Sam Strange Remembers: THE WOLVERINE

Wolverine wakes up a lot.

I've wrestled with this Wolverine guy before with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The film made money, but no one liked it. Normally that'd be fine, but quality has somehow become a matter of great importance with these dumb superhero movies.

It didn't used to matter if you made a good or bad movie, so long as it was a sequel to something people liked. Now, if you make a real stinker, it will still make a billion dollars, but no one will come to the next one. So you have to entertain people or you lose future dough. Since there's another X-Film coming down the pike, my new Wolverine film only exists to erase everyone's bad memory of the first one so they are able to get excited for X-Men: Days of the Past of the Future That Have Passed or Might be Avoided.

The Wolverine takes place years after X-Men 3. For those who don't know, X-Men 3 is the one where all the mutants die. One of those mutants was Jean Grey, stabbed in the guts by Wolverine - even though he loved her - even though she already had a boyfriend.

When we first meet Wolverine, he has just tunneled through the center of the Earth in an effort to get some Chinese food. Unfortunately, he got confused and ended up in Japan instead, where they have never even heard of General Tso. Before he can turn around, he notices the sound of a nuclear bomb (one of his mutant powers is being able to sense nuclear bombs despite not knowing what they are) and finds a sole Japanese guy to shield from the nuclear holocaust which follows. They stay down there for many years while time scrubs the area of radiation. When it's over they're really good friends.

He wakes from this nightmare next to Jean Grey, who waits for him in Mutant Heaven. They talk about stuff like any other couple, and then he inexplicably stabs her in the guts again, and she's like "Goddamn it, this is supposed to be Mutant Heaven, yet every night you show up and stab my guts, Logan!"

He wakes from this nightmare and finds himself in the wilderness with long hair and a beard. He has trouble figuring out which reoccurring nightmare he's experiencing but then remembers it's his actual life: a self-imposed exile for his mercy killing of Jean Grey.

It's not so bad, though. He takes out his angry energy slashing trees and hangs out with his best friend, a big bear who is in a self-imposed exile for mercy killing a type of elk that was on the endangered species list.

One day, Wolverine finds his bear buddy laying injured on the forest floor with a poisoned dark stuck in his back. The bear asks Wolverine to pull out the arrow. But Wolverine's bear-ese is rusty, and he mistakenly thinks the bear wants a mercy killing. Though it breaks his heart, Wolverine sadly acquiesces this mournful request. The bear dies super pissed off.

But he's not the only one who's angry. Wolverine follows the arrow's scent back to town and dishes revenge on the hunter who put it into his bear pal. After cutting his head off, Wolverine realizes all the witnesses in the bar and cuts their heads off, too. Then he screams in pain, having failed to curb his murderous tendencies again. The scream uses up all his oxygen and he passes out.

He wakes from this nightmare next to Jean Grey. After stabbing her guts, he wakes from that nightmare on an airplane to Japan. A mutant has kidnapped him so that he may say goodbye to the Japanese soldier he saved in Hiroshima long ago. He's not very happy about his situation, but there are like 12 hours left on the flight, so he goes back to sleep to take his anger out on Jean Grey's guts.

In Japan, Wolverine is subjected to a bath and grooming session with two hot old ladies. This bruises his dignity, but they make it up to him by throwing in a little special massage action and shaving his beard so it looks like two big mutton chops meeting at the chin, with just a hint of 5 O'Clock shadow in the 'stache area.

Now that he looks handsome again, he is ready to meet the now elderly and dying Japanese soldier, his hot granddaughter, her douche bag boyfriend, his bigoted son, and his cold, sterile, and certainly villainous nurse. Wolverine takes one look at all this family drama and combines it with the old man's declining health, and emotionally prepares his soul for another mercy killing by sharpening his blades and asking the guy, "Neck or heart, bub?"

But that's not what the old man wants. Instead, he claims to have invented a way to kill Wolverine and thus release him into Mutant Heaven where he can finally be with Jean Grey. In return, Wolverine just needs to hand over his healing abilities. Wolverine looks at this ticket for absolution, this one chance for the release he has always longed for and says no, mentally reminding himself to spend a couple more years in self-exile to help square this brief abandonment of heroic principles.

