By Nick Saunders
I need to start off by saying that I freaking love Wolverine. How much you ask? Let’s just say I successfully lobbied to name my first-born son Logan. Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s when the X-Men exponentially increased in popularity (or blew the hell up in layman’s terms), he was a household name to my brother and I.
He’s The Fonz of the X-Universe; the epitome of cool. In the span of one issue, he could down a case of beer, make out with Jean Grey behind Cyclops’ back, kill a dozen ninjas, and make it home in time to read Jubilee a bedtime story- all the while puffing on the fattest stogie. Also, he made having excessive body hair socially tolerable, something which I would come to appreciate later in life.
On July 26, The Wolverine will be released in theaters as a sequel to 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. There is a fair amount of skepticism within the fan community as to whether this movie will be a) good b) true to the comic or c) complete bastardized garbage the likes of, well, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Personally, I enjoyed the first installment, but the current 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes clearly places me in the minority. All you have to do to enjoy it is completely ignore the parts where they made Deadpool a mute automaton with pseudo-Wolverine claws, Maverick an Agent Smith wannabe, Patrick Stewart a mannequin, and Sabretooth a brunette. Okay, so basically if you watch anything besides the intro sequence and the adamantium infusion procedure it was pretty heinous.
This new film has promise though. An Oscar-winning director is at the helm with James Mangold (Cop Land, Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line), which lends some cinematic credibility to the project.
The choice of focusing the story on Wolverine’s time in Japan, as presented originally in the 1982 Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Wolverine miniseries, is also compelling. Based on the trailers released thus far, at minimum we will see Wolverine battle Hand ninja and the Silver Samurai. It also appears based on casting information his conflict with the Yashida Clan and romance with Mariko Yashida will be included as well. What I would really like to see is the director tell the story of Wolverine’s training with his bushido master, Ogun. In the comics, I have always found Wolverine’s embedded samurai code of ethics to be a fascinating facet of his character.
The problem for me is that the X-Men films have been so hit-or-miss. I don’t know that I can categorize any of them as great films, partially due to my fanboy-fueled frustration with any gross straying from source material (see tantrum-inducing Deadpool example from above as example). I plan to see this movie the week it is released, and genuinely want it to be good. However, I can’t get the nagging thought out of the back of my head that keeps groaning, “God I hope they don’t fudge this one up too.”
In short, this Fonz best not jump the shark.