We recently saw The Wolverine, one of the movies I was most excited for this year. Wolverine has seen some of the most growth as a character over the years, in the realm of superheroes. He is a way to explore complicated themes of immortality, invulnerability, animalism versus humanity, violence versus honor.
I’ve explored Wolverine previously in terms of his character, which is complicated and varied. This is both cause and effect, then, of his popularity. The sort of plot I was sure we were in for was about Wolverine fighting with his own nature, his constant desire to be a better man than he is, to be honorable and heroic despite the fact he is the best killer.
I read Chris Claremont’s Wolverine, and also the more recent Logan comic, in preparation for the movie. With Japanese-based plots going back to 1982, Wolverine was in Japan before that was as cool as it is now; he was fighting ninjas since before ninjas were as cool as they are now. But that just makes this a timely sort of plot to tell, but also a bit of a timeless sort of one. So timeless, they made the basic plot work, set about 30 years later!
Follow me on to look at the movie and the comics for The Wolverine – spoilers abound!
Wolverine – The Ronin
The underlying plot, the thing that runs through the Wolverine comic and movie, is that he is a Ronin – as they put it in the movie, a Samurai without a master. Wandering, doing quests, helping people, but nowhere is home, and no one leads.
In the movie, perhaps, in particular, it is the world after X-Men: The Last Stand (which I also discussed recently). Charles Xavier is dead, and Jean Grey is dead, and Cyclops is dead… the X-Men have fallen apart. Wolverine is lost.
As the Ronin, then, Wolverine gets to fight lots of people – Samurai type characters, ninjas, the works. So many ninjas. Occasionally Silver Samurai.
However, Wolverine, over the course of events, in both the comic and movie, tends to show he is more honorable than his opponents. Because it’s more than just a perception of honorability – it’s about wanting to be, fighting to be, striving to be honorable. Wolverine keeps fighting for it, keeps wanting it, and keeps showing it.
Wolverine – The Long-Lived Man
In the movie, the character relationships, or family tree, of Shingen and Mauriko, stays what it was in the comic. Yukio remains as an employee as well, although in the movie as an overt employee, and is kind of looked down on more the whole time.
Meanwhile, because Wolverine is so long-lived, and because the comic was written 30 years ago, they had to move the timeline forward – and in so doing, added another character: Shingen’s father. This is a man Wolverine knows – from being there with him when the bomb fell in 1945.
There is a comic story about Wolverine being there when the bomb fell – the Logan comic, from more recent years. The man who was with him there was another regenerating mutant, one who took on aspects of the bomb and has survived as just energy. They took this comic and merged it with the Wolverine comic to build the movie, and that’s okay.
And in both comics and the movie, as the unbreakable man, it’s the women in his life that break him.
Wolverine’s Downfall – The Women
In the Wolverine comic, Logan is in love with Mauriko from the beginning, but honor demands she marries a man who is powerful and abusive. In the comic, Mauriko’s story is much the same, but they only just meet – so in some ways, this is showing us before the comic. And watching a relationship form works.
However, the relationship that ends up being formed in Wolverine is one between Yukio and Logan, which would be a lot for Logan to work through in the film. So they kind of skip doing that – she ends up more as a friend. And that works.
Because either way, in the movie, Logan is moving on from Jean Grey. Because of when this plot is being included, as I’ve said, the world has been ripped apart in X-3. The leaders have fallen apart. The Dark Phoenix has risen and fallen. And Jean is dead.
So it is still the women, the memory of them, fighting for them, that is Wolverine’s weakness. The women who see past the violence, the scrapper, and see the sort of character the fans also get to see – especially in movies like this, or comics like Wolverine and Logan.
The Best He Is At What He Does – But What He Does Isn’t Very Nice
So between both the comics and the movie, we get to look at Wolverine as an immortal sort of man, as an honorable – but wandering – Ronin, as a man who loves genuinely. He may not be a great man, but he tries hard to be a good man. He’s a great character.
There were some parts that were differences, though – so what about the man who is the best at what he does?
One of the main differences is of course making Wolverine’s powers go away. This does not happen in the comics, and would be incredibly dangerous to Wolverine in the comics – because the adamantium skeleton is poisonous, and would kill him if he weren’t constantly healing. However, is this really an important point, or a fanboy sort of point? Eh, I can do without it.
Because they handled it well. For instance, bullets still wouldn’t do as much to him as they do other people – for one, he’s probably pretty desensitized to pain, and for another, his skeleton would stop bullets from going through. They show several bullets that hit his sternum and stopped there – shallow wounds. Really, Wolverine’s problem would be bleeding out.
Also, they don’t have it be permanent, or even be something injected – because his power would either be gone, with the one, or would fight it off, with the other. Instead, it is a machine inserted which is constantly working to shut down his power. That works for me – I accept it.
Then, they found a way to make us feel pain for Wolverine. Something visceral, for the unbreakable man. They break his claws. And while the comic geek in me is saying, no, you can’t do that, or maybe just with Carbonadium – is this necessary in the movie? Or does superheated science adamantium work? I’ll take that.
And they did what they needed to with it – they knew their Wolverine lore. Well, and their own Wolverine Origins movie. He regrew his bone claws.
I guess they were going for the thought that they were extracting his power/DNA through his bone marrow, which would be hard to get access to in Wolverine, with adamantium on all his bones. So they broke his claws off to get to his marrow. The comic solution might have been to go Age of Apocalypse – and cut off one of his hands. Then you could have one-handed Weapon X in Days of Future Past.
And here’s the place to close – this movie leads us up to next year’s Days of Future Past. We’re going to have dark-looking Magneto (powers back) and Xavier (alive and looking Patrick-Stewarty), along with bone-claw Wolverine. And with who’s dead, it’s almost sad we’re not going with Wolverine and the X-Men. Because Xavier will be in charge again, but they could have left him out and let Wolverine lead, which would follow well from this movie.
There’s also talk of Wolverine being the one who goes back in time, and this would actually bother me some – it would break the continuity they’ve created in the previous movies, after putting in all this work to tie the movie continuity together. Unless – will they create a new timeline, like in Star Trek?