Chit Chat: The Wolverine

Chit chat is a dialogue between two or more of our contributors. It’s done online 99% of the time but you can imagine us discussing it over coffee. Or vodka, depending on the subject material.

The follow contains spoilers for the film The Wolverine.

Anika: Let’s start with: Did you like it?

Caroline: For me, this was about as good of a Wolverine movie as I expected I would ever see.

Sam: I liked it! It’s in my top three of X-related movies.

Anika: I came out thinking ‘I really liked that’ and I couldn’t pin down why — but the more I thought about it the more I came to the conclusion that basically everything in it is something I like and/or look for in my media or fandom.

Caroline: How so?

Anika: One, Jean and Logan are my X-Men OTP.

Sam: Can I ask, because the only X-books I read back in the day were Generation X and New Mutants… was Jean/Logan a thing in the books before the movie?

Caroline: Oh yeah.

Anika: YES. Let me direct you toward my pretty, pretty post from 2007.

Caroline: I mean Idk if it’s EVER been a consummated thing for sure in 616 but there was always that tension.

Anika: Two, Yukio is like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl Badass Ninja Warrior aka My Kind of Girl. Three, related, Ninjas! And four, related again, Japan! Five, Robots! (Sort of). Six, Random costume changes. Seriously every time Viper came on screen she had a BETTER (and more random) costume. All of these things harken back to my teenage obsession with anime.

Seven, Mariko is the kind of character I will go to war defending — I know some people consider her a damsel in distress nonsensical character but she’s more, I promise. I loved her sister/BFF relationship with Yukio and even Ninja Archer had a childhood connection to her. These are all relationships I am drawn to. Finally, eight, the X-Men were never mentioned. None of Logan’s team type connections were. It was a LOGAN story. I appreciate that.

Sam: I think Mariko was actually a pretty decent female character. She didn’t die so that Logan could take his revenge/find his true heroism. She was capable of defending herself fairly well, considering ninjas, and she got TOOK CONTROL at the end.

Cover by Randall Green

I’d also like to mention that my first introduction to the character of Mariko Yashida was in Exiles, where she was Sunfire and a lesbian and fell in love with Mary-Jane Watson, who was the Spider-Woman of her universe. That was long before I read the Japan saga (or whatever it’s called), so that’s my ideal for the character. I was still happy with this version.

Caroline: I liked Mariko, too! For one thing, it was clear she had relationships that were independent from Logan’s story. Her characterization got a lot of room to breathe, too, particularly compared to how the Silver Fox relationship was played in ‘Origins.’ Of course anything looks good in comparison to ‘Origins.’ But on top of that, I know that I’m a lot less critical of the way female characters are treated when there are several who have substantive roles. So neither Yukio nor Mariko nor Viper nor possibly-ghostly-possibly-a-dream Jean has to stand in for all women.

Anika: That is a good point about female characters and I think the depth of them here is a strength of the film.

Sam: This movie had more female characters than male, really.

Anika: And they were more developed. Archer Ninja, who I’m sure had a name, was kind of a mess.

Caroline: I did like that he had his own agenda, as did the main bad guy. (Do we call him Silver Samurai?) There are unavoidable problems when you drop a white North American guy into Japan, make him the hero, and have him fight with a bunch of Japanese people. But if you’re going to make that movie, I think this was a decent way to do it.

Anika: We can call him Silver Samurai, that’s who he was when he was a bad guy. I liked that everyone had their own agenda, it made it so no one was really the VILLAIN. Just people making decisions. Mostly bad decisions. But for once it was a movie about a mutant where people weren’t constantly hating mutants. There was mutant prejudice but it was an individual choice not a societal edict.

Caroline: That’s a really good point! The conflict was related to Wolverine’s power, but honestly that was more of a McGuffin. It was a way to deal with Logan not being sure whether he wanted to live, of letting him find renewed purpose. Not that I’m against X-Men plots that deal with those big societal mutant conflicts. But I have felt like the movies tend to get confused between those big thematic stories, and the character-driven ones. In a way, this was the movie that’s been wanting to burst out of the franchise since the first act of X1 — just Wolverine having feelings and adventures. I like the school and the X-Men ensemble, but the franchise has been in love with Hugh Jackman’s star quality from the start. This is the movie that finally winds him up and lets him go.

Sam: Which is interesting for me, as I am NOT a fan of Wolverine, and never really have been. But I thoroughly enjoyed an entire movie of his angst/journey. I think it helped that the other characters, even the bad guys, were conflicted and therefore interesting to me (except Viper, who was just Viper, but I liked her because the movie needed a little camp). I also thought it was great that the movie was obviously filmed in Japan with Japanese extras, which led to me really understanding and empathizing with Logan, as he both stands out and is LEFT out.

Caroline: The setting definitely emphasizes the way he doesn’t really fit anywhere.

Anika: I’m sure bringing in the Ronin aspect of his character is why the creators picked Japan in the comics and I’m glad it got on film and was done with some respect.

