The Wolverine is a film with its sites set on eternity. We have a hero who cannot die and an aging man who is desperate to avoid death. What they have in common is the lack of a good reason to live forever.
The Wolverine is the next story in Marvel Comic’s X-Men saga, picking up where its third installment, X-Men: The Last Stand left off. The blade-fisted Logan, once again played by Aussie icon Hugh Jackman, has retreated into the wilderness after the death of girlfriend-turned villain Jean Grey. He’s vowed he will ‘never hurt anyone again’ but trouble has a way of finding this bad-tempered mutant. It arrives in the form of Yukio, a female Japanese warrior who’s been sent to fetch him to the bedside of a dying millionaire.
Shingen Yashida owes his life to Logan for rescuing him from the Nagasaki nuclear blast and, aware of how easily Wolverine shrugged off that deadly radiation, he offers to give him a gift that has always been out of reach. Yashida’s company has the technology to take away Logan’s super-healing powers, allowing him to grow old and die a natural death. But is it any surprise that sinister forces are circling around the suggestion? Make way for ninjas, massive metal samurai and a mutant femme fatale you wouldn’t want to make the mistake of kissing…
The Wolverine is as packed full of punch-power as every other X-Men outing to date, so if that’s what you’re looking for in a movie you certainly won’t be sorry. It’s also the sixth time Jackman has played the iconic DC character and, given his long-time fascination with Logan, he was keen to sink his claws into a script that tackled the Wolverine’s struggle with eternity. “He realizes everyone he loves dies, and his whole life is full of pain,” Jackman says. “He can’t die really. He just wants to get away from everything.”
The ‘burden of immortality’ is The Wolverine’s central theme according to director James Mangold. Logan dreads going on forever with only death for company and dreams of being with his deceased lover. Life has lost its attraction. By contrast, the villain (no spoilers, I promise!) thinks that endless life is the end worth striving for:
“We were always told a life with no end could have no meaning – [but] it’s the only life that can.”
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But Christians wouldn’t have a hard time understanding Logan’s pain. An endless existence without purpose or relationships might sound attractive, but it’s a fair summary of what the Bible presents as Hell. The value of the everlasting life Jesus offers actually resides in who we spend it with:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Jesus lived for His people and died for them; there could be no more loving person to spend an eternity with.
Sadly The Wolverine never rises that high. It does finish with Logan choosing to return to a life of purpose. But that’s left so vaguely defined it amounts to little more than, “It’s good to believe in… er… something!” Even the surprise twist in the credits – yes, make sure you don’t run out – only delivers the setup for a sequel with more of the same in 2014. But what Jesus offers is more than continuing pain justified by purpose. His return will be a finale, where pain itself perishes under the gaze of a loving friend.