If there is a single character to blame for comic books losing their sense of humor it is probably Wolverine. After first appearing fighting the Hulk, Wolverine joined the X-men where his savage bloodlust and mysterious past made him a fan favorite. Over the years Marvel Comics scrapped the mystery revealing so much about his life that they had to make him born in the 1800s to fit in all the origin stories, but they kept his murderous rage.
His amoral violence is a trait that has been ripped off by a thousand characters in the past thirty years and has even infected the cinema. See this year’s Man of Steel where even Superman isn’t afraid to kill if he has to (or better yet save two hours of your life and don’t).
But seeing the newest film adaptation incorrectly titled The Wolverine I am reminded of what influenced Wolverine in the first place, the 1980s. With its loner hero who falls in love with a woman who is an eternal victim while never needing to spout out a line of dialogue longer than seven words and its myriad of fight scenes with ninjas and jocks in bars, if you took out the computer generated special effects The Wolverine could have starred Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris in 1989. Like those long gone action heroes there is humor in The Wolverine but the jokes come at the expense of a corpse or a villain about to fall to his death. Even Arnold and Stallone would be impressed with the movie’s machismo.
Hugh Jackman is so wrong to play Wolverine that it’s amazing he continues to get it right. This is his fifth time portraying a short, ugly, Canadian with a hairy back in spite of being tall, Australian and handsome with a waxed chest, but most importantly Jackman’s got the haircut and the attitude. While I keep thinking Al Pacino in the 1970s would have been the ideal Wolverine, Jackman’s made the part his own.
No one would call The Wolverine a masterpiece, but it doesn’t try to be. Rather it tries to fill the niche of those Thursday night Cinemax action movie that no one else is offering until they make another Expendables movie.