It’s not that I don’t like the X-Men.
I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not that.
Wolverine is pretty neat, Deadpool is fun when he isn’t completely unbearable and Michael Fassbender seems cool. But for whatever reason me and the mutants never completely clicked. Maybe it’s the mutant part. I’m not a big Ninja Turtles fan either.
Before The Wolverine I’d only ever seen X-Men: First Class and perhaps a combined 45 minutes of the first three X-Men movies on cable television over the years. I gave All-New X-Men a shot when Marvel NOW started, and it seemed solid. But after the first story arc wrapped with issue 5 I called it a day.
So that’s the X-Men background I took into my viewing of The Wolverine, which came out on Blu-Ray last week.Though it’s the third X-Movie to come out since 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine is the first film to take place after the events of that movie. Reiterating that I’ve never seen The Last Stand, it seems like it was a bummer, because guess who’s pretty bummed? Logan the Sad Wolverine.
Logan wanders around in the woods and sleeps on a mountain and relishes being generally frumpy and hairy. But that’s not the important part. The important part is Wolverine goes to Japan, where he meets a dying man from his past who claims to be able to absolve Logan of the gift-turned-curse that is his invulnerability and bonkers healing factor.
If it doesn’t exactly sound like an X-Men flick that’s because it’s not. It isn’t really an ensemble piece, there’s no Professor X mind tricks or Magneto dime tricks and any conflict between humanity and mutants is little more than an undercurrent.
Also, the letter “X” isn’t in the title. So there’s that.
Knowledge of the previous Wolverine film isn’t even necessary. The Wolverine is an entirely stand-alone film, which is an intriguing concept for an installment in a major motion picture franchise. The Wolverine is more a story of a stranger coming to town then it is a vehicle for mutants and superpowers.
Hugh Jackman returns in the role he owns, still seamlessly playing both a mutant with a metal skeleton, invincibility and knuckle-claws and a scruffy goon that still uses the phrase “bub.” Whether Jackman leaves the role of Logan behind in five years or fifty, God help the man who eventually inevitably inherits the Adamantium claws.But Jackman aside, The Wolverine’s most endearing characteristic is its commitment to and portrayal of the Japanese setting. Almost the entire cast is Japanese and their characters are never made to feel foreign or exotic, their customs never strange or antediluvian. The plot of The Wolverine is much more concerned with the internal strife of a prominent family then it is with showing a gruff but lovable white guy go native. It’s refreshing not to be burdened with an overemphasis on the strange, mysterious ways of a cultural “other” and instead to just be able to enjoy The Wolverine’s scenic location.
It also doesn’t hurt that Wolverine takes on the yakuza on a bullet train and wields his claws in a duel against an angry samurai businessman.
But for all the strides it makes as an American film set in Japan, The Wolverine still falls short as a superhero action flick. While I was never twiddling my thumbs over the course of the movie, I didn’t find myself at the edge of my seat either. A brief snippet from the film’s final battle, which I caught in a trailer for the film last summer, had me eagerly anticipating the story’s climax, but the clash wound up entirely disappointing me.
Unless you’re particularly loose with your Blu-Ray collection I’d be hard pressed to recommend picking up The Wolverine on home video. Though I have heard that the extended cut (available only on the 3D Blu-Ray, which I did not acquire) is a superior version.
There are some cool action sequences and Hugh Jackman, as always, is a beyond perfect Logan, but at the end of the day it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if you only caught The Wolverine 20 minutes at a time on cable over the course of the next ten years.