“Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” – Andy Stanley
Superhero movies and mass destruction are dancing partners that no one can seem to breakup. Man of Steel, The Avengers, and X-Men: First Class are all films that cling tightly to the idea of worldwide dissolution. For a hero to be super, they must have something super to save, right? But what if that something is just a someone? A single life. A life that the world, safe and sound, doesn’t even care to notice. Is that enough to break up the waltz? I think it might be, because Wolverine just asked if he could cut in.
The Wolverine, the newest installment of the ever popular, if somewhat jumbled X-Men franchise, features Hugh Jackman as the popular mutant who just can’t seem to die. Instead of large-scale destruction and crashing skyscrapers though, we’re met with a small film that wins over with heart, not global mayhem.
At the beginning of Wolverine, the audience catches up with Logan (our hero’s street name), a vagabond still haunted by the events that conspired at the end of X-Men: The Last Stand. Not long into the film, Logan is whisked away to the nation of Japan, fulfilling the dying wish of a man he hasn’t seen in almost seventy years. There, our character stumbles upon a hierarchy of greed and corruption, which almost instantaneously converges on a beautiful young woman named Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Logan quickly rushes to protect her, only to find out that he is no longer invincible. Now, our troubled mutant must be willing to put everything, including his life, on the line to save this innocent woman.
This theme of sacrifice is summed up in a dream sequence between Logan and his recently deceased flame, Jean Grey. Grey tells our hero that what he is doing won’t matter. Mariko is only one person. Is she really worth the risk? Herein lies the central idea of Wolverine. Is a single life, in a maze of countless faces, really all that important?
Now, to be straight with you, The Wolverine isn’t a perfect film. It’s actually quite uneven at times. There are moments when I felt like I was watching the best the X-Men series had to offer. There were other times when I felt like I was viewing some of the more weaker points in the franchise (take the villain for example). For all its bumps and bruises though, The Wolverine succeeds because of its heart.
The beauty of Wolverine lies in the filmmakers ability to narrow the story’s focus. There’s something intriguing about a superhero risking his life, not for all of humanity, but for someone he only briefly knows. It’s in this sense that Wolverine gives us a more realistic, challenging, human picture of our world.
It can be extremely easy to buy into the idea that if we’re not saving hundreds of lives from poverty or overturning corrupt governments in the third world, that we’re not doing it right. I think The Wolverine displays a richer picture than these ideas take into account though.
While we should all strive to do great things, big things, earth shaking things, sacrifice isn’t measured in outcome, but in the correct use of the opportunities we’ve been given. You might not be at a place to rid Africa of malaria, but you can change one person’s life by purchasing a mosquito net. Maybe you can’t help everyone in your neighborhood, but it’s possible that you can offer to babysit for the single mom down the street. It doesn’t matter whether you are a stay-at-home parent, fast food employee, or CEO of are large corporation, you can make the world a better place.
The opening quote in this piece and The Wolverine have much in common. Do for someone what you wish you could do for the entire world. You might not save an entire population from destruction, but maybe you could save just one person who’s been placed in your path.
Excuse me global destruction, can we cut into this dance?
The Wolverine is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.
4 Stars out of 5