“The Wolverine” is the sixth time Hugh Jackman has played the adamantium-laced, clawed, mutton chopped character of Logan, a.k.a. the Wolverine, and the overall quality of the movie aside, this may be my favorite portrayal of this character to date. Focusing on his gift slash curse of healing and pretty much being immortal and his deep sense of loss and loneliness that has built up over the years, this movie is free to get into Logan’s damaged psyche and really dig in the character and what makes him tick, and in the long run it pays off.
“The Wolverine” is a sequel to (the god awful) “X-Men: The Last Stand,” in that Wolverine’s love interest Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is dead and the rest of the X-Men are pretty much disbanded, leaving Logan all by himself (they also seem to pretty much ignore “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which is somehow even worse than “X-Men: The Last Stand“). He is literally wandering from town to town, living in the wilderness, looking like a crazy person, and it’s sad to think about such a powerful person just hiding out and having nightmares every night about horrible things that happened in his life. They hit this pretty hard, but obviously it must be horrible to live forever because you get to watch people you care about die all around you, and even if you meet new people and start to care about them, they are going to die eventually as well, and you’ll outlive them all, and that’s a bummer. How many times can you lose people before you stop trying to connect to them anymore?
So in this movie Wolverine gets summoned from the literal and figurative wilderness to Japan, where he sees an old friend who is on his death bed, and who has a dying wish. He offers Logan the chance to transfer his healing powers which keep him alive to the old man, allowing for Logan to finally die. And while Logan refuses this offer at first, he can’t help but think about it later and wonder if maybe he should go through with it and let himself die so he could be with his lost love Jean Grey again. Not exactly the usual light-hearted summer fare we get every year, which is refreshing. This is a Wolverine that goes through the most damage physically and emotionally than in any other X-Men movie.
And this is one of those interesting cases of a movie really riding right on the line that somehow separate PG-13 movies from rated R movies. “The Wolverine” is very violent, with many instances of stabbings, arrowings, things getting cut off and various poisonings, as well as some gnarly self-surgery, people get clawed right in the heart, tossed off high speed trains, thrown off buildings, hung by the neck, ninja neck breakings, it gets pretty ridiculous actually how intense this movie gets. And really at this point all they would have to do is insert some digital blood sprays and one more f-bomb to add to the one that gets used (as PG-13s are allowed one use of the terrible “fuck” word in a non-sexual context but no more in order to keep the rating), and boom, we got ourselves an R-rated Wolverine movie.
The PG-13 rating is obviously a financial decision made by the studio because obviously if they are going to put over $100 million into a movie production, they want it to make as much money as possible, so no one can really argue against their decision to force this rating because they hold the purse strings anyway, it’s their movie. But this movie is so intense, it’s almost dishonest to rate is PG-13. Sure it fits into the MPAA guidelines in terms of the amount of bloodshed and numbers of cuss words used and the use (or non-use) of sexual themes and/or nudity, but it could have so easily swung the other way. We are talking about a movie featuring an inherently violent character, one so violent he struggles to hold on to his vow to never hurt anyone ever again, a vow he breaks often by the way, and with the direction they went in, all they had to do was add some bared breasts and it would have been an R and would have lost out on all that teenage movie money.
Speaking of the sexuality in “The Wolverine,” there has been some sort of hoopla around Jean Grey’s multiple short appearances throughout the movie, namely how she is always in a negligee, with people feeling this is eye candy for the sake of eye candy, comparing it to “Star Trek Into Darkness” from earlier this summer. In case you forgot, in the latest Star Trek movie, a character has to change her clothes and asks Captain Kirk to turn around so she can get some privacy. But he cracks and takes a peak, and we all get a shot of this character in her bra and panties, arms out stretched as if to say, “what the fuck?” and this is funny because that’s what most audiences thought too when gratuitous moment came up and in no way informed the story or characters, other than to say that Captain Kirk is a horny douche bag.
But in “The Wolverine,” Jean Grey only exists in Logan’s dreams and hallucinations, and of course she’s going to be in something comfortable and sleek like a negligee because that’s how Logan remembers her, it is like his idealized memory of her, laying in bed with him, comforting him through his nightmares. What do people want her to wear? A t-shirt and some pajama pants? Yea that’s memorable. How about a parka? A wet suit? Workout clothes? I definitely have to disagree with this “eye candy only” reading, there was definitely some more thought than that put in to the appearance of her character throughout the movie.
So “The Wolverine” is pretty good, definitely a huge improvement over the last Wolverine-centric X-Men movie (although that was a very low bar for them to have to clear, to be fair), and with a little sorta post-credits scene, they set up the now in-production X-Men movie in a way that should get people pretty excited for what comes next (want an idea of where everything is going? Do a google search for Trask Industries). Wolverine in Japan works for me.