Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I enjoyed X-Men: First Class. Really. It’s a good movie. I dug how it was all 1960’s style and how it tried to capture more of the feel of the original X-Men comic book than Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men from the 80’s. Because you know, let’s face it: that original comic book was pretty weird and getting that into a digestible form isn’t easy to do!

I suppose my biggest gripe about X-Men: First Class--at the time--was that they did that thing where they didn’t do anything to contradict the movies that had come before it, but still sort of made it a reboot. Which seemed to me to make it only a kind of half reboot. And that bummed me out. Why even hamper yourself? Go nuts and use whoever you want in the movie, recast everyone, etc.

Because I’ve liked the X-Men movies, but I haven’t loved them, not as much as I should given what an X-Men fan I am. I think X2: X-Men United is great; there was a good movie in X-Men: The Last Stand somewhere in there and X-Men Origins: Wolverine is under-rated. But ultimately something just didn’t feel like it ‘delivered’ with the X-men movies the way I wanted them too. So if First Class was going to be a reboot I wasn’t scared to have them just start from scratch.

The Wolverine though? I had moderate expectations about its success. It's surpassed my expectations by such a wide margin that I'm embarrassed that I ever doubted the entire franchise.

Simply put, The Wolverine is a love letter to every hardcore Wolverine fan. Like most comic book movies, I’m not saying everything that happens on screen is taken right from the comic. But the feel of the comic, the style of action, everything…it’s not just a good movie and it’s not just a good Wolverine movie…it’s BOTH.

When you’re reading Wolverine, it’s a little bit bleaker. A little bit grittier. There’s still hope but it isn’t as bright and shiny as it is when Charles Xavier is given Wolvie a pep talk. There’s always betrayal and manipulation. And in the end, it always comes down to the man doing what he does best: going berserker rage on whatever gets in his way. Not only does this movie get all that, but it also gets the sort of strange, quiet nobility of a guy that the world has tried to make into a monster and doesn’t want to be.

It does all of that, but all of that isn’t even what impresses me. Ready for this?

Other reviews were saying this, but I couldn’t have really understood until I saw it for myself: The Wolverine redeems the entire franchise. It makes everything that’s happened in X-Men: The Last Stand seem cool, interesting and organic, instead of disjointed and out of sync with what you know of the X-Men universe. Simply put, it makes you love X-Men again.

This is no small task for sure, but the touches they put into connecting the film with X-Men: The Last Stand--very mild, mind you--are just tantalizing enough to make you want more and to feel like the story isn’t over. This is a high bar but one that I think that X-Men: Days of Future Past is set to capitalize on.

So I guess to summarize this review up in a nutshell? Watching The Wolverine is the equivalent of having 20th Century Fox delightfully smack you in the head and yell "We apologize for nothing. It’s back on, DEAL with it!" And I really have to give them credit for that. These are gutsy moves, production wise, but I’m impressed so far with the way they’ve been handled. For now, I suspect the eyes of Marvel fans will be re-glued to X-Men rumor mills to catch a glimpse of what’s to come. And rightfully so…