Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Real Racism: 42 & Dimensions Of the American Dream

One of the first lessons we learned in film criticism was that every movie is particularly situated within a historical context: there is a reason why a film is being made now, and not five years ago, or five years from now, there are certain cultural "ingredients" in the formula of a film--why it's made the way it's made--which provides a culture with the catharsis it needs. Brian Helgeland's 42 relates to us the story of famed, first African-American Major League baseball player in the US, Jackie Robinson, his struggle and the struggles of those who stood with him and how those who stood against him lost. Why are we being told this story today? Simple: it directly conflicts with the story being fed to us by the media.
"In a game divided by color, he made us see greatness." That's the way it should be, that talent, skill, determination, and raw ambition can break down any barrier falsely created between people in the brotherhood of humanity. Jackie Robinson is an American Legend, not only because of his skills and talents, not only because of his incredible battles he relentlessly fought on the field and off because of the color of his skin, but for both. It's not just the one or the other that makes a great American, but the personal and the professional battle one wages which inspires their fellow Americans and burns their story upon our hearts. This is a great story for everyone to watch, because Jackie Robinson isn't just a modern father of the Black population in America, Jackie Robinson is a modern father for all Americans, because his story is our story, and his success is our success. The re-telling of his story today, of all times, is meant to unite us together as a country, not divide us along lines of color.
As long-time readers of this blog know, when the first trailer came out, I dreaded the film; why? It's not because of racism, especially as the film defines it, but because of liberal-media brainwashing, and the same holds true for why I was so reluctant to watch Beasts of the Southern Wild, a radically pro-capitalist, pro-America film. Liberals have beat the drum so relentlessly that all Black Americans must be Democrats, that seeing the trailer, I thought, this must be a comparison with Obama and trying to indoctrinate us that a socialist can play the capitalist game of baseball, too, just turning Moneyball upside-down. I am so perfectly grateful and humble to confess how totally wrong I was,.... 
Harrison Ford stars as Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers who decides he's going to bring a Black player into his club and convinces his staff to help him look for the right man, finally deciding upon Robinson. Why would Rickey risk so much trouble, scandal and social standing to debunk the "social norms" of the time? Initially, Rickey tells his staff that the Black community goes to watch baseball, and the American dollar isn't white or black, it's green, and he wants to tap that market. That's absolutely correct, recognizing the "purchasing power" of a demographic is directly linked to their political power, and if you don't believe me, you don't remember how the boycotts staged by our colonial ancestors strained the British Parliament (and boycott is a power directly referenced in the film). Later, when they are really facing troubles, Robinson asks Rickey directly why Rickey brought him into the club, and Rickey relates that there was a talented player he knew but didn't do anything to help him then, so he was making up for it by helping Robinson (we will watch the clip below when we talk about Jackie). Was Rickey wrong in not helping that player when he was younger? That's a tempting question to ask, but the best answer is another question: Was Rickey in a position to help that player, or any other player, at that point? No, and therein we find another underlying, pro-capitalist theme of the film, that those on top--such as Branch Rickey--are obligated to help those on the bottom/right the wrongs they have seen as they have worked their way up. Such a situation begs for comparison with other films we have seen as of late: for example, Tony Stark leaving that awesome garage to little Harley for helping Tony out when he was so desolate in Iron Man 3; or Captain Pike giving Kirk a second chance in Star Trek Into Darkness; Burt and Anton including Jane in their act in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and Ralph bringing in the retired game figures into his game in Wreck-It Ralph. On the other hand, we can see the exact opposite happening in Pain and Gain, when Daniel knows he wants to "leave America a better place," but really just leaves America with more corpses, which is also what we see in Spring Breakers. This is how we can say that the story of Jackie Robinson is also the story of us, of American capitalism, of an example of a broken system--our race relations--and the story of the fixing of that system with our common interests uniting us through the greatness of our people, in this case, Jackie Robinson and the one, single white man who risked everything to right that wrong, and continued to do so.
