I went to see The Wolverine last night, and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t that I thought the film was going to be bad, I was just surprised to see that women played such a big role–and not just as a sexy villain or damsel in distress.I’ve mentioned before that women in comic book movies are kind of a mixed bag. While they’ve come a long way from just being the love interest/damsel in distress and are also the heroes or love interests with awesome careers, there’s still an element that comic book movies are meant for men.
While I’m not going to call The Wolverine a feminist film by any means, it was a nice surprise to see that women were such a major part of the story, and not just as a prize of sorts. Before reading further, here’s a quick summary of The Wolverine for those not familiar with the X-Men/Wolverinefilms as I can’t write one myself without giving too much away and pointing out differences between the comics and the movies the way my inner Comic Book Guy wants to. If you’ve seen the film, you’re good to go.
The Wolverine has four major women: Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Mariko (Tao Okamodo), Yukio (Rila Fukushima), and Dr. Green/Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). Now, I know there may be some people who are confused as to why I’m celebrating these choices when Jean Grey haunts Wolverine and spends her time in the film in a lacy white nightie, Mariko is a damsel in distress and gets kidnapped more than once, and Viper’s powers are sexualized (she uses her tongue a lot, I’ll leave it at that.) Again, I’m not saying that The Wolverine is a feminist film by any means, but without these women, there would be no story. And the women put twists on the tropes.
Jean in a nightie is more than just serving as eye candy to the men in the audience–it’s a symbolic choice, as she is dead. She is at peace, and the white suggests a rebirth as she was downright evil in the last X-Men movie she appeared in. Mariko, while initially presented as a docile, innocent woman, is not a typical damsel in distress. Unlike when Rogue (a mutant with the ability to really mess people up by stealing their memories/powers, mind you) got kidnapped in the first X-Menfilm and screamed her head off while waiting for Cyclops and Wolverine to save her, Mariko fights back. She’s not afraid to stand up to Wolverine, either. She is proficient in knife throwing, and is super important to the climax of the film, which I’m not about to give away as the film just opened last weekend.
While Viper is sexy, she is not one to be messed with. She is a mutant who is immune to every poison known to man, and is responsible for infecting Wolverine, who is supposed to be an immortal quick healer, making him invincible. She is also a brilliant biochemist, not just a woman who uses sex to get what she wants. She is cold, she is uncaring and doesn’t have a change of heart at the end, which is refreshing. I was also impressed with her final fight scene, after expecting to be disappointed (again, the film just opened last weekend, I can’t give too much away!)
I haven’t even touched on Yukio, who may be my new favorite character. A mutant who is able to foresee death, she is also an assassin who is very proficient with a sword. While it’s easy to dismiss her as an anime character come to life, she is not a stereotypical giggly school girl meant to annoy Wolverine–she’s a serious warrior meant to assist him, yet is not cold and heartless, she has personality, which is rare–female sidekicks either have to be stone cold bitches or goofy cartoon characters. Yukio hits the balance. At one point in the film, she tells Wolverine that she is his bodyguard, and is also a decent part of the climax, which I loved. She’s also featured on the Russian theatrical poster (pictured, left) along with Viper–however, unlike Viper, who appears to be modeling the latest in green raincoats, Yukio is ready for a fight, not gazing adoringly at Wolverine.
While women still have a ways to go in terms of comic book movies, I feel that The Wolverine is a step in the right direction, perhaps taking a cue from the Joss Whedon directed The Avengers, where the women actually fought instead of just being eye candy princess-y types. While the audience for comic book movies will always be largely men, it’s nice to see that they’re realizing that women like comics and comic book movies too. (I’m pretty sure they included a scene of Wolverine getting a bath and haircut to appeal to women, not gonna lie.) Maybe soon, we will get that Black Widow or Wonder Woman movie!
So, LivLunatics, what’s your take on the women of The Wolverine? Are they a step in the right direction in terms of women in comic book movies?