The Wolverine is an interesting twist on the superhero movie genre. Technically the second Wolverine is a standalone piece (with loose connections to the previous 5 X-Men films), yet it begs the question: why do we need another Wolverine film? The answers arrives pretty quickly: because we’ve never seen the world’s most indestructible mutant stripped of his invulnerability.
Logan is not the only great mutant. But while titans like Magneto and Storm control the elements, they are essentially power wielders. Their abilities die with them, exposing them as gifted beings who still face death along with the rest of us. But unlike other mutants, Wolverine is immortal. His regenerative abilities allow him to live forever, unable to die but unable to live a purposeful existence.
James Mangold’s The Wolverine has two healing factors that save this franchise film from mediocrity and oblivion. The first is the risky decision to relocate the story to Japan, where Logan faces foreign ideas to him like tradition and family honor as well as love hotels, two-handed swords, and ninjas. Japan is run by the mob, corrupt officials, and egomaniacal executives, but its vibrant city lights, colorful architecture, and lush landscapes allow a fresh environment for Jackman’s oft-portrayed mutant protagonist. Resolving the issues of family is just as important here as whatever goals Logan are. This is only half of The Wolverine‘s magic.
Logan, the invincible man, grows tired in this film. At first it is only psychological, brought on by his failure to save Jean and inability to prevent those he loves from death. This guilt has consequences. He becomes a caveman, a friend of beasts, and a monster in his own right. Justice, when he chooses to give it, is harsh and unceremonious. After experiencing so much pain, physical, emotional, and spiritual, Logan holds nothing sacred not even his own life.
From here, we see his powers drained and his flesh made weak for the first time. He was a god who lived forever, now he is just a man. Since we are not gods we need mere mortals to look up to and Logan’s struggle against forces he cannot understand while in his current form of weakness, is deeply humanizing.
He was an animal. He used to hurt people. But the immortal man can lose his claws and perhaps find the deep meaning so needed to find a reason to be . The Wolverine learns to fight again, yes, but more importantly he learns to live with the tremendous gift of his own existence.
No one can heal like Wolverine. Our bodies suffer wounds, some of which we will never recover from. Logan’s weakened state is our current state at all times. The movie ends, dim lights reappear, and we leave the theater staring at our aging knuckles of flesh with the realization that our claws are shorn off too.