MOTW: Wolverine Is Depicted as Vulnerable in "The Wolverine"

Photo Credit: FOX
July 22nd, 2013

Wolverine Is Depicted as Vulnerable in "The Wolverine"

The "X-Men" franchise has left fans wondering about the fate of Wolverine. The extremely popular character started out as a beast of rage. Over the years, he has come to be seen as a father figure, loyal brother, and loving boyfriend. "The Wolverine," opening July 26, is directed in James Mangold's classic style. Mangold's prior box office hits, such as "3:10 to Yuma" and "Cop Land," are portrayals of tough guys struggling with their inner beasts. Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine, is no different in "The Wolverine," as he is portrayed as contemplative while coming to terms with his violent tendencies and tragic past. Mangold has said his goal is to depict Wolverine as a man who is figuring himself out and wrestling with his violence, anger, and loss.

"X-Men," released in 2000, introduced Logan as a loner who earns his living in cage-fighting competitions. His loner spirit is made clear to viewers by his reluctance to team up with the X-Men. Logan's first instinct upon regaining consciousness after being taken to the X-Mansion is to flee. The opportunity to find out about his forgotten past coaxes him to remain. During the film, it becomes clear that Logan can be a team player. Even though he is a worthy X-Man, once Professor Xavier reveals that a clue to Logan's past can be found at Alkali Lake, Logan leaves the X-Mansion alone to find answers. For the audience, it seems Wolverine is a lone wolf, powerful ally, and wanderer in search of answers.

"X2," released in 2003, gave hints of Wolverine's sensitive side. After being disappointed by his visit to Alkali Lake, Logan returns to the X-Mansion where he is tasked with caring for the mutant children who live there. It is not the sort of job Logan seems suited for, and it shows the trust Professor X has in Logan. When the mansion is attacked by Stryker, Logan fights Stryker's troops to save the children. He insists his fellow X-Men leave the mansion before he, himself, has a chance to escape. His sacrifice puts him at further risk. At this point, Wolverine seems to have chosen to become part of the pack.

During his time watching the children, Logan has nightmares about the Weapon X program. He also begins to get glimpses of the past he has forgotten. Later in the film, Wolverine reverts to his loner tendencies when he enters Stryker's base of operations alone, even though there are several allies in his company. When he sees his own claw marks on the walls inside the base's laboratory, Logan's memory of being used for experimentation returns. Again, Wolverine finds himself battling Stryker alone. Regardless of the heroic acts Logan performs on his team's behalf, he is still quite introverted. However, when Phoenix dies, he mourns her death in the presence of Cyclops. In the end, viewers have a better sense of Wolverine's inner struggle, and they see that he still finds himself alone in times of peril, even though he has others to help him.

By the time "X-Men: The Last Stand" was released in 2006, Wolverine's character was more defined. He is still seen as tough and solitary, but there is evidence that he is devoted to his new family. Upon finding that Phoenix is not dead but under telepathic control, Logan becomes angry. Even when he realizes Phoenix has a dangerous alter ego, Logan refuses to indulge Phoenix's request that he kill her. Logan knows Phoenix loves him, and it is important to him. He is letting people break through his emotional defenses. Logan is further portrayed as a sensitive beast when he mourns the death of Professor X at the hands of Dark Phoenix. Ultimately, Phoenix begs Logan to save her. Wolverine tells Phoenix he loves her and then kills her. Fans of Wolverine are constantly reminded of his unshakable resolve, his inclination to roam alone, and his willingness to sacrifice himself.

Wolverine's character is more definitively revealed in the prequel, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," released in 2009. The film explores Wolverine's past in depth, beginning with his first incident of mutation when he unknowingly killed his father. The movie progresses through more than a century of Logan fighting as a soldier alongside his brother, who later betrays Logan. Betrayal by the people closest to him is a common theme in Logan's life. It is no wonder he became accustomed to relying solely on himself. The plot shows Logan cohabitating with his lover, Silverfox. The attack on Silverfox by Logan's brother spurs Wolverine to seek vengeance."X-Men Origins: Wolverine" is the rollercoaster ride of Wolverine's life, twisting and turning through loyalty, love, betrayal, and immense trauma. Although some fans welcome the complexities of the character played by Hugh Jackman, others long for the berserker Wolverine once represented.

Mangold is excited about his depiction of Wolverine as a tormented, vulnerable hero. The director pounced on the opportunity to make a movie about a character who is already defined but needs to find himself somewhere in the tangle of his own emotions. Mangold drew on his knowledge of film noir and westerns to make "The Wolverine," which is intriguingly appealing. Mangold has certainly had success in this arena, such as with his hit movie, "Walk the Line." Regardless of how fans feel about Wolverine's sensitivity or vulnerability, it is doubtful any of them will want to miss "The Wolverine."