There can be no doubts at all that this is a solidly pro-capitalist film, not only because Rickey utilizes his own capital to become Robinson's patron, but because Robinson is directly benefited by that capital as evidenced by his ability to marriage Rachel. Before we get too far into the film, let's start analyzing the traditional symbols of the "motherland" as evidenced by Rachel, and the "economy" as we see in Jackie. As you know, women of child-bearing age symbolize "the motherland" because a country gives "birth" to us and who we are, just as our mother gave birth to us. Intensely aware of the reality of the situation, the film gives us both a false example of how Rachel could be a motherland image, and then the genuine example. 
It's so subtle the way the film does it, but when Jackie knows he's going to be on the Dodgers, he calls Rachel--our first introduction to her character--and tells her, "We've done everything right, we've played by the rules, will you marry me?" and Jackie's right, up to that point, they have played by the rules, with Rachel finishing college and Jackie working at his skills in baseball so they can have a secure, financially independent future. But now, their game has changed, and so, too, have the rules, and their stadium is a far larger arena then either of them could have imagined, so "playing by the rules" isn't going to cut it anymore; they have to adapt their strategy because the game has changed, and that's the game of social change. It would have been too easy for the film to not have realistically shown Rachel being reprimanded for using the White Only restroom, instead, it takes the time to create that situation for us so people like myself who were born after the Jim Crow laws were abolished see the deeper dimensions of REAL RACISM, of one race, Whites, putting themselves above another group of people simply because the color of their skin is black. According to member of the liberal media and the Black community, racism is alive and well today: anytime someone criticizes Obama for his handling of the economy, or for the numerous, lavish vacations they take, or Eric Holder's Department of Justice for failing to administer justice equally, or the epidemic scandals of incompetence plaguing the administer, the defenders call out "Racist!" when race--the color of Obama's skin--has nothing to do with it.  
Traveling with Jackie, Rachel sees her first public restroom marked "White Only" at the airport, and decides to break down the social barrier and use the White Only restroom; Rachel's defiance is seen by the receptionist at the desk who retaliates against Rachel by bumping them off their flight. This is one way, the film posits, that Rachel could have been the "motherland" figure in the film (doing what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would do in protesting against the Jim Crow laws), but seeing that her action "bears no fruit," the film posits this as a false attempt so we look at where her actions do bear fruit; why? It's the race question at its very heart, because society sets up rules of the game to insure those who created the rules maintain the position they want to maintain (in this case, Whites deciding their territory and what they will "permit" Blacks to have so Blacks are necessarily NOT in the power equation because Whites are the ones determining the social space where Blacks are "permitted" to be or forbidden from being), so, in this "simple scene," the film has introduced an entirely new level of "game" that will be played by Rachel, not by Jackie, and as we see in this clip, what she learned, she passes onto him:
Rachel has literally become Jackie's social coach, as she stands behind him, whispering to him the "plays" that are going to be made against him and how he needs to adjust his strategy to adapt to what they are going to "throw at him," just like the pitcher throwing the ball at Jackie's head during a game. Rachel is "giving birth" to Jackie Robinson just like Jackie's father figure, Branch Rickey, both of them working to help Jackie not only stay in the game he has to play on the field--but also the one off the field, in the locker room and press conferences--but to win the game and make a path for others to follow in his step which is also part of the American Dream. Coaching Jackie is how Rachel bears fruit because it's watching Jackie play that Rachel realizes she's pregnant, literally, she is going to bear the fruit of their love for each other. Rachel could have discovered anywhere, or at any time she was pregnant, but the film plots this in a specific way.
Andre Holland stars as Wendell Smith, a reporter assigned to help Jackie by Rickey. Jackie rather despises Wendell, resenting his presence, largely because Jackie knows he needs Wendell but doesn't want to. Wendell relates to us another dimension of capitalism: just as Rickey's success in baseball has put him in a position to aide Jackie, so Jackie's rising star puts him in a position to aide Wendell. As an aspiring sports commentator, Wendell also faces segregation--being forced to sit in the balcony with his typewriter on his lap, as we see in this picture, rather than in the box with the other reporters--and he doesn't hesitate to communicate this to Jackie.
