Oxbow Edits: How to Fix The Wolverine
I gave James Mangold's The Wolverine 4/5 stars. I will break down the deficits of the film as I see them, as well as the best way to improve upon these to get a better story. SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
Haunted by the ghost of Jean Grey, Logan has to deal with a loss of both his mutant powers and his warrior spirit while revisiting an exotic land from his younger days. This was a solid outing for Wolverine. I enjoyed the acting in particular from almost everybody! What kept this movie from the top tier was a lack of characterization in the script, and a third act that felt like it had been transplanted from a very different film. With respect, let’s look at a few ways the overall story could have been improved:
Evolve the character.
This is a journey of self-discovery in a strange land. It's a character study, as well as an exploration of mutation--the evolution of an organism in response to its environment. Let’s see Logan grow a little more. Let’s have him learn more in Japan than that the sword is held with two hands there. Yukio was a great foil to Logan’s abrasive personality; it would have been fun to see some training/sparring-time between the two, as well as quiet scenes exploring their different philosophies about life and the warrior’s path. Logan could have picked up some new moves to defend against Japanese martial arts in the process…maybe learned a little about being a Ninja! In fact, after living in the woods for years, his enhanced senses would have been perfectly suited for the way of the Shadow Walkers.
I loved the scene where Mariko's father cries out something like “What are you?” and Hugh replies “I’m the Wolverine” before totally cutting loose on him! It had the potential to be cheezy but instead, was a real and primal release, reclaiming the character’s inner spirit in a most satisfying way! More of that, please! For instance, I wish Wolverine had the opportunity to become at peace with the idea of being a Ronin. He started to explore this with Mariko, asking himself if he was a master-less Samurai while they hid away together. Like Yukio, Mariko called forth his inner warrior (though in this case, more as a protective spirit than a kindred one).
Mariko brought out his reflective, meditative nature as well, though. It would have been nice for Logan and his new confidante to explore the lonely path he has walked for all these years, and how to walk it differently in the future…as his own master! A Ronin with honor can be a powerful force in the world--a defender of the just and champion to the oppressed. Japanese culture highly values harmony, self-discipline and inner stillness during action. I would have liked to see Logan learning from the culture and, in turn, using those teachings to learn more about himself. He has to make peace with who and what he is before he can fully embrace the Wolverine and become the force of Nature he is meant to be. The characters of Yukio and Mariko provided some great opportunities for growth that were not really capitalized on down the line.
Use all of Wolverine’s powers.
An adamantium skeleton, healing factor and warrior spirit got Wolverine through his trials abroad (even if two out of the three were absent for significant portions of the movie!). However, Logan has more than his claws to count on in a fight. I imagine his animal-like senses would become even more heightened after living in the woods for a couple of years. When he comes down off the mountain, he should act more like a beast than a human being! He should be able to sniff out enemies, Mariko and other important players easily. Coupled with his super-human agility, this would have made for some spectacular fight sequences--most notably against Harada’s Ninja army!
Imagine instead of being used for target practice, if Logan had clawed his way up the side of a house and leapt from rooftop to rooftop, taking out Ninjas like a berzerker wind!!! This way, there would have been greater contrast with the scenes where Wolverine was depowered. It would have been really interesting to explore the differences in how he navigated the world, as well as his perceptions of it without any powers. Logan is seriously facing the prospect of never being the Wolverine again. This is not merely to lose immortality and invulnerability…it’s to lose a way of being, of seeing the world that most human beings never get to experience! Threatened with the likelihood of losing all of this, Logan could make the break-through to accept and finally embrace the animal within. Once he has stopped pushing the Wolverine away, Logan can then move on to figuring out where the Wolverine ends and he begins--and the difference between the two!
Bring the Yashida story out of the shadows.
Nobody wants a SSINO. Forget about the big reveal that Silver Samurai is really gran'pa Yashida—it comes off a bit stale (especially with the get-up that Viper is wearing in the end). Just show Yashida earlier and have that be the emotional heart of the third act. Instead of the human pin-cushion trick, have Logan fight his way through the Ninjas and sneak into Yashida’s complex. There, he spies on Yashida being treated inside the Silver Samurai suit. Logan realizes what their greater plans are and confronts Yashida. Wolverine and Yashida fight it out while arguing about the benefits and disadvantages of Logan saving Yashida’s life, of immortality, and about the fate of Yashida’s empire. This would help flesh out the characters and give the ending more emotional heft, while making it seem like less of a generic third act in any given action flick.
Round out the Viper.
I gotta say, there wasn't much to like about the Viper. The green costume and her one-dimensional character both screamed "comic book supervillain!" to me--and not in a good way! The actress wasn't bad per se but this flat character brought down what was a much more nuanced storyline into this place that quickly became boring. Viper seemed like an anomaly in a film full of characters with developed personalites and real motivations for their actions in the world.
I will leave it there and say that overall, I enjoyed the ride. I’m glad that Wolvie finally got a decent solo movie, and am looking forward to seeing how much better things can get for the FoX-men. The mid-credit scene neatly tied Logan back into the X-men Universe. It was different in tone than the rest of the movie but still a thrill to watch. Not only did we get a Sentinel easter egg but also the dramatic reintroduction of two classic characters, and a blatant set-up of a mysterious larger conflict in the X-Universe! The CBM playing field is much different than just a few years ago however, and the studio must satisfy both long-time fans, casual viewers and the general audience if they hope to make the X-men flagship a success. Based on the plans that Mark Millar recently hinted at, it looks like Fox is in it for the long haul—for good or ill.
What do you think of the movie, of my edits, and Fox's plans for the future X-Universe? Sound off below!
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