Early on in The Wolverine a group of guards wave a metal detector over Logan’s body. His adamantium bones, of course, set the wand off. “Hip replacement,” Logan explains.
This scene is about twenty minutes in. At that point we’ve already seen the atomic destruction of Nagasaki, an unexpected cameo from a former X-Man, a bar fight, and a sword that can cut through beer bottles. The violence is so graphic (and satisfying) you’ll wonder how they got away with a PG-13 rating. So yeah, there’s a lot happening in the first twenty minutes, but it works. With a darker tone and a more tasteful approach to casting (seriously, fuck Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool), this Logan pic quickly cleanses the palette after the horrifyingly awful Wolverine: Origins. The Wolverine isn’t satisfied with only setting itself apart from that travesty; it looks nothing like a traditional X-Men movie either.
And that’s good. The standard X-Men look that began with Bryan Singer’s reign is thirteen years old; it’s stained with the unique look of the double aughts, which is probably my least favorite era of movies. It was an awkward time when the R-rated Schwarzenegger vehicle was dying, CGI was relatively young if not downright laughable, and color treatment was being processed by a computer rather than a lab. The results of that decade were more miss than hit, presumably because all this digital stuff was so new. So The Wolverine’s look is less about modernization and more about correcting a wrong. You might compare this film’s look to The Dark Knight, but you’d be wrong. Wolverine has always been a dark character and a darker film just makes sense. It’d be like complaining about the lack of colors in a Holocaust picture.
So in the beginning Logan saves a Japanese soldier’s life in World War II. Fast forward to the present and Logan’s no longer with the X-Men he joined sometime in the interim. We find out he’s living in the Canadian wilderness while being the self-loathing, brooding type. Shortly after avenging the death of a grizzly bear (straight from the pages of the Chris Claremond/Frank Miller comic book) Logan’s invited to Japan. There, the man he saved so many years ago is on his death bed. He offers Logan the gift of mortality, which initially sounds shitty, but he explains, “You can get married, have a family, lead a normal life.” Logan’s tempted, but he refuses. The old man dies, yakuza attack and ninjas silently spring from the shadows like ghosts. Somewhere along the way Logan loses his healing abilities and the specifics aren’t revealed until later. He’s just a human, but his adamantium bones do shield his vitals from bullets.
Convoluted? Almost. Awesome? Entirely. We’ve seen many action sequences on top of a moving train before, but this one sets a new standard. And Logan’s so determined and unflinchingly violent it seems more like the aforementioned Schwarzenegger flick than a modern action movie. I just love this shit. It’s been too long since we’ve had a ripped action hero fist-fight his way through an army of armed bad guys. And Logan’s method of lighting a cigar is unique to say the least.
To say it’s my favorite film in the Marvel cinematic universe might not be too far from the truth. It’s certainly my favorite X-Men movie to date. I do think the film’s villain (Viper… if you don’t know who she is it really doesn’t matter) is maybe the weakest part of the whole movie, but there are so many bad guys it almost makes up for it. Sure, the plot teeters on the edge of preposterous, but isn’t that the reason we read comics in the first place? I wasn’t exactly expecting the sophistication of Shakespeare in Love when I purchased my ticket. I just want to be thrilled for a couple of hours and you know what? That’s harder to do successfully than the stuff that traditionally wins best picture.
Slight spoiler ahead…
About the mid-credit sequence: we now have a link between this film and the much-anticipated Days of Future Past. I have to admit I was pretty skeptical about it when it was announced (Professor X is no longer dead and Magneto has reclaimed the powers he was robbed of in The Last Stand), but seeing Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen return to the characters was exciting. No, it doesn’t explain their return, but the biggest question remains: Why the fuck would Wolverine even attempt to walk through airport security?