Aside: I didn’t see this film right away because I couldn’t bring my 8 year old. After X-Men First Class scarred her for life (we left about 15 minutes in) I said no X-Movies without my screening them first — and then this film also started with the most traumatic parts of WWII. WWII is really traumatic.

Caroline: Yes, this movie was definitely not for kids. I’m not sure any of the X-movies are, which may be a contrast to the Marvel studios movies which seem more all-agey.

Anika: As a mom I can say there is a distinct difference, yes.

Sam: I don’t really have much of a concept of what is appropriate for all ages, since The Avengers destroyed Manhattan and I don’t consider that appropriate for kids. But I’m not a parent!

Caroline: It’s probably all relative (I’m not a parent, either.)

Anika: My daughter can’t conceive of “mass destruction of New York” the way she can “and then the Nazi shot the kid’s mom so he melted their faces”.

Sam: Yeah, valid.

Anika: Anyway, let’s talk about Yukio because I loved her.

Sam: Okay! She was neat and I like that she didn’t want to sleep with Logan and that she’s his buddy now.

Caroline: That’s just what I was going to say! I liked that they were buddies, that they had a relationship that wasn’t flirtatious and sexual on either side. It was nice to see that Logan can have that with women who aren’t, well, teenagers. (And with the amount of Logan/Rogue fanfic there was after the first movie, that doesn’t even seem to be a deal breaker.) And I loved what we learned about her relationship with the Yashida family. She was a homeless mutant thief rescued by an heiress! They are best friends and hug a lot!

Sam: I know! And they honestly care for each other and aren’t at all competing for Logan’s attention/affection! (I maybe ship them a little.)

Anika: I loved the line about her being Mariko’s only family. Because she was the family Mariko chose. That’s beautiful.

Sam: Yeah, I really liked that. Something about the X-allegory that has always rung very true is about chosen family versus blood family.

Caroline: Yes, and I liked that the movie was true to that spirit without leaning too much on established characters.

Anika: Yukio could so easily have been, and taken at face value WAS, just a plot convenience character — she had all the info Logan needed and she literally got him from point a to b to c — but she didn’t come off that way. She felt genuine. I cared about her and about her relationships to Mariko and to Logan.

fanart by Renata Castellini

Sam: Yeah, same. I’m not-so-secretly hoping she appears, however briefly, in Days of Future Past.

Caroline: It was definitely left open for her to be part of future movies!

Anika: So we had a few antagonists — the Silver Samurai, Viper, the Hand — what did we think of them?

Caroline: Was the Hand the whole bunch of ninjas that just showed up? I admit I had a little bit of a geekgasm over ‘Look at Wolverine on my movie screen with all those ninjas!’

Anika: Yes, those are Hand ninjas! I loooooooooove Hand ninjas. They are my go-to Heroclix team.

Sam: The fights! I loved the fights! The bullet train fight was AMAZING. So well done.

Anika: Aside, this sprang into my head at the mention of bullet train and was very distracting…

Sam: And in the village, with the arrows… I’m technically not talking about a specific villain, but most of those fights were with the Hand, so close enough. I was really impressed with the action. Also I really loved Viper, and I didn’t expect to. Camp factor!

Caroline: Some people have been down on Viper as a villain but she was fun to watch! And I agree about the fight scenes. In some ways I think Silver Samurai was the least effective villain because the movie tried to put more weight on his relationship with Logan than the story could really hold.

Anika: When Viper appeared to have changed from Green Comic Inspired Now I Am the Scantily Clad Supervillain Outfit to Green Comic Inspired You Better Believe I Am the Supervillain — Even More Scantily Clad and Now in Shiny Vinyl! Outfit… I made audible to the audience impressed noises of worship. She was ridiculous but the movie accepted her ridiculousness and I honestly think it was great.

Caroline: We are probably not going to get a movie about her being Spider-Woman’s crazy stepmother, huh?

Anika: I think we should Kickstart one.

Would you pledge money to make this movie?

Anika: I agree the Samurai’s plot was weaker — his relationship to Mariko wasn’t clear either. And that armor suit desperately wanted to be Starktech. Darn copyright nonsense.

Sam: The Samurai seemed to be a boss fight. Like it existed only to give the good guy(s) one last physical challenge. Movies are so much like video games now, it’s crazy. You fight the minions, you fight the mini-bosses, then you have to have the final boss fight, even though the story is mostly over by that point. My friend and I were chatting about it afterwards and he said “I don’t even get the point of the needles into his bones thing” and I said “meh, just to look creepy.” I got it as part of the story, but it was a moot point by then.

Caroline: Totally plotting via video game! I think that’s what people are talking about as far as the movie falling apart in the last act. There were too many things going on that weren’t related to outcomes we cared about.

Anika: I can see that. Ninja Archer had a line “This is madness.” and I remember thinking “Yes, accurate.”

