Fighting For A Just Claws (“The Wolverine”)

Am I the only person on this planet who thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn't suck? Well, not entirely. I mean, it wasn't as good as either of the first two X-Men movies, but it was better than either of the Fantastic Four films. And they did try to explain how “James Howlett” became “Logan” who was transformed into “Wolverine.” And why he doesn't remember any of this. So The Wolverine isn't exactly a do-over, but it does treat Origins the way they treat Superman Returns: they just pretend it didn't happen.

The Wolverine begins sometime after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Logan is haunted—literally—by some of his actions during this crisis. He’s living in isolation but an emissary representing a man whose life he saved during World War II tracks him down. The man, now quite wealthy and powerful—and dying—wishes to repay Logan by granting him the one thing he feels Logan wants more than anything else, an “ordinary” life, one where he can die. But there is a price: Logan would have to transfer his ability to regenerate himself to another. Logan declines but winds up protecting the man’s granddaughter from forces out to get her.

Nolanesque superheroes are beset with existential dilemmas—why I must do what I do, why am I here—but Marvel’s Masked (and Unmasked) Marvels keep things simple: Hulk smash, Avengers assemble. Logan has no long-range game plan—someone’s in trouble, he’s passing through, he’ll lend a hand and then he’s gone. He discovers a few things along the way—immortality may be a drag but it does have its perks, dead people may not make the best life coaches. If you think about the movie on the way home, some of the plot twists make sense but while you’re sitting there in the theatre it’s kinda hard to keep track of who’s doing what to whom, much less why they’re doing it.

But overall, The Wolverine isn't just a “good superhero movie,” it’s a pretty good movie, period, and that may be its biggest surprise: it reminds you more of one of the Bourne movies, a fast-paced action-adventure movie where the hero just happens to have retractable, pretty much indestructible claws. (His fight-on-the-train is right up there with Ethan Hunt’s in Mission: Impossible or James Bond’s in Skyfall.) The CGI is non-obtrusive (you know, not like when you’re watching Spider-Man swing through traffic and you know that’s not a real person, it doesn't even remotely look like one). Still, there are a couple of “Yeah, right” moments, like nobody bothered to check just how far a kilometer is and there are a couple of things done just because it sets up something else in the story. But overall, The Wolverine is worth a couple of hours of your time. And be sure not to rush right out of the theatre when the credits start, there’s the obligatory “extra scene” and it’s worth hanging around for it.

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