Suspension of Disbelief: The Wolverine
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is back- this time, in summer blockbuster The Wolverine. I’ll admit I went into this almost entirely blind- I know very little about the X-Men franchise and I haven’t even seen the previous Wolverine movie. However, I was pleasantly surprised by many aspects of this superhero-mutant movie, and will attempt to explain why (sans excessive spoilers).
The movie begins with Wolverine/Logan hiding in the mountains, thinking about, dreaming about and generally being sad about the death of Jean Grey. When his bear friend is killed by some hunters, he goes to the local bar to humiliate them- and in the process, is found by Yukio. She carts him off to Japan to see her master on his deathbed, and after the aforementioned master’s funeral is ruined by the Yakuza, action ensues. Lots of action, actually- and herein lies one of the strongest points of the movie.
In The Wolverine, we get to see some particularly awesome action scenes- there are fights at funerals, in mountaintop retreats, and even a particularly standout scene on top of a train. What is really interesting about the action scenes in this movie, however, is that Wolverine- without giving too much away- is not his usual, entirely invincible self. He is still an extremely strong, well-trained human being- but he is distinctly human. Seeing him fight without immediately healing is pretty cool, as it forces him to fight and move differently whilst battling with confusion over his altered physical state. When his powers of regeneration are returned to him, he has a really cool- and long- fight scene to show them off. Admittedly, these scenes can run a little long, and leave you wondering when the actual plot is going to kick in- but as a rule, they are well-done and entertaining.
The women in The Wolverine were a huge positive for me. The main villain, whilst not particularly threatening nor hard to avoid, was a woman- a distinct step forward for movies of this genre. She isn’t just the pretty assistant for a male criminal mastermind; she’s actually a villain in her own right!
I was initially worried that the spirited character of Yukio was going to be swept aside when the more feminine, conventionally pretty Mariko was introduced- or that they were both going to end up competing for male attention. Miraculously, this was not the case! Yukio held her own throughout the movie- able to function alone as well as help Wolverine with her impressive martial arts skills. Her character is independent but loyal, and her role in the film is not defined by her relationship with Logan. She has her own personality completely independent of him, and although it seems that she respects him she does not rely upon him for his protection or instruction.
I was even more worried for the character of Mariko upon her introduction, as it seemed that she may just have been acting as the shy, retiring damsel in distress. However, the writers decided to give her depth that is rarely seen in a male title-character’s love interest. She has power, but does not want to wield it for any selfish means. Despite her romantic involvement with Wolverine, she too has her own personality and background- she does not exist solely as decoration and an excuse for a kissing-break between all of the fight scenes. Finally- and this was one of my favourite aspects of her character- she is also a skilled martial artist. Even when female secondary characters are portrayed as strong, this is often in the emotional sense- and whilst there is much to be respected in that, it is nice to see a leading lady who can defend herself physically against attackers.
Bonus: This movie also aces the Bechdel Test! Women (and writers) of The Wolverine, we salute you.
Yes, yes. I know that the massive climactic scene is supposed to be the one that we all like the best in the movie, but I had a different memorable scene in mind. There is a flashback scene connecting Logan to the Japanese man he is being sent to meet, involving the bomb dropped on Nagasaki at the conclusion of WWII. This is beautifully done; the filmmakers capture the panic and subsequent resignation surprisingly well, and the special effects are good enough to actually instil fear. On top of this, the tragedy is not exploited- there is no huge action scene, and the Japanese are portrayed as very relatable, unlike what one often sees in a WWII related context. It’s only a shame that such a great scene came so early in the movie, as I kept waiting for something to outdo it.
This movie gets 3/5 (ninja) stars, because it is decently entertaining and has some fun action sequences, along with especially strong female leads. If you take it for what it is, you’ll probably enjoy it- but don’t expect high art! (Oh- and it’s worth staying for the post-credits scene, which got even me excited about the next X-Men movie).