When the new Wolverine movie was announced, comic fans had reason to rejoice. According to those involved, the film was to take its cues from the four-issue mini-series The Wolverine. That series, penned by Chris Claremont and drawn by Frank Miller, is sacrosanct for all Wolverine fans. It remains one of the best stories ever told about the character, and easily one of the best definitions of who Wolverine is. Following this comic as a guideline would easily make the next Wolverine film something special.
So, why didn’t they do it? The latest Wolverine film, while head and shoulders above the first one, is still adequate at best. The script is boring. The characters are one dimensional, the plot ridiculous; it even manages to make the Silver Samurai look silly. Having re-read the Claremont/Miller story before seeing the film, I organized what I feel the movie could have learned from the film. So, here are Ten Comic Book Beats The Wolverine Missed.
#10: OLD MAN YASHIDA
This was the first error in judgment. With so much to use from the original comic series, the invention of an elder Yashida who wants to live forever is a weak idea. Not only that, it doesn’t follow that somebody like Wolverine, somebody who is always suspicious of everything, would travel to Tokyo to see a man he encountered once nearly seventy years ago. Old Man Yashida was a plot device, not a character, and you could tell that on the screen. Shingen Yashida should have always been the main bad guy here.
#9 MARIKO YASHIDA
A large flaw in the film is how the second act gets bogged down with trying to generate sparks between Mariko and Wolverine. In the comic, there is an established relationship already there. Wolverine travels to Tokyo because he can’t get a hold of the woman he loves, a woman whose evil father has returned to take over the clan. Isn’t that a much better catalyst for Wolverine to travel into an unknown situation than an old man he met once? It also leaves more room in the film for the development of the story and *GASP* action scenes.
#8 JEAN GREY
Obviously, the whole “Ghost Of Jean Grey” angle didn’t exist in the comic, which is a good thing. Why? Because it doesn’t really work for the movie. The Wolverine needed to be outside the X-Men storyline. This needed to be a movie that defined this character, without the unnecessary Jean Grey baggage. Wolverine’s great love has always been Mariko, something that gives the comic series some real emotional weight. In the film, the relationship with Mariko seems forced, especially after all the set up on how much Wolverine still loves Jean Grey. Her presence served no purpose other than dream sequences. Even the post-credits scene, which does involve members of the original X-Men films, would have worked fine without Jean Grey.
Viper was not in the original series, and she served no purpose in the film. The actress who played her was one-note at best and, outside of costume changes, Viper’s appearance on screen was for naught. Wisely, Claremont kept multiple mutants out of the original series. This was a story about Wolverine, his samurai mentality, his code of honor and who he was as a man and mutant. I could excuse this addition if it had somehow added to the film’s overall impact, but it didn’t. The time wasted on her could have been spent on the relationship between Logan and Yukio (who I’ll get to later).
#6 SHINGEN YASHIDA
In the comic, Shingen Yashida is not a big pussy that secretly tries to kill his daughter. Instead, he is the badass leader of the Yashida Clan, a man who manages to unite the entire Japanese underworld under his leadership. At one point, Shingen beats Wolverine in single combat. Let’s not forget that Shingen also controls Hand ninjas. The final battle between Logan and Shingen is epic, violent and comes with an emotional toll. Isn’t that a much better character than what the movie offered up?
Seriously, wouldn’t a huge battle between Shingen and Wolverine that included swords, claws, and martial arts be better than a battle with an old man in a Silver Samurai robot suit?
#5 BLACK NINJA CLAN?
First and foremost, why not call them The Hand? Why use a very '80s ninja-movie sounding name? Even if there was a legitimate reason, like 20th Century Fox didn’t have the rights to use the name “The Hand,” the lack of power behind the ninjas in the film was bizarre. In the comic, every time Wolverine dueled the Hand ninjas, he barely got out of it. Allowing these ninjas to be more than easy targets would heighten the battles within the film. It also could have been a great example of how powerful Wolverine is. A good guy is only as powerful as the villain who opposes him. If each of these ninjas were a task for Wolverine, his triumph would have been elevated. I was also confused why the Black Ninja Clan was all around the final battle, but never fully engaged Wolverine at all.
#4 KENUICHIO HARADA
This was a seriously unnecessary breach of the Marvel universe. Harada is not in the original comic. In the film, he’s wasted space, a character only slightly more interesting than Viper. The film also changes a massive piece of Harada’s history. In the Marvel Universe, Kenuichio Harada is the Silver Samurai. He’s also the son of Shingen Yashida, and a mutant. All of that is left out of the film so Harada can be some puppy dog eyed former lover of Mariko? Why?
Instead, bring in Asano Kimura, one of Wolverine’s best friends. Kimura is somebody Logan trusts, somebody looking out for him. After discovering Mariko is married, Logan goes on a downward spiral and Kimura reaches out to him. Wolverine turns his back on his friend, who is later murdered by Yukio, and the impact is obvious. How is Asano Kimura not a better character to be in Wolverine than Harada?
#3 SILVER SAMURAI
This brings us to Silver Samurai, a slap to the Wolverine lineage if ever there was one. First, the Wolverine movie wastes Kenuichio Harada as a character. Harada has such a strong history, such a cool story, and it’s thrown out. Second, and perhaps the most ridiculous, is the giant robot the Silver Samurai is turned into by the filmmakers. Why? Even if they had to bring in the whole robot angle (which they didn’t), there was no need to make it the Silver Samurai. If there were to be another solo Wolverine movie, the real SS would be a killer villain. That idea is now shot to hell for a giant suit.
While I can forgive the updated look of Yukio in the film, I find it harder to understand why they wasted her character. In the comic, Yukio is a Ronin, a skilled martial artist and an assassin under the employ of Shingen Yashida. She is hired to kill Wolverine, but instead falls in love with him. When she refuses to murder the man she loves, she becomes a target of the Hand. Yukio ultimately joins Wolverine in his quest to take down Shingen Yashida. Her character in the film is one dimensional, a cute girl with a sword. Why not use the deeper story from the comic and expand Yukio’s character? I was also confused why the filmmakers hinted that Yukio is a mutant. It was never resolved and had no impact on the film.
#1 HUGH JACKMAN AS WOLVERINE
While I enjoy Hugh Jackman as an actor, I’ve never thought he made a good Wolverine, and the original Wolverine comic lends some proof to my issue. Hugh Jackman is inherently a nice guy, and that comes across in his portrayal. In the Claremont/Miller comic, Wolverine is established as the best there is. He dominates most of his fights, and when he does lose, it’s always a spectacular battle. In the film, Wolverine spends most of his time getting his ass kicked. Granted, part of it is the lame plot device where his healing ability is suppressed by a small robotic spider, but still, at no point is Wolverine on the offensive.
Wolverine is the best there is at killing people. That inherently means he’s not a “nice” guy. Wolverine has a code of honor, he always tries to do the right thing, but he’s not a nice guy. Jackman doesn’t nail that aspect of the character. The film doesn’t help by having Wolverine get slapped around. I understand the idea of recasting Jackman is a pipe dream, but the filmmakers could have really analyzed the supposed inspiration for the movie, and drawn more of that bad ass out of Jackman.
With such an incredible comic book series to draw from, the failure of this movie lies at the feet of the filmmakers. It’s not as if the comic book would have been too expensive or would've lacked action. It also had an emotional arc that strengthened Wolverine as a character. Recreating the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Wolverine on screen would have given us a classic comic book movie. Hollywood, sadly, had other ideas.