After the Film Board’s brutal takedown of The Wolverine on Sunday, I noticed that our discussion focused primarily on the flaws in the last two thirds of the film. Early in the discussion we all agree that this film started off strong, but we did not delve into a discussion of what those strengths were. A closer look at the expectations that were developed and ultimately left unfulfilled in the beginning of the film will provide some clarity as to why the Film Board hammered on its shortcomings.
1. The Wolverine is back to being an isolated loner.
His neighbor is a grizzly bear. He keeps to himself in the woods. He goes into town and is annoyed by the drunken locals loading up to go hunting. These scenes re-affirm the Wolverine we remember from the first X-Men film. He’s someone that wants to be left alone, and as we see in the confrontation with the survivor of the grizzly attack, angry and vengeful. And did I mention that in the mornings when Logan wakes up and walks into town he gives a friendly nod to his neighbor - who is a GRIZZLY BEAR. What could be more badass than that.
Expectation : The Wolverine we remember from the first two X-Men movies.
2. Ninja McGee is just as dangerous and cold as The Wolverine
Just before Logan is about to open a can of cold, adamantium fury on the patrons of the bar, a calm, mysterious stranger appears. This stranger coldly describes the imminent death of three of the bar patrons and deftly uses a sword to silently slice a beer bottle and barstool. She’s the counterpoint to Logan. Where he is loud, angry, carnage; she is silent, calm, dismemberment. We’ve got an awesome duo that can easily take on just about anything.
Expectation: Ninja McGee is going to make this an interesting buddy film.
3. Political and family conflict in a foreign country builds instant intrigue.
Enter Mr. Exposition. But I welcome him because not only do I learn that Ninja McGee has an unusual and somewhat mysterious past, but we have shifted from summer action film to mystery/thriller. Ninja McGee can play the dutiful servant in the house of Yushida, but apparently she’s always got a knife on hand as we see when she convinces Logan to take a bath. There’s something going on with Yushida’s son and the family business. Hmmm, family business, advanced technology, looks like this story is moving into 007 territory - which would be a nice way to take this story. This could be interesting. We also learn that Yushida’s past has links to NINJAS! Can’t wait for some crazy swarms of NINJAS!
Expectation: Ninjas and political intrigue. And swarms of NINJAS!
4. The Funeral, Street Chase, and Bullet Train
We basically get two action sequences sandwiched right next to each other, establishing that we can expect a nice mix of character, suspenseful story, and action sequences. In addition to Wolverine busting out the claws, Ninja McGee cracking skulls with her skills, there’s also Mysterious Roof Ninja. We only had to wait a few minutes and we've already got a NINJA. And not just any ninja, he's a Roof Ninja who has sworn to protect semi-suicidal girl that gave Logan goo-goo eyes in the rain. Roof Ninja helps Wolverine by using his 8 arrows to strategically kill the generic gang members while running along rooftops in nice shoes that we get several close-ups on. As goo goo eyes girl gets to the train station she cryptically dismisses Logan, telling him that he can go.
Expectation: A mystery to be solved, mutants and ninjas fighting each other, Ninja McGee helping Wolverine navigate the Japanese culture and family political intrigue.
Now, at this point, I’m certain that there’s something more to her story than we’ve been told. I’m wondering if the alleged kidnapping attempt was something for publicity, possibly even connected to her fiance, the Minister of Justice. I’m suspecting that the family business has developed something that the Minister of Justice wants - like some new police surveillance tech, or a shiny new future gun, and this attack will give him the reason he needs to purchase truckloads, thereby also increasing the family fortune. It’s clear Wolverine has walked into the middle of some larger family plot and he’s going to have to figure this out. And don’t forget there’s that mysterious mutant doctor. It’s not clear what her role in this whole drama will be, but the fact that she quietly films Wolverine during the kidnapping generates enough curiosity in how she fits in that I’m willing to hold off passing judgement on her until later in act two when I anticipate seeing how she fits into this whole family plot.
I am so looking forward to where this film is going. And then within a few minutes we’ve got an amazing bullet train fight sequence. What’s really nice is that it doesn’t last too long. It’s fun, playful, and something new. This is going to be so much fun.
And then they get off the train and walk into a completely different movie and you know how we felt about that - we spent nearly an hour talking about it. No film is 100% what we hope for, but it should at least live up to being the film it told us it was going to be.