Wolverine wakes from this nightmare at the old guy's funeral. Somehow Jean Grey knew he was going to be attending a formal event, so she helps him dress before he stabs her guts. Like all funerals, it's pretty boring at first. But then Wolverine notices some of the monks have Yakuza tattoos, so he kills one. Suddenly Yakuza are all over the place slicing and shooting people like it's no big deal. They want to kidnap the dead Japanese guy's daughter. She's kind of pretty, so Wolverine tries to stop them. He walks right into their bullets, but instead of not mattering, they hurt really bad. It takes him about twenty bullets to finally learn to stop doing that. Luckily, that gives him enough time to rescue the girl and take her to a love motel where he passes out from blood loss.

Back in Mutant Heaven, Jean Grey jealously disses Wolverine's new Japanese girlfriend, so he stabs her guts.

Wolverine wakes from this nightmare just as a veterinarian student takes the last bullet from his body. No one in the room is really clear on how the bullets can hurt but not kill him and to what extent they slow him down, so it isn't discussed.

The next day, Wolverine and the girl get on a bullet train to a secret house in southern Japan. Unfortunately, the train is lousy with Yakuza guys. Due to his weird healing deficiencies, Wolverine gets really tired of cutting their heads off, so he moves to the top of the train and lets physics do all that grunt work for him.

Wolverine wakes from this nightmare in southern Japan where he learns to make a living chopping trees. He and the girl fall in love and he begins to learn eastern customs.

Wolverine wakes from this nightmare with the girl kidnapped and taken back to northern Japan. He goes to sleep and wakes from this nightmare at her house where her dad is trying to kill her but a bunch of ninjas want to kill her more. Meanwhile, Wolverine discovers that he has a robot cockroach on his heart which is robbing his ability to heal. So he performs Seppuku, convincing the cockroach that he is dead, which in turn convinces the cockroach to commit Seppuku, which suddenly brings Wolverine back to life.

Wolverine wakes from this nightmare at the top of a big Asian tower built on the edge of a cliff by a blind architect. It's a pretty bad situation made worse by the fact that he is strapped to a chair with his claws stuck out. Before him stands the smirking evil nurse from earlier in the film, but now she's dressed like a comic book villain. She has a snake tongue and kills people by licking venom onto her fingernail and then stabbing them in the neck with a completely unrelated machete.

There's also a giant robot samurai made of the same metal as Wolverine's claws. First he takes out Snake Lady by knocking her over a railing. She falls far enough to kill a normal person. But she is a Snake Person. And like all snakes, she can shrug off injuries by shedding her skin. While she's doing that, Wolverine ties a noose around her neck and throws her over yet another railing. Having miscalculated her weight, this pops her head right off instead of just breaking her neck.

Before Wolverine can mourn yet another forced mercy killing, the Silver Samurai is upon him. By heating up a sword, the Silver Samurai is able to cut Wolverine's claws off. They fall over many railings in their epic battle. Eventually, Wolverine grabs the sword and cuts the Samurai's head off, revealing the decidedly not dead old Japanese soldier guy underneath. Still not defeated, the guy drills holes into Wolverine's claw stubs in an effort to steal his healing ability. This was just a shot in the dark and turns out to have no basis in reality, so there's really nothing stopping Wolverine from throwing him off a mountain.

All this makes Wolverine very tired and he passes out, waking up yet again in Mutant Heaven. But now things are different. He no longer wants to see Jean. All the mercy killing he did in Japan finally made Wolverine realize that he is the best at what he does, though what he does isn't very nice. So he says goodbye by stabbing her guts one last time and twists the claws with a mercy lie: "I love Eugene. I always have." Jean Grey is shocked and hurt and really confused about who this Eugene is. Hiding in the closet, Cyclops is like, "Fucking finally."

Wolverine wakes from this nightmare in an American airport where his new resolve to mercy kill his ass off immediately gets tested by Magneto and Professor X, who want him to go back in time to convince young versions of themselves to go kill giant robots in the far future. Wolverine has no idea what any of those words mean, but he's totally in.

(three stars)