Wolverine’s first appearance was in the last panel of The Incredible Hulk #180; then a full appearance in #181 in November of 1974. He was created by Len Wein and John Romita Sr.
Wolverine quickly became Marvel’s most popular anti-hero. The simplest way to explain that is that he’s a good guy, with a bad attitude. He’s willing to use deadly force and has a brooding nature. He’s Canadian, and has been a member of Alpha Flight (Canadian Avengers?) and the X-Men. His mutant powers are regenerative healing powers, plus several animal qualities: heightened senses (hearing, sight, smell), and of course, the claws. Originally the claws were bone, until he went through a procedure that only he could survive because of his mutant ability. He had Adamantium bonded to his bones – making him virtually indestructible. He has a long and storied history – and if you want to learn any more about it check the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolverine_(comics). The character became even more mainstream with the fantastic 90s X-Men cartoon, where he was voiced by Cathal J. Dodd.
This was followed by his first on-screen appearance in 2000, by a then-unknown Australian actor, Hugh Jackman. The story focused on Wolverine, pulling him into the already-established X-Men.
The movie was great, fun, and brought characters that everyone had wanted to see finally to the big screen. It was followed by the even better X-Men 2, and the very average X-Men 3. Each of these really uses Wolverine as the focal point, because of both his popularity, and the amazing performance of Jackman. The truth is – he’s way too tall to be Wolverine (in the comics, he was first listed at 5’3” – Jackman’s a foot taller…however, of late, Wolverine has started to be pictured taller, a tribute to Jackman’s performance).
In 2009 we were treated to X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Well, ‘treated’ might not be the right word. Look – it wasn’t terrible. Jackman was fantastic. There were parts of it that were entertaining. But in terms of characters…well, you surely know someone who is a die-hard Marvel Comics expert – check with them about the character errors. Then there was the failed attempt to bring in fan-favorite Gambit (this marks the second epic failure in trying to present fan-favorites if you look at Topher Grace’s Venom in Spider-Man 3). It wasn’t Taylor Kitsch’s fault, it just felt way too forced. And, of course, the failed attempt to bring in fan-favorite Deadpool (that’s three). Check with your Marvel expert about Deadpool as well - but be prepared for them to get long-winded as passionate. He's a man of the people! I would say the bright parts were Jackman’s performance, Liev Schrieber’s performance as Sabretooth, and Danny Houston as young William Striker. The adamantium bonding sequence was also pretty great. And the opening title sequence where we see Wolverine and Sabretooth through a lot of World Wars – also pretty great. So – rent it and fast-forward through the not-great parts.
That brings us to The Wolverine (skipping his fantastic cameo in X-Men First Class). This movie is directed by James Mangold (Cop Land; Girl Interrupted; Identity; Walk the Line; 3:10 to Yuma; Knight and Day) who had previously worked with Hugh Jackman in the rom-com Kate and Leopold – a movie in which he and Liev Schrieber were again fantastic, and Meg Ryan played the exact same character she always plays.
The Wolverine focuses on some of the most famous pieces of Wolverine comic history, when he spent extensive time in Japan. Wolverine is bumming around Canada, feeling sad/guilty over the second loss of Jean Gray in X-Men 3, for which he is blaming himself. There’s an odd/upsetting sequence with a bunch of idiot hunters and a fake grizzly bear (thank goodness it was obviously fake, I do not do well with animals getting hurt in movies) in which Yukio notes the honor and justice in Logan. She approaches him and tells him that Mr. Yashida, a man he saved in Nagasaki many years ago, is dying. He is paying old debts, and has something for Logan. Intrigued, and perhaps a bit tired of living in a cave (seriously, he’s living in a cave slicing trees to mark his territory….which is still better than moping around his mansion for 8 years on a cane after the death of his girlfriend who was going to leave him anyway – but similar) Logan heads off to Japan.
He arrives in time to speak with Yashida as he is laying on the fanciest hospital bed ever (wouldn’t the memory issues he had in previous movies prevent him from remembering him – or anything that had happened? Or was he getting his memory back in the last movie? I can’t remember – that’s a memory joke). Yashida offers to take away his ‘immortality’ which is really just his mutant regenerative powers so that he can finally relax – and die. Of course, Yashida has ulterior motives, he’s not just doing this for Logan’s benefit; he wants the powers for himself, so he can evade death. At no point is Logan sucked into this nonsense, and politely refuses. Well – as politely as a Wolverine can. Yukio introduces him to Mariko – who is Yashida’s granddaughter. The two girls were raised together. Yashida is about to leave his entire company and fortune to Mariko, which is bound to upset her father, Shingen – who desperately wants control of the fortune. Incidentally Yukio’s mutant power is seeing peoples’ deaths. How’s that for a crappy mutant power? Yashida’s private doctor, who is Viper in disguise (it’s a terrible disguise, she always wears green, reptile-skin type clothes and has a creepy snake tongue and is exceptionally poisonous) infects Logan with something that suppresses his healing powers. Yashida passes – which Yukio didn’t see, and all hell breaks loose at the funeral as Mariko’s fiancée Noburo, and the rest of the family are attacked by Yakuza who attempt to kidnap Mariko, while Mariko’s childhood sweetheart Harada tries to help protect her.
