The Wolverine: Can We Get Back to the Mutants Please?

Someone asked me when I thought we’d see a collaborative movie with the characters of the Marvel universe (You know, The Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, etc.). The answer? DECADES.

Look, I read a lot about movie production, and there’s some tricky business going on. You may or may not know this, but the Marvel universe is currently divided among three production companies—Marvel Studios (a.k.a. Disney), Sony, and 20th Century Fox. Yeah, it’s a huge headache. I believe Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man and Ghost Rider while 20th Century Fox owns the rights to X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios owns everything else.

These were all contracted (some of them even renewed) before Marvel Studios began plotting the massive Avengers franchise, of which we are now in “Phase 2.” Nobody was thinking long-term franchise until The Avengers‘ success. Now, suddenly, they all want to do it, which means that no one is willing to share. Because sharing means money out of pockets.

What’s worse is that there are rumors of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch being added to The Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron. Did I mention those characters are straight out of X-Men territory? If Marvel Studios does use those characters, they can’t mention anything about them being mutants (or children of Magneto). WHICH SUCKS. Also, Fox already has Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past, which comes out in May 2014. If you’re thinking, “Wow. This is turning into a dick-showing contest,” yes…yes, it is.

But, hey, at least we have another Wolverine movie to make us forget about that! And this one actually takes place after the events of that godawful X-Men: The Last Stand instead of before, like the also godawful X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Nevertheless, let’s talk about Hugh Jackman’s hot body. I mean, his superior acting skills.

Picking up where we left off with X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan, a.k.a Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), has isolated himself in some mountains, no longer wanting to live or be a hero after he killed his love, Jean Grey, to save pretty much everyone (because she was seriously losing it). But then he meets a young Japanese warrior named Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who wants him to come with her to Tokyo to visit her dying master, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). It turns out Yashida is actually a former Japanese soldier Logan rescued from the atomic bomb in Nagasaki during WWII, and Yashida would like to grant Logan the gift of mortality to ease his suffering. But when Yashida dies in the night, shit hits the fan.

Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), is a target of the Yakuza clan (Look it up) because Yashida left his company and wealth to her. Meanwhile, Logan is trying to protect her, but he isn’t healing normally because Yashida’s doctor, who is actually a mutant named Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), infected him with some weird robotic parasite that we never really learn more about (Can you tell that frustrates me?). Mariko and Logan grow closer, Yukio has a premonition of Logan’s death, and it turns out that Yashida wasn’t dead after all. He was only waiting until he could steal Logan’s immortality. Oh, and throughout all of this, Jean appears in Logan’s dreams to tease him with her silky, white nightgown. Because he didn’t have enough problems already.

While this movie looks good and puts on a good show, it’s lacking quite a bit of substance. For one, we just don’t get that same connection to the mutants like we did in all of the other X-Men films. Yes, we’ve got Wolverine, we meet Viper, and we see flashes of Jean Grey, but otherwise this has nothing to do with the mutants. All of the other movies showed the plight of the mutant race, which was why we liked the X-Men story to begin with. This movie, however, feels plight-less. Logan is depressed and suffering, sure, but isn’t the whole point of a superhero film to show that the hero’s suffering both affects and is affected by the large population they protect? To me, The Wolverine seems more like one of Wolverine’s crazy, weekend adventures and less like a serious chapter in Wolverine’s life as an X-Men.

Also, where was the character development? Yukio, Mariko, Harada, Shingen, Viper. These are just names to those of you who haven’t seen the movie. Do you know what they are to someone who has seen the movie? Faces with names. Don’t get me wrong. Yukio is a total badass, thanks to the quirky yet strong acting of Rila Fukushima, and I could watch a movie with her fighting ninjas and Yakuza all day. But we barely get to know her. The same goes with Mariko, whose only descriptor is “love interest.”

And Viper, who’s supposed to be one of the villains, never has a reason for being a villain, nor does she explain why she’s in Japan. “But Bailey, she was helping Yashida with his plan to steal immortality from Wolverine because she’s a mutant. That’s why she was in Japan,” you might be arguing. Really? You’re telling me some of the greatest creators of technology in the world (that would be the Japanese) lack the skills that some random mutant chick has? I would buy it if I actually knew more about her. But, oh wait, her character wasn’t developed. *sigh* I guess I should’ve expected that lack of character development would be my most common complaint among summer blockbusters.

Speaking of villains, who exactly was the villain in this movie? The immortality-seeking Yashida? The poisonous Viper? Mariko’s betraying father, Shingen? Mariko’s asshole future-husband, Noburo? The Yakuza clan? Harada and his black ninjas? Part of the reason this movie felt like it lacked substance was because there were too many antagonists clouding the plot, making it impossible to actually feel worried for Wolverine.

Think about the other X-Men films. In X-Men, we had Senator Kelly and Magneto as the villains. In X2: X-Men United, we had William Stryker and Magneto as villains. In X-Men: The Last Stand, we had Magneto and Jean Grey as villains. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, we had William Stryker again. In X-Men: First Class, we had Kevin Bacon’s crazy Nazi guy (I’m too tired to look up his name) and, wait for it, Magneto. Are you seeing a pattern here? Besides the fact that Magneto is always causing problems, these villains all had beefs with mutants. Also, there were only one or two villains in each film. This movie had about five antagonistic forces working against Wolverine. Why have five mediocre threats when you can have one or two really strong threats? Does this make sense?

Honestly, if it weren’t for the additional scene during the credits, this would’ve seemed like another Wolverine dud for me. But that scene. Sweet mother of god, I about tinkled with excitement. IF YOU DON’T WANT IT SPOILED, SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH NOW. Logan is walking through an airport two years later (Remember, this is still after X-Men: The Last Stand) when all of the metal starts flying. Surprise, surprise. Magneto’s powers are back, which was hinted at during the close of X-Men: The Last Stand. Oh, and he’s interested in Logan’s help. But, of course, he knows Logan won’t trust him, which is why he brought (Seriously, look away if you don’t want it spoiled) Professor Xavier with him. Also, there’s a TV commercial in the background for Trask Industries. If you haven’t read anything about the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past yet, I suggest you do. *wink*

Overall, The Wolverine is the perfect example of a great action blockbuster with a bland story. While all of the other X-Men films have focused on the struggle of the mutants as a population, The Wolverine places Logan too far from the other mutants, which doesn’t work in the movie’s favor, as Hugh Jackman seems to shine more when his grumpy, roguish character is the foil to the more pleasant mutants. The setting and stunts were great, as was to be expected of a summer blockbuster, but too many antagonistic forces and not enough character development turns what could’ve been a good movie into another “meh.” After the fizzles of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and this movie, I would suggest the X-Men creators stick to the larger group movies, as those, for some odd reason, better showcase the individual mutants than the individual mutant movies themselves.

The Wolverine: B-

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