Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Wolverine

I don’t think of Wolverine in terms of how the story played out or how the action came across; I was captivated by how the film imparts the essence of Wolverine to the audience. It has only intermittently come through in other X-Men films. Wolverine is crassly characterized as a rough, violent, man with a short temper. Sure, he pops his claws here, but now it isn’t fetishized. The camera doesn’t zoom-in and follow the claws around while Jackman screams in the background. I think that’s a superficial understanding of the character. More compelling, richer, and more rewarding is the idea that Wolverine represents the apex of fearlessness, confidence, is an utterly self-reliant individual. It’s what makes me excited to see Wolverine doing things other than gutting a faceless thug in half a second.

The scene I keep coming back to and replaying in my mind (doesn’t spoil anything) is where Logan is trekking back into town from the forest with a giant bear keeping pace with him. To read all the details of scene you have to keep swapping perspectives until the two characters are indistinguishable. It’s not a simple statement that Logan is as strong as a bear and cows them with his presence. It’s that they share the same instincts; knowing the bear is assessing Logan and reading that he’s doing the same off Jackman’s face. Seeing how relaxed Logan is in this element, mirroring the naturalness of a bear in a forest. Wolverine is fantastic because it allows moments like this. It isn’t fate of the world crap all the time.

The action itself was too disinterested in showcasing Logan’s talent. The stabbing is always just out of frame. Maybe that’s so the film isn’t just a montage of people getting skewered. Maybe that footage is being saved for the, rumored, R Rated cut to be included on the DVD. I’ve always felt the brutality of Wolverine, quite apart from most other members of the Marvel Universe, distinguished him as someone more grounded, realistic even. Whereas other characters could spout off their moral qualifications and get away with a tame, kid friendly, blast of energy to defeat a foe, Logan had to be intimate. He doesn’t have the option of hiding behind powers. He’s forced to sees their face, feel their bodies give way beneath his claws, to know exactly how they died when he cuts them, ect. That’s the rationale behind the gruff attitude. He’s earned it. The absence hurts the overall understanding of who Wolverine is.

Viper was sensational. Sauntering back and forth between vulnerable and powerful with perfect confidence. Her powers cross from cool to creepy / gross with similar grace. She is assuredly evil, but isn’t comfortably so. At times it’s hard to consolidate her outlandish attire with the tone and setting of the narrative but if she wants to be a crazy, flamboyant, mutant than I’ll let her have it.

Yukio (the one sent to find Logan) has a silly introduction but gets a rebirth in Japan. She, thankfully, doesn’t try to play a “me too” Wolverine, or act as the comic foil to Logan’s acclamation. Wolverine is so good at letting characters just be themselves. Yukio’s character gradually unfolds. I can’t say exactly when or why but after a while I started missing her. She always brought her own something to a scene. It seems an impossible position to manage being Wolverine’s sidekick but she went beyond by fighting for and winning a partnership with him.

Mariko (the love interest) breaths a lot of life into simple gestures. That’s how she supported the quieter moments of the film. It balloons the limited time she and Logan have together into feeling like an honest piece of life.

Logan’s mutation is too often thought of as a commodity. It isn’t helped when Logan sees his berserker self as somehow implanted. As though there is a Weapon X stored in his body. Able to be healed, cured, or removed. No. Logan is Weapon X. That is a legitimate part of Wolverine’s character arc, though. But there can’t be an actual machine to suck the mutation out of Wolverine. Genetics doesn’t work like that. The plot throwing that out in all seriousness just renders an antiquated quality to the proceedings.

It will sound like a backhanded compliment but I’ll say it anyway: except for the story and action, Wolverine was a good movie, almost a great one.  It survives on excellent characters not being preoccupied with the weaker elements of the film.