Continuing my Wolverine-obsessed quest I just finished 2013’s The Wolverine. (Yes I missed X3 I will catch up)
One of the questions floating around the ethernet is: why is Logan so much better than The Wolverine?? The answer obviously has something to do with a huge Samurai Robot finale, but a more careful analysis requires a SPOILER ALERT
The two movies start remarkably similar. The Wolverine sees our hero ecking out an existence in the middle of nowhere, keeping a bear company, Logan sees him slightly more involved but equally drunk. The Wolverine differs in that we are essentially immediately informed what is going on – that Wolvy is suffering the death of Jean Gray and filled with blame. In Logan it actually takes the whole movie to fully understand how he got to the place where he is looking after Xavier, and saving money and clutching an adamantium bullet.
Not that hidden motivations are necessarily better, but the plot of The Wolverine doesn’t really generate tension in quite the same way. I like the general theme of Wolverine needs to learn to be a hero again and forgive himself for Jean’s death, the problem is he doesn’t hesitate to be a hero in the film and anyone who has seen the last film kinda knows he shouldn’t be blamed for Jean’s death, I mean she literally wanted him to end her life to save the world.
In Logan we have multiple tensions – our hero puts up far much more of a fight trying to avoid helping, Xavier suggests Logan has done something terrible, but as the story progresses we learn its actually Xavier with something to feel guilty about.
My point is that The Wolverine doesn’t sell his hermitage whereas Logan forces us to accept the plight of the heroes and then some. In The Wolverine its also irrelevant to the plot, his adventure in Japan could have happened whether he was depressed, hermit-ed, still acting as an X-men or in fact trying to live a normal life (that last one probably would have created more tension as the moment Logan steps into the story of The Wolverine we don’t have to care about his isolated existence)
Everything in Logan is relevant, Xavier is vulnerable and dangerous as they go on the road Logan’s decisions about how to go about their mission has important consequences for the story and the characters (i.e the farmhouse scene)
In terms of decisions The Wolverine offers one to Logan early in the film, which he rejects (again undermining the theme of his depression, basically saying yes he became a hermit but ultimately no he isn’t keen to live a normal life), then he pretty much just fights and fights and fights until the day his won. The loss of healing power is more an annoyance that holds up the action as opposed to creating tension – he still acts the same way, makes the same decisions and it doesn’t change is perspective on his own guilt.
Finally in terms of finale’s aside from the ridiculousness of the big bad in The Wolverine, the final character growths don’t make any sense. Wolverine pursues his love interest to the hide-out where he battles with the bad-guy, almost dying but eventually winning. Sure the bad-guy thinks that killing Wolverine will give him what he wants (peace in death) but we already saw that he didn’t ever want that and defeating a guy that wants to kill you doesn’t provide a cause for Wolverine to decide to ‘join the fight’ again so to speak.
It might have been far more powerful if Wolverine did try out the normal life, or some such and saw some negative consequences for his decision perhaps the final conflict being our hero trying to retrieve his power again to do good, rather than just defending himself and a girlfriend.
Logan of course has a powerful hard to match ending, but again it all linked to the character themes and questions raised by the setup, will Logan overcome his enemies, will he save X-23, will he find any redemption, everything about the climax played with the possible outcomes of those questions leading to an ultimately more satisfying if traumatizing movie.