I saw The Wolverine a little bit late, but managed to keep away from any spoilers. Turns out there was not really much to spoil. The thing that I was thinking about as I left the movie is how transparent the reason for the return to bone claws was.
If you want a truly epic tale of Wolverine losing his adamantium skeleton you need look no further than the comic books (I don’t know which one). Magneto rips out the metal in Wolverine’s body and even his healing factor struggles to repair the damage. Magneto couldn’t have appeared in the movie, but you see the potential storytelling there.
The removal of the claws in this movie fell flat for me. First, I knew they were going to grow back as bone. Losing them did not really seem like a big deal. Also, I knew about the next X-Men movie coming out. The Days of Future Past movie will feature characters from the First Class time line and the X-Men trilogy timeline. Wolverine is ageless as you can tell from the cameo Hugh Jackman made in the First Class movie.
So while James McAvoy will play Professor X as a young man and Patrick Stewart will play Professor X as an old man, Jackman gets to play both versions of Wolverine. How do you tell them apart? Well the Wolverine from the “future/present,” or the X-Men trilogy if you like, will have bone claws. I don’t mean to make the plot choice trivial in The Wolverine. The claws are iconic of Wolverine so taking them is a big deal, but you can see the arc-based reason for the choice.
They easily could have done a lot of other things, though I have to admit that it was clever in-universe. If the healing factor is a result of a mutation in his bone marrow, then breaking the claws to get access to the bone is pretty brilliant. The man has a skeleton made of one of the toughest fictional metals around. I think only vibranium and neutronium are considered stronger. So figuring out how to get access to the bone is pretty smart. Though in reality they could have just paid a mutant with magnetic powers, or designed some kind of super magnet to create an opening. Instead we get a cut-rate Silver Samurai with a dull sword that just gets really hot. I wasn’t a fan of the Silver Samurai in this movie, as you can tell.
At least The Wolverine set up the change in an epic way. We had a whole movie to establish the identifying mark for the next movie. Compare that to Jet Li’s The One where one of the guys just removes the upper portion of his jumpsuit so you know who is who. This little trick is used everywhere when you’re going to have two characters who look the same. One of them will have different clothes, a scar, or something else that can help identify them.
It is in the actions scenes that its hardest to see who is who. In action scenes, Wolverine’s claws would be out. At least this way of differentiating is not around all the time, though I bet they have different clothes in the movie too. Obviously, this is not the only reason that they went back to the bone claws. The whole thing could be solved by costume without changing something about Wolverine. I wouldn’t be surprised if they use the bone claws in some specific way.
Just on a final note, I am not sure if they did this knowingly, but I think they wanted to put a point on the fact that his skeleton is still metal. At the end when you see Magneto restrain him he has the bone claws out. He is still being held at bay, which lets us know that he still has a metal skeleton. I assumed as much, but I did contemplate that some people might have that question.