Wolverine’s Healing Factor: Enough is Enough

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ripoffLast week, the long awaited trailer for Fox’s The Wolverine (which may as well have the subtitle “We Know we Made a Whoopsie on That Last one so We’re Adapting the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Comic Now Please Don’t Hate us Anymore”) finally dropped, and in its scant two minute running time it reveals quite a bit about the movie.

Firstly, that by the looks of things it will probably be terrible, but more importantly that one of the main characters in the film will be a scientist of some sort who Wolverine saved from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (Most likely, it could be Nagasaki) by throwing the fellow down a hole and then human shielding him from the atomic firestorm. Yep.

This is about where the trailer lost me, and apparently I’m one of the few people on the internet who thinks this is incredibly stupid, and I’d like to talk to you for a minute about why. It’s not because it’s unrealistic. For one thing, the day I argue realism in a comic book movie is a day I betray one of the principles I enjoy championing the most (that trying to make a comic book movie realistic is a misguided venture at best) and for another, plenty of people survived Hiroshima (one poor soul even survived BOTH atomic blasts). No, the reason this gets on my increasingly less proverbial tits is because it’s just the latest example of a nasty tendency Wolverine writers, both in the movies and comics, have gotten into lately.

You see, when Wolverine first stormed onto the comic page all those years ago, his healing factor, as far as I know, was never equated with him being immortal, the way it is today. It was really just what it sounds like, the ability to heal wounds faster than normal. He was hardly surviving atomic blasts, being trapped under an iceberg for six months and surviving through self-cannibalization or being torn in half. So what happened?

Well, two things. Firstly, he got popular. And second, he found himself in the hands of a parade of progressively worse writers who felt the key to said popularity was his ability to survive anything you can throw at him, and Wolverine became more and more defined by his healing abilities, which slowly morphed into him being able to take more punishment than Bugs Friggin Bunny.

And somebody needs to put a stop to this, because it’s getting silly.

Not because it’s unrealistic, but because…..why?

I want you to really consider that. Why? Why does the catastrophe that Wolvie saves this fellow from HAVE to be Hiroshima? Why not wolverine43-017-018just take a bullet for him? Or a grenade? Why does Wolverine have to prove his toughness by enduring one of the single greatest man-made catastrophes in human history? Why is Wolverine’s character suddenly defined by his healing factor? The character has somehow become a walking lesson in excess and shark jumping, constantly surviving more and more contrived amounts of damage to prove how tough he is.

But prove to whom, exactly? We, the readers/viewers? Do we really need proof that Wolverine can survive having an A-Bomb explode in his face? Is that what we think makes a good character now? Is this really what made Wolverine one of the most popular characters in comics? Because more and more, Wolverine is becoming less of a character and more of a cliche, a Mary Sue of the highest calibre who can survive anything and kill anyone. It’s almost as though he’s in a dick measuring contest, except no one else is there. So really it’s just him waving his dick around.

What’s really happened is that Wolverine, even before the movies came out, has become an action movie star. He’s gone from a short, burly man-beast to a sex symbol. From a tough little runt with a bad past to a brooding bad-boy. In a lot of ways, he’s gone from Die Hard’s John McClane, a scrappy survivor who largely makes it by because everyone underestimates him, to Live Free or Die Hard‘s John McClane, an unwitting satire of himself who punches out jet fighters.

Wolverine has the capacity to be an interesting character. It’s been done. But only when the writer doesn’t lose sight of what made him interesting in the first place. And him being a swaggering, invincible action star, a sex symbol and male icon….isn’t it. We have enough of those.

7 Comments
  1. Jarrad says

    Well the nuke thing to me actually seems plausible with wolverine. An atomic place emits force which will is super hot and would burn and turn a corpse to dust rather quick. if wolverines cells are constantly regenerating then the heat would not have a charred effect. secondly it emits radiation which breaks down the cells of the human body. if wolverines cells are forever in a state of regeneration he would overcome this easily. Obviously this is in comic book mentality not real real life lol

  2. Thomas says

    So Wolverine beat up the angel of death in order to stop being a Mary Sue?

  3. paxaro says

    You know. You don’t need to watch it.
    I did not enjoy what Marvel delivered so far (Avangers was one of the most stupid and embarrassing films I have seen), but I do not run around spoiling that movie for other people. I can fully understand and appreciate that people are so passionate about it.

    Now I love all X-Men films (yes, even that ORIGINS film everyone on the net will tell you is terrible) and I hate reading articles like yours. You know NOTHING about this film, yet you start guessing and start polarising against it. Sorry… but that is nowhere true journalism is about.

    The most simple solution: Do not go to see the film! But don’t spoil this experience for people who actually love those films.

    I could not care less about the comics. Never read them, when X-Men was released in 2000 I was forced to watch it by friends and what I experienced was an awesome action film with critical themes and an extraoridinary cast.

    Wolverine would just say “Go, fuck yourself.” But I would simply ask you to enjoy the films you like, and let people who like those films, enjoy them.

  4. DeadManDann says

    I actually understand your complaints concerning his increasingly powerful healing factor, but this film is clearly addressing this very issue by toning it down– so what’s the problem?

  5. DeadManDann says

    Did you miss the fact that his healing factor seems to be severely weakened for much of the film? Also, having his regenerative capabilities so strong serves as a dramatic tool to explore the emotional and psychological toll semi-immortality can take. None of what you’ve said is an actual flaw (though it CAN be, depending on how it’s addressed/used)– it’s obviously just a personal grievance of yours, so why act as if the entire film is going to suck because of it?

    1. Thomas says

      I never said the entire film was going to suck because of his healing factor. It’s probably going to suck for a lot of reasons, but you’ll notice I’m largely talking about Wolverine’s healing factor in the context of the comics AND the films.

      As for them toning his healing abilities down….doesn’t that say something in and of itself? When a movie has to contrive a reason for the character to basically have a handicap, or spend a certain amount of screentime depowering him, isn’t that maybe an indication that either
      a: they knew they painted themselves into a corner and made him too powerful, or realized that once you show your character surviving a nuke, creating any kind of tension from that point is impossible.
      OR
      b: lacked the creativity to find ways to create tension beyond the threat of physical danger.

  6. Harris says

    Marvel has made a conscious effort to reverse this in the comics. There was a storyline a few years back where it was revealed that Wolverine had died many many times but had managed to defeat the angel of death to prevent it. A bunch of stuff happened and it was made so that Logan would no longer be given the chance to fight for his soul and would no longer be able to recover from seemingly fatal situations. While not the most elegant way of solving the problem, it has been a message to future writers to cool it with the kind of thing you’re talking about here. Obviously it doesn’t affect the films though.

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