Melanie Schmitz
August 04, 2013 10:00 am

Okay. Here’s the deal. I’m a huge Marvel fan. Sure, I grew up watching Saturday morning Batman cartoons and dreamed of growing up to be a masked DC comics crusader/villainess like Catwoman, but as the years flew by, I slowly began turning consistently to my favorite Marvel fall-backs, Captain America, The Hulk and the amazing Spiderman.

More recently, new and longtime Marvel fans have been treated to an abundance of innovative, meaty, dedicated films based on favorite and relatively lesser-known heroes like Tony Stark’s Iron Man and Clint Barton’s sharp-shooting Hawkeye. Last summer’s blockbuster hit The Avengers drew in a record breaking $1.5 billion dollars, marking it down in the history books as the third highest grossing film, runner-up only to James Cameron’s Titanic and Avatar. Numbers 5 and 28 go to the third installments of the Iron Man series and the original Spider-Man saga. Marvel, it seems, is having one hell of a decade… or two.

Last weekend, fans of the comic franchise were treated to a character update in the form of the film The Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman. The release was met with mixed emotions, some proclaiming it the “best of the Wolverine movies yet”, others upset with certain omitted information originally in the comic books. Whatever the case, fans have largely eaten it up. If you’re unsure whether to drop a heinous amount of money on a ticket at your local theater, here are a few persuasive words as to why you should:

1. Hugh Jackman. I can’t express exactly what it is about Hugh that makes him so appealing… except his smoldering gaze, his heroic/anti-heroic behavior, and his abs. Good god, those abs. Allow me to divulge, in detail, the secret to Jackman’s ridiculous form: sources claim that Jackman was “displeased” with the way his body looked in the last film, Origins, and so began a workout regimen this time around that would tire even Atlas. In addition to copious amounts of gym time, Jackman also followed a strict diet: 36 hours prior to any shirtless scenes (which, let’s face it, is pretty much the entire movie), he would stop consuming liquids in order to tighten and add muscle definition. He later claimed that this left him dizzy and fatigued but that he was happy about the end result and thought it had been worth it. Bless. Probably not the healthiest thing to do, but I’d hate to be the one to scold Wolverine.

2. The Bullet Train. Without giving away any spoilers, there’s a specific scene in the movie where Logan is forced to defend his “friend” by counter-attacking a group of jerks atop a speeding bullet train, making its way to the south of Japan. How they shot the scene, the tricky maneuvers necessary to later make it seem plausible, all of these details director James Mangold got right. Many of the additional fight scenes were directed with inspiration from old Westerns like ‘Shane’ and Japanese Samurai films like 13 Assassins. Celebrate this fact because it appears that combination lends itself to one really awesome comic book movie. Kudos, Mr. Mangold. Kudos.

3. The Pre-Movie Trailers. Yeah, yeah, I know. Trailers are for sissies. They’re the boring bits of the amazing superhero sandwich, blah blah blah. Here’s why you’re wrong: this time around, Marvel, or whomever was put in charge of marketing, made some fantastic decisions regarding ad placement; before The Wolverine can even stretch into full-swing, the reels have you rolling. The trailers kick off with a sampler of mediocre looking movies that may just prove to be a**-kickers, movies like ’47 Ronin’, an appropriately titled Samurai film (fitting for a pre-Wolverine trailer) and the much-Twittered-about Gravity with George Clooney and our dear Sandy Bullock flying away unhinged and alone into space. Just when you thought your heart couldn’t beat any faster, they whip out the new trailer for the next Percy Jackson film, Sea of Monsters. Call me biased, but I’ll see any movie with the dashing Nathan Fillion in it, along with that kid who played Adam from Supernatural, the talented Jake Abel (who totally deserved the role). The powers that be then lull you into a false sense of security with spots from this Fall’s new drama Sleepy Hollow, before punching you in the jaw and giving you a heart attack with a full length, official trailer for the next Thor film… complete with a flush-inducing scene featuring the beloved villain/hero Loki (played by accomplished Shakespearean actor Tom Hiddleston). Le sigh.

4. The Girl-Power. Once you get over the fact that Viper is seriously undercut in this Marvel adaptation, you’ll bask in the glow that is Yukio, handmaiden and playmate to Logan’s love interest, Mariko. Japanese native and resident butt-kicker Rila Fukushima wows the audience with sarcastic comebacks and real heart. She rounds out a relatively one-dimensional supporting cast with a take on Yukio that is multifaceted and seriously scary. In her opening scene, she greets the backwoods locals and a group of inexperienced hunters with a Samurai sword sharp enough to cut steel and promptly takes a guy’s chair out from underneath him with one flick of her wrist. She grounds Logan’s vengeful nature and acts more as a partner in non-crime rather than the pretty sidekick with a heart of gold.

5. The Humanity. Whether you’re a comic book fan or not, Marvel has succeeded in giving people hope when there was seemingly none available for the taking. In an early scene, Logan is shown saving an enemy WWII combatant from the terrors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb by taking the brunt of the force and shielding him with his own body. He keeps him safe in a well for what seems like days before finally deciding it’s safe enough to climb out. Later in the film, Logan tracks down a Brown Bear that had laid siege to a group of nasty-minded hunters after being shot by one of them. After realizing the bear’s pain, he reluctantly puts it out of its misery and confronts the hunters, scolding them for not properly finding the wounded animal (felled by an illegal poisoned arrow) and finishing the job. You go, Animal-Rights-Logan. The rest of the movie is rife with random acts of kindness that Marvel movies seem to be chock-full of, complete with a tear-jerker moment in which Logan spares his friend the pain of immortality by refusing to transfer his powers to the other man.

Whatever your opinion of comic books, try to make it out this weekend to see Marvel and James Mangold’s The Wolverine. In today’s world, we all need a little bit of Superhero in our lives. After seeing last summer’s The Avengers, my own father brought up a fantastic point about our desire for films like these: “People flock by the thousands to see these movies on opening weekend and every weekend after,” he declared. “We all just want to cling to the idea that, somewhere out there, maybe walking right amongst us, are heroes waiting to save us from ourselves and all of the chaos.”

…Unwitting heroes, perhaps, like The Wolverine, who responds to his enemy’s taunt, “A man can run out of things to care for, lose his purpose” by replying stonily, “…That day ain’t here yet.”

Fancy some popcorn with that?

All images courtesy of 20th Century Fox and Marvel Entertainment

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