It’s been a rough couple of years for the Marvel comics properties not being made into films by the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios. The Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men: First Class made money, obviously, but when compared to the success of The Avengers, Fox and Sony have mostly just been trying to play catch-up. Fox moreso that Sony, I think, considering they were coming off of the poorly-received X-Men Origins: Wolverine. They’ve been under pressure to prove that First Class wasn’t just a wonderful fluke, and as an X-Men fan from way back, I’d been hoping against hope that the studio could return to making superhero films that are legitimately good. After all, The Wolverine would set the pace for next year’s highly anticipated Days of Future Past.
My thoughts on The Wolverine, including a few spoilers, after the jump.
While I’ve been an X-Men fan for a long time now, even before I started reading comics with the frequency that I do now, Wolverine has never really been one of my favorite characters. As a child, I was a Jubilee fan, then I graduated to Kitty Pryde, then to X-23 and Cyclops. But Wolverine is this ever-present figure in the Marvel universe, on countless teams and in countless titles. So it makes sense that Fox would make a second film starring just this particular character, even after the disaster that was X-Men Origins. I wonder if they were hoping that a second stab at it (pardon the pun) would redeem what I and many others viewed as a complete mess of a film. Either way, I was skeptical for a long time, at least until I viewed some preview footage at San Diego Comic Con last weekend. The footage looked great, the 3D was decent… but great footage doesn’t always a great film make. Fortunately, the film held up.
Don’t get me wrong, The Wolverine isn’t a perfect film. Bits of it are a bit ridiculous, and the more nitpicky will have issue with the fact that an un-healing Logan doesn’t once complain about hands hurting from his claws or have bloody fists. Of course, a lot of that, you can chalk up to Logan just being used to pain. Maybe he heals, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel the pain of being stabbed, burned, and shot. He’s used to it. But either way, it’s a detail that the filmmakers should have thought to address, given that they manage to remember that Logan’s claws are initially bone, only coated with Adamantium.
I think the one thing I really took away from this film is that it seems that someone (Mark Bomback, Scott Frank and Christopher McQuarrie to be precise) has finally figured out how to write Logan. He’s sarcastic with just the right amount of profanity, and I don’t think I remember him ever saying ‘bub’ as much as he does in this film. Not that Logan saying ‘bub’ makes the film, but Logan actually sounds like Logan in this. It’s refreshing. I’m not sure how much of it came as a result of a favorable reaction to Logan’s “Go fuck yourself” in X-Men First Class, but either way, I’m glad for the change.
The plot itself works well. While there were a few strange elements, the film works as a solo venture as well as one that links back to the X-Men movie-verse at large. It’s what I think Fox wanted Origins to be, but they went about it in the wrong way. All Origins managed to do was muck up the continuity by including characters like Scott Summers and Emma Frost, while The Wolverine stays away from the super-familiar X-Men, while still managing to link back to the main continuity.
But all in all, the film is a delight. It’s funny and suspenseful, and there are ninjas. I don’t think the 3D is terribly necessary, but it’s decent. There were only a few scenes where I felt it was detrimental to the film itself, when some of the action was difficult to follow, but it may be because I was seated off-center. Either way, it’s a lot better than I was expecting it to be. The film has me super excited for what Fox has next, even if I wonder how long Hugh Jackman can play Wolverine and still have it remain believable that he’s a man who is supposed to never age. But I’m sure Fox will cross that bridge when they come to it.
Also, stick around through the credits. You won’t be sorry.