'The Wolverine' takes Logan even farther from comic-book counterpart

July 30, 2013 -- With the premiere of The Wolverine, the X-Men movie franchise has moved so far from the comics mythos as to be its own, separate deal. So do the comics matter to the movies any more? You bet your muttonchops, bub!

 

First, let’s dispense with the cliché that fans squeal like stuck pigs at every change movies make to their beloved comic-book characters. As resident fanboy spokesman, let me assure you that I have no problem with movies making changes to comic-book characters. Movies are a different medium than comic books, and both are different than novels, television, operas and stage plays. Every medium has its own endemic strengths and weaknesses, and to be told properly, stories must necessarily change as they move from one medium to another.

 

And I heartily applaud changes that improve the story. Robert Downey Jr. did such a bang-up job in the Iron Man movies that the comic-book character has been altered to match – strengthening that character, and the Avengers franchise, overall.

 

But the downside is when Hollywood changes characters to the detriment of the story. Catwoman dropped everything about the DC character except the name, and the movie suffered as a result. Ditto Elektra, which started the false meme that women can’t front successful adventure movies. (See: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Hunger Games for proof they can.)

 

Sometimes Hollywood’s alterations are good, sometimes bad. But usually they’re a mixed bag. Such is the case with Fox’s X-Men movie franchise in general, and Wolverine in particular.

 

As comics fans know, Fox’s five previous X-movies have already monkeyed substantially with the comic books. For example, in The X-Men #1 comic book (1963) the original team consisted of Angel (a bird-like boy), Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey). In the X-Men: First Class movie (2011), they were Angel (an insect-like girl), Banshee, Beast, Darwin (deceased), Havok, and Mystique. That’s a pretty big change!

 

But no character has appeared in the X-movies more than Wolverine, which means he’s veered from his comic-book counterpart the most. And The Wolverine, which premiered July 26, cements that fact.

 

The movies have already altered the character’s past considerably, so there’s no need for a list of changes here. But several things The Wolverine changed struck me as, well, funny.

 

For one thing, when the comic-book Wolverine first joined the X-Men in 1975, one thing that boosted his popularity was a series of surprise reveals. For example, for a long time both readers and his fellow X-Men thought his claws were part of his gloves. What a surprise when everyone first saw them pop out of his hands!

 

Another one, though, was a 1979 scene when Wolvie off-handedly read a headline from a Japanese newspaper, to the surprise of his team members. “You read Japanese?” asks Cyclops. “I didn’t know that.” “You didn’t ask,” Logan responds gruffly.


That scene kept coming to mind throughout The Wolverine, which takes place almost entirely in Japan. And Logan doesn’t savvy the lingo. Since from my perspective he’s known Japanese for 34 years, I kept waiting for him to surprise everyone – but he didn’t.

 

Another oddity is that in some ways, the X-Men’s Jean Grey and Logan’s love interest in this movie, Mariko Yashida, have swapped places. In the comics, Wolverine falls in love with the delicate Mariko, who calms the beast within, but is forced to kill her when she’s dying painfully of blowfish poisoning. In the movies, Logan is haunted by the knowledge that he was forced to kill Jean in X-Men: The Last Stand. Same tortured Wolverine, but different dead girlfriend!

 

Which is a good point to make in general. Yes, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is different from the comic-book version in minor matters, such as height. (In the comics, Wolvie is 5-5, while Jackman is six-foot-two.) But the essence remains, which explains why Wolverine is so popular in both media.

 

Which brings us to the future – and I do mean the future! Coming in 2014 is X-Men: Days of Future Past, a movie based on one of the most famous of X-stories, a 1981 tale in which Logan plays a critical role. The Wolverine gives us a tantalizing glimpse of the film midway through the credits (so don’t leave early!), and already the story is veering from that of the comics.

 

Which, in short, is this: In a dystopic future where mutants live in concentration camps and die at the hands of giant robots called Sentinels, an X-Man sends her mind back in time to inhabit her younger self (in our present) and warn the X-Men how to prevent that future from occurring. The story takes place in both present and the future – and things don’t go very well in either.

 

I expect the movie, coming in 2014, to follow a similar line. But there will be huge differences, especially in the cast.

 

The 2014 movie is unlikely to mirror the X-team of the 1981 comics, because of who has lived, died and changed in the previous X-movies. More importantly, in the comics the future hero making the time trip is Kitty Pryde (who had a minor role in all three X-Men movies, played by a different actress in each). But in the movies, it’s gonna be … yep, Wolverine.

 

And, boy howdy, will that ever change things.  But my thesis remains: No matter which X-Men star in the 2014 film, no matter what details change in Days of Future Past, the essence will remain.

 

And who knows? Maybe tinkering with time will change the movies to be more like the comics. If that’s the only way we get Cyclops back, I’ll take it!

 

Contact Captain Comics at capncomics@aol.com.

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I agree.  I have just returned from the Wolverine movie and I know just what you mean.

However, there is a sequence when Logan is imprisoned in Japan, and so I might have expected him to pick up some of the language, or read some.  But I agree that he certainly was a fish out of water...which I thought was going to be more of the point.

They handled the return to his prison camp well, though.

And I was caught offguard by the big reveal too!

I liked the Days of Future Past tease.  It will be interesting to see how they avoid getting sued by the makers of Terminator about the storyline...cause as I recall, the story was loosely inspired by terminator, as "Kitty's Monster Xmas" was a take off on Alien... and the list goes on and on...

I keep trying to get my wife to read "Days of Future Past," but there's just no interest. And yet, she likes the Wolverine movies.

That's a pity. That's a wonderful little high-stakes classic. Especially now that everyone knows so many of the X-Men and what they're about.

And it was two issues. TWO ISSUES. And every comic-book fan in the 1980s knew it by heart.

Wait, are we to infer from your previous comment that your wife liked the first Wolverine movie?

Hmmm. I don't remember her reaction.

I only saw it on TV one night, or half of it and it was a pretty awful film.  But I can see why your wife would still like 'Wolverine films' notwithstanding that.

There's been a single trade paperback collecting those two x-men issues with a cardboard cover. I lent mine to a neighbor, and they let their kid get ahold of it. It's come back in wrinkled, worn condition.  But i knew that before i lent it. It would be worth a search on ebay or amazon or Tales of Wonder to find a copy to give her.  She might just get into it due to the nice presentation. (Did she like the first Terminator movie?  Tell her there are some parallels in this story...)

There is a more current trade. Covering from #138 about 10 issues and the 4th annual

Kirk G said:

There's been a single trade paperback collecting those two x-men issues with a cardboard cover. I lent mine to a neighbor, and they let their kid get ahold of it. It's come back in wrinkled, worn condition.  But i knew that before i lent it. It would be worth a search on ebay or amazon or Tales of Wonder to find a copy to give her.  She might just get into it due to the nice presentation. (Did she like the first Terminator movie?  Tell her there are some parallels in this story...)

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