The Wolverine (2013)
Starring Hugh Jackman
In case you missed the memo that comic book movies were big at the moment, Hugh Jackman returns to the screen as the hairy, bare-chested mutant with the metal claws – Wolverine. This is Jackman’s 5th time on the movie screen playing Wolverine, 6th if you include his cameo in X-Men: First Class (7th if you imagine that Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is actually Wolverine slumming it in 19th century France like I do). And to be honest, I hated X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins. HATED. But I wanted to give this new Wolverine movie a shot. By setting the movie in Japan and downplaying Wolverine’s healing factor, it certainly got my interest raised.
My verdict? I enjoyed The Wolverine. It almost got me to forgive the makers of these films for those last two stinkers. Almost.
Need a crash course in all things Wolverine? All over the world, some people are discovering that they have an extra something special in their DNA which gives them super powers. These people are called mutants and generally speaking, people don’t like them. Think racism, except the people being persecuted can shoot lasers out of their eyes or spit acid. Logan is one these mutants – he can heal really fast and has a set of claws he can pop out of his hands. A secret military organisation kidnapped him and covered his bones and claws with a metal called adamantium and gave him the name Wolverine. So basically he’s really hard to kill and he’s got a bad temper to go with it. He started hanging out with a bunch of other mutants called the X-Men, but has been in hiding since he was forced to kill a fellow X-Man (Jean Grey) who he also happened to be in love with. And that’s where we begin The Wolverine. Logan is sleeping in the wilderness, hanging out with grizzly bears and being depressed. All that changes when an old acquaintance who is close to death summons Logan to Japan. He quickly finds himself embroiled in political machinations he doesn’t understand, on the run in a city he doesn’t know, trying to keep an innocent young woman from being killed by the Yakuza, and dealing with the fact that his healing factor doesn’t seem to work anymore.
The action sequences in The Wolverine are a vast improvement on those we saw in Wolverine:Origins. In that previous movie, the action seemed uninspired and boring. But in this new offering, we have ninjas on the streets of modern Japan and knife fights on top of a speeding bullet train. And because Wolverine doesn’t heal instantly from every bullet wound he receives, their a sense of danger in the air. Adding to that, Hugh Jackman does a great job in the title role. The movie rightly keeps his dialogue to a minimum and allows Jackman to show us Logan’s inner pain through his acting rather than his words. I was a bit disappointed with the final act, however. All through the movie, the makers of this film have kept the movie relatively grounded – other than a fact that it has a guy with metal claws in it, this could be like any other (well done) action flick. But the final act? It feels like the makers suddenly remembered that this was supposed to be a superhero movie and brought in the giant robots and super powers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s well done superhero-y stuff. But I was enjoying my down-to-earth ronin on the run movie. It feels like the makers wanted to make that movie too and chickened out during the final stretch.
The Wolverine is a story of redemption. Logan is haunted by the tough decisions he has had to make over his long life. In response, he has retreated from the world but is still reminded of what he has done by the appearance of Jean, his deceased love, in his dreams. He feels like he is unworthy of forgiveness for his actions. However, being forced into action in Japan has a cathartic effect. He comes to accept who he is and fights on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves. Just like Wolverine, we have can have sins in our past that we wish would just go away. Past deeds that still haunt us. In can sometime feel like our sin is too great for God to forgive. But because of the great sacrifice of Jesus, we can have redemption. Not through our actions, but through belief in Jesus. If you put your trust in Jesus and ask God for forgiveness, you will receive it. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Over the last couple of years, I’ve fallen in love with Japanese stories. And Wolverine, since his early comic book days, has been a character that has easily fitted into world of master-less ronin with black-clad ninjas hiding behind every door post. This is the kind of movie we don’t see often from the American movie studios and I hope it’s not the last. If you enjoy Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine or are a fan of action movies where there’s more to the plot than shooting a stabbing, The Wolverine is a movie worth checking out.