Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Homeless Nerd Reviews: The Wolverine

At a glance- troubled superhero fights great odds and finds love and self-acceptance

What is it?   With X-Men: Days of Future Past coming out next year, and all the success of Marvel movies, apparently we need something to revitalize interest in the X-Men franchise.  This movie takes place after X-Men 3, which is an odd choice on several levels.  First, X-Men 3 was a pretty bad movie, and it would have been better to take the Highlander route and pretend it never happened (I kid Highlander, but I actually like the series, 'nother post though).  Also, in the comic books Wolverine went to Japan before he ever met the X-Men.  Still, we get to see more of everyone's favorite angry mutant (though he's written more as perturbed, or grouchy, and only gets angry when he screams apparently - not like the comic character).

The acting-   I have always thought Hugh Jackman has done a fine job as Wolverine.  Mind you, this is Wolverine the movie character, not Wolverine the comic character.  Comic Wolverine is short, the shortest character on the X-Men team (except perhaps Jubilee, who is a teenage girl).  Comic Wolverine is also angry, like really angry, like old Norse Berserker angry - scenes with him tend to use a lot of red ink.  I can see where nobody in movies likes to be short (look at how Tom Cruise is always filmed as taller than he really is)(not that I'm saying Mr. Jackman is short, from what I gather he isn't, rather why they didn't hire a shorter actor) and to keep the series PG-ish you have to tone down the violence (though, why use such an inherently violent character then?)  So for what he was given, I think he does a good job.  I do not remember ever seeing the leading ladies of the story, they do okay.  Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and her friend Yukio (Rila Fukushima) are watchable but evil-poison-doctor lady (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is like a bad over-the-top Jim Carry villain, not the actress' fault but rather the writer's.  Psycho-dad (Hiroyuki Sanada) might have been interesting if he actually got enough screen time for me to care, and old guy (Hal Yamanouchi), well, is there (again, I didn't like the writing for him).

The story-   We start off with our hero in the Alaskan wilderness, dreaming of Jean Grey, whom he had to kill in X-Men 3 because she went crazy and was trying to wipe out humanity.  Traumatized by what he did, he lives alone like an animal, away from all human contact.  This was the first part of the story that I didn't like.  I hate the, well, wimpification  (if I can make up a word here) of all my favorite superheroes.  Batman goes all waa-waa whiny and hides for 8 years, now Wolverine goes all waa-waa whiny because he saved the world but had to kill a woman that he loved, while she was involved with another man (whom she killed).  I can understand pain and loss, sure, what I hate though is when heroic characters have to be reduced to "mere mortals" in some misguided attempt to make them more likable.  I don't want them to be likable, I want them to be heroes.  Heroes go on, they endure, they may hate themselves but they don't wimp out and hide in a corner - that what mere mortals like me do, and I can see my own life anytime I want.  Plus, to me, from reading the comics, Wolverine doesn't get sad as much as he got angry- I could easily and happily see a tormented Wolverine going out and beating the hell out of every bad person he could find; that would seem much more appropriate to the character.
    We also have a flashback to Japan during World War 2 where Wolverine was imprisoned as a POW or something, apparently right across the street from Nagasaki.  Okay, I get that Wolverine has super-healing and dropping a nuclear bomb in his vicinity is just an inconvenience - but the fact that he had a regular human with him totally ruined that scene.  My. Normal Guy is dead, dead, dead from breathing in all that radiation dust even if he somehow survives the explosion itself (and note to Hollywood, explosions expand to fill all available space (the "mushroom cloud" itself is because the pressure wave going down rebounds off the ground and then goes up taking dirt and debris with it), being down or to the side or behind something doesn't help at all if you are too close to the blast).  So a mysterious young lady tracks down our Mr. Fussypants hero and says the guy he saved in Japan is dying and wants to give our hero a final gift.
    So Wolvie goes to Japan.  The bath scene was actually my favorite moment of the whole movie.  Finally he meets with old guy.  Old guy says he can 'cure' Wolverine and make him mortal again, free him from the curse of eternal life.  And here was another moment when I saw my character going, 'screw you bub' because while he always fought and struggled with his own nature, comic Wolverine never gave it up.  He was the best at what he did, and took pride in that, and went to Japan, in comics, to try to harness and control his endless rage so he would be better at killing the things he wanted to kill.  Movie Wolverine also turns down the offer, but not as dramatically as I'd liked to have seen.  Of course, things get complicated.  Old guy dies and his daughter is attacked at the funeral, and Wolverine rushes in to help her - only, he discovers he is not healing as fast as he should be.  Oh no, he's losing his powers.  Really?  Again, the whole point of a super-hero is that they have super-powers, you can't really separate one from the other, but I already ranted about my disdain for the mere-mortal/super-hero thing above, so I'll let it go.  I will say that the fight on top of the bullet train was cool, it was a nice little twist on the typical train fight sequence.
    Alone at last with the girl, old guy's grand-daughter, Wolvie gets in touch with his softer side.  She's heard stories about him all her life from old guy, so she's a little infatuated with him.  They run, they hide, she gets kidnapped (come on, like you didn't see that coming even from my terse description).  Wolvie finds out evil doctor lady put a thing in his heart that is techno-magically stopping his healing factor (said healing factor being the thing that spits out bullets when he gets shot, no, no, won't go there).  Which actually leads to one of the other few good scenes, Wolvie cuts open his own chest and pulls out the thingie - which is a totally-hard-core Wolverine kind of thing to do.
    Then we have our climax.  Minor spoiler alert here (though I'll talk around it), you might want to skip to 'My Recommendation' if you haven't seen the movie.  Last chance.  Okay, so we see the Silver Samurai, which I actually liked as a giant robot instead of a person, I thought it was one of the few changes from the comic original that was for the better.  SS-bot is coated in adamantium, the indestrictable metal that also coats Wolvie's bones and claws.  Inside is the evil mastermind of this whole overly-long affair, which was a big mistake.  It should have been Mariko inside.  Really, if the whole sub/co-plot is how Wolvie is tormented about killing the woman-he-loved-from-afar, then having his new love, Mariko, inside the bot (which would be remotely piloted or something) would have made a hell of a lot more sense.  It would have been dramatic.  And, if SS-bot is adamantium  and heats up hot enough to cut through adamantium , then a) adamantium isn't really indestructible like we were told and b) it would melt itself into a fairly harmless little puddle !!!  Finally, the ending dream sequence with Jean is totally stupid.  She asks why Wolvie killed her, he says she was hurting other people, and then she leaves presumably never to torment his dreams again - well no duh stupid, that's why you did it in the first place!  He didn't kill her for fun, or because he was tricked, he did it because he had to and our 'revelation' here is nothing new or surprising.

My recommendation-   if you like the character, catch the cheap show (and be ready to cringe) - otherwise you can miss it and be just fine (go rent X-Men: First Class instead, it was actually pretty good)

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