The Wolverine. Yep. Hugh Jackman reprise d his famous role. After X-Men 1, 2, and 3, it’s refreshing to see the producers drop the pretense that anyone in existence matters outside of Wolvie.
This movie had it all! Ninjas. More ninjas. A cyber samurai. Asian Hawkeye. Ninjas. Wolverine stealing Cyclops’ woman, repeatedly. Atomic explosions. Wolverine getting some. Asian Black Widow. Bears.
Yep. Wolverine talks to bears. It’s one of his lesser known mutant powers.
I liked the movie. A good friend of mine offered to pay so I could see it. I was pretty sure I’d hate the movie. Well, a lot more than pretty sure. A little secret about me – I hate Wolverine. The character I mean. I hate the idea of a loner badass who is invincible. In theory, superhero teams work because everyone needs each other. Captain America needs Thor and Iron Man in order to survive and take on unspeakable evil. Everyone in the Fantastic Four need each other. Heck, they are far more powerful together than they ever could be apart. But with Wolverine? The X-Men were an inconvenience for him. I hate that. In life, we all need each other. No single person can survive as an island. This sort of stuff should be reflected in our fiction as well. Loner characters should struggle in some way because they are alone. But not Wolverine. He’s a loner, so he gets to take Jean Grey away from Cyclops.
But as I said, this was a good movie. I liked it. And I want to talk about why I liked the movie rather than giving spoilers or recaps. Seriously, I’m sure you’ve read like three dozen recaps already on different sites. Rather, I want to talk about what I feel are the three major themes of the movie: Wolverine’s struggle with loss, the fear of death, and to kill the unkillable opponent.
Struggle With Loss
Wolverine is immortal. He, by design, cannot be killed. He cannot die. As a consequence, he will lose everyone he’s ever loved. Everyone. How does an immortal cope?
He lost Jean Grey in the 3rd X-men movie. This movie explored that loss. She haunted his thoughts and dreams. He even refused to hurt anyone at the beginning of the movie because of Jean. Can you imagine that? Wolverine is effectively violence incarnate.. and he refused to be violent. Yeah, it didn’t last long. He became violent to avenge an injustice. But that streak of pacifism lasted for quite a while. I would go a step further than that. He wanted to kill Wolverine. Not commit suicide. That was addressed pretty clearly in the movie. He didn’t want to die. He just didn’t want to be the hero.
A good portion of the movie was him struggling with the loss of Jean. I believe the manifestation of his struggle was his loss of regeneration. He became a mortal. He became a man. It was like he couldn’t truly be Wolverine until he could find a way to cope with the loss. If you think about it, only when he discovered how his regeneration was being suppressed did he seem to come alive. Like he saw he didn’t have to die. That he could live if he chose to. In that moment, he let go of his past and focused entirely on the present. In that way, he was able to live.
The Fear of Death
The fear of death was the overarching theme of the movie. It motivated the central antagonist to try to steal Wolverine’s regeneration. It was in the back of Wolverine’s mind… not the fear of his own death, but the fear of others dying. Well, he did fear his own death to an extent. It’s why he fought against the cyber-samurai (why call it the silver samarai? It’s not made of silver). The movie presented the fear of death in an interesting way.
It motivated the central antagonist, Ichiro Yashida, to give the POWs a chance to flee. It also motivated him to try and extend his life through torture and other unethical means. One motive caused him to take two very different, very drastic actions.
I want to focus on Ichiro rather than look at Wolverine. I suspect we all understand Wolvie’s fear and how it motivates him. For Ichiro, it was so different. In the beginning, he was there close to ground zero. He was going to die. So what did he do? He did legitimately good things while his fellow soldiers committed hari cari. Wolverine saved him from the explosion (as I said before). When he witnessed Wolverine’s regeneration in action, it showed him there was a way to avoid death completely. He saw a way out.
The seeds of evil was planted with the atomic bomb.
Strange, I know. When there was no way to escape death, the fear led him to do good things. Once that escape showed itself, he would fight tooth and nail to obtain it for himself. I think that’s a very believable villain motivation. If there was something out there that would prevent us from dying, I suspect there would be wars fought for it. We, as a people, would do everything and anything to get our hands on it. Yeah, we’d probably regret it later on once the realities of immortality set in. But before that… wow.
So kudos to the movie for giving us a believable, and very human, villain.
How to Kill the Unkillable Opponent
It’s difficult to make Wolverine interesting. There’s no challenge to him. No fear. We all know that he will keep coming back. He’s never in any real danger. It’s just like the Incredible Hulk. Both of them regenerate. Both of them are unstoppable. So… where’s the threat? Where’s the danger? Why should we, the audience, give a damn about what is going on in their lives? In Man of Steel, Supes could have been beaten to death by his fellow Kryptonians. It was apparent from the beginning, all the way to the end, that he was in serious danger. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane broke him. We all saw the danger Batman was in. That’s what made his struggle that much more meaningful. He could lose.
But with Wolverine?
In the comics, Wolverine is thrown at the enemy. He’s so unkillable, he is used as a cannonball with claws. What’s the point of fighting him when it’s clear he’ll win at the end.
And don’t you dare tell me how cool he is and that’s why we should watch him. That gets old really damn quickly. Every single superhero should be in actual danger when they face their antagonist. Without danger, there can be no struggle. Without struggle, there is nothing to overcome. It’ll become inevitable rather than uncertain.
So kudos to The Wolverine for just taking away his regeneration. It made for an interesting movie. Even when they gave Wolverine his regeneration back, it wasn’t as if he was unstoppable. He was being targeting for his regeneration. Ichiro found a way to steal it for himself! So in a way, his regeneration was his strength and his weakness.
So how do you kill an unkillable opponent? Remove what makes him unkillable. Turn it against him.
For the life of me, I can’t tell you why Hollywood would call this movie a failure. Sure, the credits scene left me a touch underwhelmed. It was like their hearts weren’t into the performance. The movie itself was pretty solid. Everyone, from Asian Hawkeye to Wolverine himself did a great job.
The movie also covered its production budget. The Wolverine cost approximately $120 million to make. And as of August 1st, 2013, it pulled in about $73 million domestic and $92 million foreign, totaling around $165 million dollars. This means the movie made $45 million profit. Not too bad with only being out for two weeks. So, is this movie a failure because it didn’t bring the studios a bigger profit?
I don’t want to end this on a sad note. Just tell others about this great movie. Go see it yourself if you haven’t yet. You’ll thank me later. More importantly, you’ll thank yourself!
It’s a must see