Wolverine’s Healing Factor: Enough is Enough


Last 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.

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