Logan saves her, but gets shot a whole bunch of times in the process, and doesn’t heal up like he normally does. This forces them to go into hiding together. At this point there’s a slow 20 minute or so sequence in which they fall for each other, the phantom Jean Grey that’s haunting Logan gets a little jealous, and Logan does some more remembering. Then – despite them hiding, they are found and she’s kidnapped. This leads to the big epic finale where Wolverine has to fight Silver Samurai – no spoiler, it’s in all the previews.
(In the comics, Silver Samurai first showed up in 1974 in a Daredevil comic – he was Kenuichio Harada, he partnered with Viper, and worked for Clan Yashida and Hydra…however, Shingen Harada was also the Silver Samurai for some time).
This movie starts fast, is really fun action for the first act – really slows down in the second act, then really picks up for the fun act three conclusion. The cast does a great job:
- Hugh Jackman is once again amazing as Logan. Now that he has been doing this over 6 movies, there is no one else that could possibly play this character, and I cannot wait for X-Men: Days of Future Past next year. He is able to play the complete berserker warrior half of Wolverine, but is also able to give him these quiet introspective moments. He is incredible. And the shape that he’s in for this movie – even more incredible…I would have liked that bath sequence to go on bit longer. http://www.buzzfeed.com/erinchack/a-breakdown-of-hugh-jackmans-latest-twit-pic
- Tao Okamoto was interesting as Mariko. She wasn’t quite a damsel in distress, having enough skills to fight off a few of her attackers. She did have a regal air that makes you believe she could step into managing an international company.
- Rila Fukushima plays Yukio, who is spunky and fun, but also takes her duties very seriously. Her sword-wielding skills are non-mutant, but still pretty impressive. She was a bright spot in this movie.
- Hiroyuko Sanada plays Shingen. He’s brooding and does his best to convince you he’s evil throughout the whole movie. He’s angry most of the time, especially when threatening his daughter. Hey, it’s not her fault that his father left everything to her!
- Svetlana Khodchenkova plays Viper and I have to say – does a really good job. She’s creepy and weird. She’s also slinky and sexy – but uses that as a means to an end. When she finally does the molting sequence (again, not really a spoiler, it’s in the trailers) it’s very cool.
- Brian Tee plays Mariko’s fiancée Noburo. It’s an arranged marriage and she’s not that keen on him. Considering the partying he’s doing, he’s not that keen on it either. He has one of the best sequences in the movie when Logan comes to him to get information. How about the red underwear?
- Hal Yamanouchi plays the older Yashida. Again, I couldn’t get past the hospital bed. It’s crazy amazing. Also – in the trailers, it really made it look like he was trying to give Logan a gift by taking away his mutation. In reality – he’s much more devious.
- The beautiful Will Yun Lee breaks “Marvel Law” by playing two different characters in the Marvel Universe (hey, it worked for Chris Evans). Previously he played Kirigi in Elektra (oh, you didn’t see that? Neither did anyone else – well, except for me). In this movie he plays Harada, Mariko’s childhood sweetheart. He’s fantastic – and seems to have the very best intentions. Incidentally, I loved the idea of incorporating a bunch of characters into this movie who had been the Silver Samurai in the comics, so you don’t really know who it will be.
- Famke Janssen stops being Taken long enough to play Jean Grey in this movie. And, basically she’s the same as the Six was to Baltar through the majority of BSG. Is she there? Is she in his head? Well, okay, in this one we know she’s a representation of Logan’s guilt and inability to let go of the past, but she kept popping up here and there without being real. Pretty slick. I really liked her 'Dark Phoenix' portrayal, when she goes evil - she gets way more interesting.
The movie is not perfect, but it is really fun. The beginning through the funeral chase sequence is fantastic. The middle really slows down and could have used some tighter editing. The final sequence is fantastic. The story is good, but really the point is Hugh as the Wolverine, and he is amazing. Stick around for the post credits bit, it really makes me look forward to next year!
8 out of 10. Gained points for the bath sequence. Lost points for viper licking stuff with her creepy poisonous tongue. Gained points for Yukio being punky and fun. Lost points for carefully avoiding the Lady Deathstrike comic storyline…or maybe gained points for that? Gained points for the final fight – it was really fun! Lost points for the fake bear getting killed (spoiler) – I was still upset even though it was fake. Gained points for the post credit sequence…Hooray! http://www.trask-industries.com/#/home
Bonus Video 1: This is a fan-made music video of Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike from the animated series. The internet is full of interesting things.
Bonus Video 2: Elektra
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews