly disappointing for many reasons. First and foremost (for me anyway) was the inclusion of Will.I.AM in a cowboy hat. That aside, X-Men Origins: Wolverine delivered a mediocre, cliché-ridden script and a narrative which did very little to endear itself to staunch supporters of the titular character.
Depth of character
And let’s take a moment to address that forthright. Wolverine is my favourite superhero from the Marvel family. The tortured loner who is forever struggling to come to terms with his past is an interesting archetype, however that is not all there is to find interesting about the Wolverine.
His entire skeleton has been grafted with Adamantium—interesting. He has powers of regeneration which make him more-or-less immortal and therefore hard to determine exactly how old he is—interesting. And then there are the claws which slide menacingly out of his hands to deliver a decapitating blow to his enemies—very interesting indeed.
So for a character of Wolverine’s size, ferocity, charisma and tumultuous history, there is little excuse for how poor the last origin movie really was. The filmmakers had so much to work with, yet still they produced a movie which was instantly forgettable and substituted progressive extravagance for dumb-witted clumsiness.
However, one thing that will remain a constant in the production of any movie is where there is a loyal and fanatical fan-base, there is money – and where there is money, there will always be ANOTHER movie. However, this latest project isn’t just a mission for Marvel Studios to try and recapture Wolverine’s earning potential, rather it is, more importantly, an attempt to save face.
Based rather loosely on Frank Miller and Chris Claremont’s sacred miniseries, Knight & Day director James Mangold has the daunting task of trying to impress a legion of fans that will undoubtedly be going in to this with a degree of resignation. The decision to base this latest film on that source material is, in itself, a pretty big gamble and one which has the potential to turn a lot of people off for good if it falls on its arse.
So it is a degree of surprising elation that I deliver my verdict: it is actually pretty bloody good!
The story sees our tortured loner summoned to Japan by an old friend whose life he saved when the Americans dropped the atom bomb on Nagasaki. He instantly becomes embroiled in a war of succession and at the same time addresses some of the more interesting factors which surround Logan’s character; namely his near-immortality.
The most important decision that James Mangold made when putting this together was to look closely at what makes this character so interesting, and to therefore keep those things firmly in mind when delivering the final edit. This is a story which concentrates on the theme of isolation, and the backdrop for this could not be more perfect than Japan itself. Simply put, the fact that Logan has Adamantium claws, regenerative powers and very distinct facial hair are not the things which isolate him here. The fact is that he is Gaijin (a foreigner) is.
An outsider who doesn’t know or understand the culture he is attempting to navigate, especially one where even the placing of chopsticks can have very serious connotations, is an excellent backdrop for a character whose way of dealing with these issues is to do one of two things. He can learn new ways, adapt and find some sort of peace with the unfamiliar, or he can unsheathe his claws and go flipping berserk.
Perfect balance combining action and emotion
And it is the balance of these two options which actually makes this a very enjoyable film. The pacing is key to all of this, and it something which Mangold and the screen-writers have gotten absolutely spot-on. The story is allowed to breathe and there are some lovely moments of introspection and real emotion between Hugh Jackman and the supporting cast, and these scenes are a real joy as they work in balance with the action sequences – which are some the best I have seen for some time.
Maybe it is the Wolverine’s fighting style, so contrasting from the snore-inducing banging and crashing which the Man of Steel produced for what seemed a lifetime, which allows these sequences to really deliver what is required. Maybe it is because he is set against hordes of ninjas and the Yakuza (Japanese gangsters), meaning it becomes a clash of fluid kung-fu versus Wolverine’s ferocious berserker style. Maybe it is the beautifully-shot settings for these fight scenes, moving from a traditional Japanese cemetery to the top of bullet train.
Most likely, it is all of the above. The important thing is that these sequences are thrilling and spectacular in equal measure, and as much as people have enjoyed the more thought-provoking style of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, if you don’t get the action right in a superhero movie, the movie can never truly be a success.
Hugh Jackman is Wolverine
Let us also take a moment to direct some well-earned praise in the direction of Hugh Jackman. Many have said that the problem with Wolverine movies is that no-one has ever managed to produce a script or story which can match how well Jackman plays Logan. In my opinion, this is actually a pretty fair comment. Getting the part of a superhero these days brings with it zero guarantees that you will still be playing the part in future movies. However it seems that amongst fans of the X-Men comics and films all agree on one thing – Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, enough said.
So in terms of Marvel Studios mission to save face, The Wolverine actually accomplishes what it sets out to achieve. It explores who Logan is, not just what he can do. It is dark, but not without humour. It features spectacular action without boring the audience to tears (looking at you again Zack Snyder) and it leaves you wanting to see more of the character, which, when all is said and done, is all that you want when the final credits roll.
Oh and speaking of final credits, this has a post-credit scene which, as post-credit scenes go, is actually pretty good, and well worth staying seated for.