Caroline: The movie had built up a lot of goodwill with me by that point, though. Admittedly, it helped that I had been assured neither Yukio nor Mariko was going to die. I’m not sure if that was a conscious effort by the filmmakers to switch things up, or just a belief that ghostly Jean was enough dead (sort-of) girlfriend for one movie.

Sam: At least she didn’t die IN this movie.

Anika: Speaking of Jean: real, dream, or something in between? She was in a room that was white and seemingly hot…but reminded me more of Hawaii than a White Hot Room.

Sam: I’m hoping Phoenix preview.

Caroline: Yeah, preview and echo, I think. I felt strongly that it was molded by what Logan wanted to believe about their relationship (if you only saw this film you would have no idea she wasn’t his girlfriend). But there’s some reality there. I was weirdly cool with all of this, because it’s the kind of use of her character that used to bug the crap out of me in the comics. But maybe I’m more tolerant because teen Jean is around in All New X-Men these days.

Anika: Post X3 I decided that the most enjoyable way for me to watch the movies is with a heavy Logan/Jean slant. To believe their relationship is somehow transcendent to such things as whose girlfriend she actually is….

Anika ships tragedy.

Anyway, my reading is that this is specifically Logan’s movie and this is specifically Logan’s Jean. I have seen some comparisons to Inception and if you know how I read that movie (it’s all about Mal) you can guess how much I love that. My understanding of Phoenix has always been that she is broken into little pieces and scattered across the universe and however long it takes her to bring all the pieces back together is however long she stays dead. This is Logan’s piece. She’s real, she’s Jean, but she’s only one part, stuck in a kind of loop that is related directly to him. But as a sequel to X3, which is (obviously) a sequel to X2 and X1, it absolutely works for me. If they can bring it all together with Days of Future Past I will be thrilled.

Caroline: Hah, and while I enjoy Logan/Jean in the movieverse, I don’t do transcendent romantic love or whatever. I accept the perspective that Logan is a bit deluded (but mostly harmless) on this front and decide to love him anyway. And I was only tempted to yell, “Remember SCOTT?” at the screen like once in this movie, as opposed to half a dozen times in X3.

Anika: Scott’s absence works in my little reality because some other piece of Jean is worrying about him. I am VERY SKILLED at making movies work in my head if I decide I want them too.

Caroline: Oh, yeah, I’m definitely cool with Scott and Jean being a different piece of the puzzle. And for this film alone I think it was smart to keep the continuity minimal.

Sam: I love Famke Janssen. When the first announced her for the original X-Men movie, SHE is why I went to the theaters. I’ve been a fan of hers since Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “The Perfect Mate”. I watched that pretty awful Model by Day TV movie for her (and managed to turn it into a sequel to Watchmen in my head). So I was happy she was here, and I hope she is coming back to the franchise as a whole, and that is completely independent of any and all of her relationships with dudes.

Caroline: Yes, that was what I liked best about her appearance. It seemed like a confirmation that Jean’s role wasn’t over. And even though I like the movie more than most people do, I wouldn’t have wanted X3 to be the end for her.

Anika: I love that she was a doctor in X1 and presenting to the senate. I would watch a whole movie about just that. Dr. Grey Goes to Washington. But of course that’s not the kind of movies they want to make so, agreed. I was mostly just happy that she got to do anything — I went in thinking I had seen 90% of Jean’s part in the preview so I was pleasantly surprised that she was more of a factor — and she didn’t disappear, she just sort of walked out the door. That leaves lots of room to return. Also I love “The Perfect Mate” and I am going to include a screencap in this write up. Possibly I have a folder dedicated to just that.

There are 69 screencaps in Anika’s Kamala folder.

Caroline: I am not so up on Famke Janssen’s filmography, though I did kind of enjoy that movie where she’s dating Jon Favreau?

“Love and Sex”. And a kitten.

Caroline: …My obscure filmography of an X-men star exploration has mostly been about James Marsden.

Anika: Final thoughts?

Caroline: One of the reasons I was so frustrated with Wolverine: Origins was that I came away thinking how hard is it to make a good Wolverine movie? Don’t try to tell his whole life story, just send him on an adventure! And this movie did that, with a much better supporting cast than I expected.

Sam: I really liked The Wolverine. I’ve said to a few people that it’s in my top three of X-related movies, and I wouldn’t really feel bad about putting it in my top 5 superhero movies, except there are so many superhero movies now that I probably need to do a full analysis before I commit to that. Anyway, part of that is because Hugh Jackman kills it (ahem) as Logan, and part of that is because this movie didn’t do what so so many (read: all) other superhero movies do: make it a dudefest. Despite having a titular male character, the women in this film were important and strong and independent, and that was great. And the action, as I mentioned, was awesome.

Anika: Thor is my favourite of the MCU films because I’m never mad at it. I enjoyed this film for the same reasons. I had fun watching and I care about the characters. Even poor Ninja Archer.

His name is Harada.