The great thing about comic book characters is that you don’t mind if
they’re caricatures. But
you’re pleasantly surprised if they’re not.
What makes “The Wolverine” work is the complex character
development of the main character. Hugh
Jackman plays Logan, who’s now bushy-headed and long-bearded and wandering
around somewhere in the wilds of
, where the grizzlies know enough to leave him alone.
You see, he has this special power, the origin of which is unexplained,
but that’s OK, we’ve had enough superhero back-stories lately:
he can snap out these huge strong metal claws out of his knuckles at
will, and, he heals instantly. Pretty
handy tools in a scrap.
Yes, we could make much of the theological overtones inherent in the
subplot here: essentially
becomes bored, tired, disinterested, cynical, and generally world-weary.
We don’t know exactly how long he’s been around, but we do know
that he was a POW in
when the bomb fell….yes, that one, the atomic one after
in 1945 that resulted in
’s unconditional surrender to end World War II.
managed to save the life of a Japanese guard, as well as escaping unscathed
himself. Now, all these years
later, the prison camp guard is on his deathbed, and has asked
to come see him to say goodbye.
isn’t particularly sentimental about it, but he literally has nothing better
to do, so he agrees to journey back to
. What he finds there is that his
old buddy the prison camp guard is indeed on his deathbed, trying desperately
to hang on, but it’s more complicated than that.
In the meantime, he’s managed to build a great business empire, which
his mobster son fully expects to take over, but his arrogant, heartless son is
corrupt, mean-spirited, and abusive. So
the dying patriarch decides that he would really rather will his entire
international conglomerate to his beautiful young granddaughter, who,
naturally, has also taken an interest in our ageless Wolverine (well, that
would be one advantage of not aging like everyone else).
But wait, there are other unseen obstacles to
getting his Mojo back. His old
girlfriend, Jean (Famke Janssen) keeps appearing to him in his dreams,
stunning and alluring in a white negligee, begging him to come join her (on
the other side?). As if to
accommodate that fantasy, The Wolverine finds himself mortally nicked by a
wicked ally of the mobster, Viper, who looks like a blonde bombshell
seductress but is actually evil personified:
she brings nothing but death and destruction and chaos.
Let’s see, throw in some samurai mumbo-jumbo and black-clad ninja
fighters, along with some lighthearted cultural irony (sticking the chopsticks
straight up in the rice is considered bad luck), and you have the ingredients
for a spicy mix of palace intrigue, a hint of romance, and obligatory
But we want to root for The Wolverine because he fights through his
demons and re-discovers his sense of calling, to be a soldier for good.
Now, doesn’t that make us all sleep a little better at night?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,