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The Wolverine Sucked for Narrative, Not Political, Reasons

Okay, folks. Just to start NOC off on the right foot (i.e. to NOT give you the impression that Nerds of Color are all in agreement), I have to say that I totally disagreed with Jenn’s analysis of The Wolverine.

Well, I disagreed with 75% of it (and I’m not the only one.)

The part I agreed with is that it sucked: The Wolverine was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movie … but not for political reasons. I think it was horribly badly written by someone who did not know how to write. Or else horribly hacked up by a director who did not know how to make a movie make sense. Or some of both.

I think what Jenn was doing was filling in the blanks with the products of her own intelligence because the movie was all blanks. And nerds abhor a vacuum.

Here’s what I saw (spoilers ensue):

I can haz agency?

In 1945, Wolverine saves a Japanese officer from 1) seppuku and 2) the bombing of Nagasaki, because dude was nice enough to release prisoners of war using his samurai sword (just go with it.) Fast forward to today. Wolverine is back in his lumberjack outfit in the Yukon trying to find a reason to go on living after the death of Jean Grey (and Professor X, and Cyclops, and the franchise that gave him life). One of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls (maybe BabyJuke?), now magically endowed with the power of speech, shows up and drags him out of his movie and into a miso-flavored mash-up of Zhang Yimou and John Woo (with a mecha chaser). Tokyo splats against the windows of their private jet.

Wolvie visits the old and dying former officer and current tech company CEO, now under the care of a blonde doctor who is a full-body expression of vagina dentata. CEO tells Wolvie that he (Wolvman) really wants to die, and the CEO can make that happen, transferring Wolvie’s immortality to someone else (obvs the CEO). Wolvie gets one beat to react to this (which he fails to do, because we’re going for Takashi Miike, not Kitano) before the CEO’s beautiful granddaughter Mariko gets into an untranslated Japanese argument with her angry father and tries to throw herself off a cliff (conveniently located in the family compound… just go with it).

Meanwhile, we’ve discovered that Mariko and BabyJuke have a special bond, created when the CEO rescued and fostered mutant BabyJuke. The two have a Bechdel-safe conversation, which explains nothing but makes feminists around the world feel surprised. Mariko’s dad doesn’t like BabyJuke and tells her to go away, you yucky mutant. This all looks to be going somewhere (SPOILER: it doesn’t.) Also, the poisonously whorish blonde doc shows up in Wolvie’s dream that night.

Action shots! See? That means I have a story arc! Or, at least, a fan base.

CEO grandfather dies, and the Yakuza turn up at the funeral to kidnap Mariko from her angry father and slimy politician fiancé. A long-ass fight sequence ensues, in which a mysterious ninja archer helps Wolvie and Mariko escape, and Wolvie discovers that his healing abilities have been compromised. Let’s skip through [the slimy fiancé playing with nekkid girls and getting thrown off a balcony, the awesome bullet train fight, the random Kyoto “love hotel” sequence, and the scene where PoisonWhoreDoctor appears to be conspiring with Ninja Archer] to Mariko’s family vacation home, which none of the bad guys know about because reasons, where Mariko and Wolvie consummate the attraction we know they’ve been feeling because they stared at each other blankly a few times. Also, Mariko tells us, she just found out her CEO grandfather left the company to her, which he’s been grooming her for her entire life and she doesn’t want it because blankface. Then she gets kidnapped again, only this time, it seems that it’s not the angry dad/slimy fiancé/yakuza conspiracy that took her. Um.

Okay, some Wolvie, BabyJuke, angry dad kickassery later, with Wolvie’s healtastic powers restored, we end up at a random under-construction tower where ninja boyfriend fails to explain what’s going on, and CEO granddad tries to suck out Wolvie’s healing stuffs with drill bits because some people just don’t know what to do with immortality when they have it. PoisonWhoreDoctor kicks the bucket. Ninja boyfriend dies. CEO granddad bites it. We end with another private jet, and Mariko and Wolvie taking tender leave of one another. BabyJuke goes with the hairy mutant dude, because that’s the only way we’ll get an Asian into Days of Future Past. The Ending.

If your response to all of this (or the actual movie) was WTF????, you’re not alone. You saw Jenn’s attempt to fill in the blanks, now hear mine:

My contract stipulated that I only had to provide one facial expression.
Virgin? Meet Whore.
Who me? I’m just the talent.

Sigh. I just don’t see the Madame Butterfly in any of this.

Now, having accused Jenn of filling in the blanks, I have to admit, I’m totally filling in the blanks as well. There was more than enough blankety blank to support both of our interpretations, in the same movie. It’s entirely possible that they were going for an orientalist trope and simply failed because of incompetence. It’s also possible that they were going for a really cool half-Asian/half-western family betrayal and revenge drama starring two wimmins … and also failed because of incompetence. Point is: they were incompetent, and left the movie open for radical interpretation.

… No, the point is just that they were incompetent.

We may never know what the filmmakers intended. Anyone who makes that much of a hash of things may not be able to articulate whatever vision they’re capable of having using words. And that’s okay with me. I went hoping for a good story, but mostly just expecting to get lotsa Hugh-Jackman-veins-bulging-over-pecs action. Mission accomplished.

Now, where’s my shirtless Michael Fassbender/Hugh Jackman doubletime?

I’ll also accept slash.
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