Why 'The Wolverine' Is Worth Seeing

The Wolverine hit theaters this past weekend, raking in right around $55 million in the domestic market. That's nothing to shake your head at; in fact, it's a pretty strong number for an opening weekend, matching X-Men: First Class when it released back in 2011. However, one thing that needs to be taken into account when comparing the two movies is the 3D ticket sales, which generally account for higher ticket prices. Taking that into consideration, The Wolverine had the lowest grossing opening weekend of any X-Men film to date.

This isn't something that surprises me, either. After Wolverine's last solo adventure, in the crap-tastic X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I can understand why movie goers are hesitant to shell out money to see this latest film. (Yes, I do recall saying that Origins was awesome. Yes, I was completely blinded by the glitz of a new X-Men movie at the time. I apologize.) But The Wolverine goes far beyond it's sub-par predecessor. It's worth the trip to the movie theaters.

I will say this: The Wolverine isn't perfect. Not at all. However, director James Mangold really learned from the previous installment of the Wolverine saga and did things quite differently. For starters, this isn't an origin story. The movie actually takes place a year after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. It depicts Logan running away from his problems, mourning the loss of his love, Jean Grey. Maybe this decision was made by screenwriters Mark Bomback and Scott Frank after the shit-storm Origins made of Wolverine's backstory; this film could have easily taken place in 1980's Japan with Wolverine roaming the countryside, memories lost, trying to find himself. But I'm glad they set it in the continuity of the X-Men films. It brings a proper denouement to Wolverine's actions in The Last Stand. He was forced to kill the woman he loves; that's not something that should be glossed over in two minutes of wrap-up.

Another improvement The Wolverine had over Origins is a lack of mutants. Why do I say 'improvement'? Well, if you've seen Origins (you poor bastard, you then you would remember that the writer's idea of fixing plot holes is to throw a mutant at it. Looking at the IMDB page for Origins, I count no less than 9 mutants (was Silver Fox a mutant? I don't remember. If so, that would make 10). And that's all without even clicking on "Full Cast". Yes, I get that the whole point of Wolverine and the X-Men is that they are mutants. But that doesn't mean the mutants should be your Deus Ex Machina when writing the film. By not cramming so many mutants into the story, Bomback and Frank managed to make Wolverine the star. They focused on his powers, his emotions, and his recklessness, which is what you want to see in a Wolverine movie.

The biggest plus for The Wolverine is that they decided to stick with one storyline, as opposed to Origins that took all of the most important aspects of Wolverine's past and crammed it into a 107 minutes of film. They could have easily made a trilogy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine films, in which the first concentrated on his past in Canada, the second with his relationship with Sabretooth and Silver Fox, and the third capping off the Weapon X project and possibly (dare I say it) his time with Alpha Flight. But shoving them all together killed it, just like it killed Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (another movie I have to apologize for).

Is The Wolverine an over-the-top action movie? Yep. But it manages to portray another side of Wolverine that hasn't been explored in the other films, mainly his fighting ability. He is trained in all forms of martial arts and has always been inspired by the Japanese culture.And though they don't really go into how he got to Japan in the first place and learned his fighting skills, I did enjoy seeing him in that setting.

Also, it was nice to see his relationship with Yukio on screen. Wolverine has always managed to become a surrogate father figure for a number of female characters in the comics. We saw a glimpse of this in the first X-Men movie with him and Rogue. But he's also helped to foster Kitty Pryde (teaching her martial arts which later urged her to adopt the Shadowcat code name) and Jubilee. His relationship with Yukio actually came before all of that and it was nice to see that in the film. Yukio proved to be quite a bad-ass, becoming Wolverine's unofficial sidekick. I hope that they decide to include her in later movies but I doubt that will happen.

But as I said earlier, the film isn't perfect. There were a number of issues that I had with the plot, mainly how they treated the Silver Samurai. I won't go into details but it's quite a departure from the comics version of the character. It does work within the context of the movie, and manages to squeeze out a decent twist in the process, but it left me with that "What the hell?" feeling.

I also had some trouble figuring out Viper's motivation. She played a big part in the film; all of the events of the movie can be attributed to her involvement. But it's never quite clear why. I mean, we can plainly see the motivations of the other characters, but Viper's is never made clear. Maybe it's just me and that I missed it, but if so, then that's the perfect definition of "clear". I think that Viper was poorly utilized and would have been better off in a movie that focused on Hydra, or at least was set in Madripoor.

Though The Wolverine opened with depressing numbers for an X-Men movie (in my eyes), I do hope audiences give it a chance. It's hard to get over the mind rape that was Origins and I understand that, but I feel this movie is enough to help redeem the franchise. Not to mention the awesome mid-credits scene at the end that really helps tie this film into the current X-Men continuity. All in all, I'd say The Wolverine is worth checking out.

And for an actual decent portrayal of Wolverine's past, check out these books:

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