I’ve never needed this before. – Logan
What? Help? – Mariko
The Wolverine is 20th Century Fox’s sixth X-Men film, and I’m pleased to report that if it’s any indication, the future is bright for the X-Men films. The Wolverine moves Logan’s story forward and opens the universe for more films. Add to that some fun, strong female characters and a decidedly non-white cast (since the whole film is set in Japan), this is one of the more progressive of the summer blockbuster season. Based on Frank Miller’s classic Old Man Logan,
Since both X:Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class were prequels, The Wolverine is our first chance to catch up with Logan after the disaster that was Last Stand. Fortunately, those of us who saw X3 weren’t the only ones to suffer. Logan is still haunted by visions of Jean Grey, whom he loved and killed. Jean’s death has killed something inside Logan too: he vows never to harm again. And yet he can’t deny his sense of justice, his need to do right.
Logan has lost himself in death. But unlike us, he can’t die.
You’re a soldier. You want what every soldier wants: an honorable, good death.
Logan wanders aimless, (self-) isolated from the rest of humanity. What many imagine to be a gift he sees only as a curse: it was his immortality, his essential invulnerability made it possible for him to murder Phoenix-possessed Jean Grey.
When Yashida offers Logan a chance to escape his immortality, though, he’s unwilling to give it up. Initially he can’t say exactly why. It’s only after Viper’s nanotech dampens his healing ability – and it really did seem to me only dampened, not dispelled – that Logan finds a reason to go on: Mariko.
Thanks to the Japanese setting, The Wolverine does a bit better than a cliché love story to save the day.
Without denying the obvious chemistry between Logan and Mariko, The Wolverine uses their connection to reveal a deeper layer of Logan’s character. The Wolverine has always been a monster, a barely-controlled more-animal-than-man who lives on a hair-trigger.
But now Logan is the Soldier. He craves justice, despises strong who prey on the weak. These are what unleash his boundless anger. In the wake of Jean’s death, Logan is lost, but he’s lost because he’s wandered away from himself. In his grief, he’s denied who he truly is.
In rescuing Mariko (and then being rescued by her), Logan finds the ability to love and fight again. Their romance is only possible because he’s found his true self again. He is the Soldier, who always fights for right, for honor.
I was surprised to enjoy The Wolverine more than many of this year’s blockbusters. The film showcases the thematic depths possible with the superhero genre, reminds us again why comics are our modern-day myths.
A story about a man who can’t die is the perfect vehicle to explore the meaning of life. After all, isn’t there more to life than just prolonging the amount of time we’re breathing? By removing the reality of Death Logan’s fictional world, we can all consider his dilemma as our own:
What are we living for? Have we been paralyzed by our pasts? Are we trapped by some private grief? Or are we discovering our truest selves and becoming those persons?
Not a bad bit of reflection from a sixth installment in a comic book movie franchise. Needless to say, I’m ready for more!