Only God Forgives The Wolverine
I had joked before seeing either film that I would recap them as one singular film. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. I am hilarious.
But some Marvel writer at some point will do an arc called “Only God Forgives The Wolverine.” Either that or “Only The Wolverine Forgives.”
Only God Forgives does share a few similar qualities with The Wolverine (White guys! In Asia! Crime! Ok, my premise is pretty flawed but I got some thoughts about both films I want to write out and you can watch me struggle as I attempt to tie it all together!), but it actually has more in common with quite a few Wolverine and/or Punisher comic book stories. Those stories usually play out with the outsider character (Wolverine, The Punisher, other non-comic characters that I have no frame of reference for) inhabiting a foreign locale and enjoying a peaceful life that’s ultimately upended by the need for capital V “Vengeance.”
It’s a clichéd fantasy, and I believe each film rejects it in its own way.
The Wolverine deals with a character whose only friends are a bear that’s as depressed as he is and a ghost lady. In fact, Logan’s bear friend probably has his own ghost-Jean Grey-bear that he sees visions of. He begrudingly goes to Japan to say goodbye to a WWII frenemy, Yashida. He finds a new love, saves that new love, and gets back on with his life. The film wisely avoids painting Logan as any kind of savior of the Japanese people or as someone who finds salvation in adopting the culture (as he has been in the comics). He might come out of the film with a plucky Japanese sidekick, but A) she can’t possibly replace Bearverine (the name I have just given his bear friend) and B) he’s still kind of grumbly and out of place in the world, but he’s at least going to ease up on the drinking and start shaving again. Japan is a backdrop to Wolverine’s drama, but it is never fetishized.
Only God Forgives almost immediately rejects our expectations for the the white outsider character as a hero and plays at putting that role in the hands of a local. Sure, Julian (Ryan Gosling) and his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) are playing their own game of revenge, but Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) IS vengeance. He’s justice. He exists to balance the scales. To right wrongs. But Chang is not a hero. He seems to be above that. No one is saved by Chang. He doesn’t offer it. He offers retribution, justice and forgiveness but never salvation. Life in his town is a gift that you can have taken away piece by piece, body part by body part. People are held responsible for their actions by this man.
I don’t have much to tie my flawed premise into a tidy knot, but…hey, more of my reactions!
I enjoyed each film and I’m enjoying reading reactions to both films. People seem to be universally surprised that they enjoyed The Wolverine and seem to be either offended by or bored by Only God Forgives. I definitely can count myself amongst the former, but find myself at odds with the latter group.
Also, Only God Forgives joins a small library of films that both my wife and I have enjoyed.
The post-credits scene for The Wolverine left me with high hopes for X-Men: Days of Future Past. Also, the fact that The Wolverine itself was treated like an actual film, rather than part of a franchise leads me to believe that Singer’s going to have some breathing room from Fox to make a good movie.
Part of me wishes that every filmmaker treated all their films as a shared universe and had a post credits scene where Bronson showed up to take on Chang. It’s a ridiculous notion, but who wouldn’t want to see England’s most famous criminal fight God?