Christopher Nolan introduced both huge positives but also massive negatives to the superhero movie genre. His take on Batman is pretty much the perfect version of that character. He steeps it in the darkness and realism it needs and because of that he created the greatest superhero trilogy ever.
Unfortunately, people followed that theme and we gained a lot of darker superhero movies, with The Amazing Spiderman being a lot more “mature” than Raimi’s efforts and much more recently we gained a very sombre and darker look at Superman in Man of Steel. Some superheroes need light and humour. Superman and Spiderman are two of those. Marvel have done a great job of keeping their superheroes on the lighter side of the colour palette.
One superhero has actually suffered from not being dark enough though. Wolverine is a character who needs to be mature, dark, violent and represents the more adult versions of superheroes. Alongside the rest of the X-Men, he is the gruff, moody and darker character and because the others aren’t as raw as he is, we get the Wolverine we are looking for.
His first solo outing was far too light and we got a very “heroic” Wolverine when he should always be the reluctant superhero. We were also treated to a comic book movie that was far too “silly.” The final battle between Wolverine and “Deadpool” was more absurd than comic book and didn’t reflect the great Wolverine character.
The Wolverine does a lot to undo past mistakes. It is a darker, much more mature movie. It deals with a Wolverine plagued by his past actions and sent to a much darker place. He is a rougher, less approachable and clearly less heroic version of the character and much better for it.
The story is a much more mature one, dealing with the effects of his immortality and what that would do a person. He is secluded and represents the caged animal much more than in any of the other movies we have seen Wolverine star in. It also helps that when the animal is unleashed, we get a very quick, brutal version of the character, with very cool fight scenes that really show what Wolverine is capable of.
In fact, put the intricate, much more character focused story aside, and you have a movie that has some great action set-pieces. The funeral and train battles alone would rival most action hero battles and are very cool ways to showcase this character and what he is capable of. Add to that the fact that this movie is set in Japan, in an environment rich with samurai and ninjas, and you have capable and very cool enemies for Hugh Jackman’s superhero to face.
A lot of the success is down to the central actor though. Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. When he finally retires or grows too old to play the character anymore, I would suggest retiring the superhero from the film franchises too. I don’t envy the person following Christian Bale into Batman’s shoes, the person who will eventually follow Jackman into Wolverine’s role has to be stupid or crazy. Jackman plays the rough, tortured but raw character, with a great thread of humour throughout, so well that it will be impossible to see Wolverine on-screen and not see the Australian.
The story, the action and the great representation of the character put together makes for the best version of Wolverine, in a movie, so far… for the first ninety minutes. It’s a film steeped in realism and could have been a movie about a man finding himself in amongst Japanese culture, without the superhero overtones. It works as an adult, much maturer version of the character, which is why I was baffled when they introduce a larger than life, ridiculous, “comic-book” battle to end the movie.
I’ll avoid spoilers here but in a movie where Wolverine could have easily faced ninjas or capable samurai in a huge, movie finale, set-piece ending, we get something much sillier that is better placed in the first Wolverine film than in this one. It jars with everything we have seen so far and is nowhere near as clever as it believes it is. I had worked out the “revelation” the moment the villain was revealed and I’m sure I must have sighed deeply and rolled my eyes out of sheer frustration.
It clearly felt like a movie that didn’t have a huge, spectacle of an ending so was forced to add one. Studios need to realise that just because it is a superhero movie (and you can argue that term loosely with The Wolverine) doesn’t mean it needs a silly superhero battle at the end. In fact, that silly superhero confrontation tarnishes a perfectly good, character led superhero movie that captures its central hero much better than ever before.
Overall, this is the closest to the comic book, pure version of Wolverine we have seen on-screen so far. He is the violent, caged, frustrated animal that he should be. Hugh Jackman plays the character so perfectly that it feel like he IS Wolverine and we have a story so well-fitted to the character that it captures the mood of the superhero perfectly. It’s just a shame the film doesn’t trust what it builds so well and ruins it with a silly finale that doesn’t fit with anything else the movie has accomplished.
Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)