First, as we mentioned, it's during Jackie playing that she gets her first bout of sickness. All great things are born of great suffering, and her moment of sickness foreshadows the abuse Jackie will have to take to "bear fruit" for something far greater. What happens, though? It's not in the White Only bathroom where Rachel discovers it, but in the Colored bathroom, and from another Black woman who tells her; why? Because it's the Black community recognizing that Jackie and Rachel are doing something FOR THEM, not Branch Rickey doing something for White people or his pocket book, but Rachel's and Jackie's courage and perseverance that has given "new life" (in the form of their baby) to the whole population of Blacks in America. Rachel--as is natural for humans--focuses on her being sick, the way she focuses on Jackie's abuse he has to take, but this is the role of art: to tell a story. When we hear a phrase like, "The Jackie Robinson Story," the technical term "story" doesn't get applied unless someone has seen therein the redeeming values for society at large of a beginning, a conflict and successful resolution that everyone will be able to identify with and champion. But Rachel isn't the only one "giving birth" in this film, and that leads us to Branch Rickey. 
An essential character to the film, Christopher Meloni portrays Dodgers' manager Leo Durocher, who resolves, with Rickey, to have Jackie play on the team and--in the scene above--forcibly puts down the revolt against members of the team who have petitioned to stop Jackie from joining the team. Leo, a strong, forceful figure just like his name suggests, represents several key elements of the story line: first, in ordering the team--regardless of their beliefs or values--to accept Jackie as one of them, he could be taken as a "strong government" mandating affirmative action. Similarly, and without contradiction, he can also be taken as aggressive capitalism seeing Jackie only as a means to the end of winning games and making more money (we can validate this because the speech above takes place in "the kitchen," the place where the appetites are satisfied, and Leo is seeing Jackie as a means to making more money by winning more games). The truth is, Leo has to go because he is the one who doesn't have a place in the scheme of the film, or the American Dream (more on this in just a moment). Leo is replaced by Burt Shotton, who addresses the Dodgers with a weak speech, that he won't hurt them even if he doesn't help them. What's that all about? Well, that kind of summarizes what the government should do, and not do. It's about the free market and not interfering the way Leo was going to force the issue of Jackie being accepted, and this is where 42 makes the stand of being free to "fight your own battles" and not let the government fight them for you. To make the point, the film changed the reason why Leo Durocher was suspended, from gambling in reality to adultery in the film. Why? In the film, Leo is having an affair with a married woman, and the Catholic League threatens to boycott Dodgers' games if Rickey doesn't punish Leo for his adultery, which Rickey knows is taking place. This deliberate change from the historical record inserts the film makers' values against sexual promiscuity and breaking up marriages (while also validating the power of consumers to boycott). So even while the viewer laments Leo being thrown out for not abiding by the rules of the game--he proves that he is not a gentleman in taking another man's wife, whereas Jackie proves himself to be a gentleman in forgiving players who have insulted and abused him--and we fear what will happen to Jackie because Burt is so weak, Jackie's strength prevails, and so, too, does the strength of Whites like Pee Wee and Rickey, even as racism heats up in the game. From a different angle, Leo's taking of a woman who doesn't belong to him adds a particularly racist angle to the film: is baseball, a "White man's game," being taken by a Black man (Jackie Robinson) like taking another man's wife? No, because the heart of the games, the heart of competition itself, is that it belongs to the one with the greatest skill, not someone of a particular educational background, or social standing, someone with ties or other extra-topical advantages, and this is how we can see sports and competition being a great "leveller" in society, because of Jackie's skills and determination, his finesse in navigating the social field as well as the playing field, he proves that the laws of society are unjust and naturally brings down that which was artificially created: laws of "separate but equal."     
As an older man, past the age of "fathering a child," Rickey symbolizes the "founding father," a man who helps to formulate or establish tradition, law/cultural norms; just as George Washington did in politics, so Branch Rickey does in baseball. In this clip below, we see Rickey fulfilling the traditional "social norms" of the American Dream (that when you've made it, you are culturally obligated to help others), the payoff for "taking a risk," the heart of the capitalist venture, and the joy of "doing the right thing," the basis of the American Dream:
It's time now to discuss who Jackie Robinson is in the film. We talked about Rachel being a motherland figure, and the little boy Rickey mentions pretending to be Jackie at the start of the clip above is an example of how Jackie "fathers" and bears fruit: creating a way for other Black players to make it to the top of baseball, a role model of how all Americans should conduct themselves and a standard of what a great baseball player is (regardless of race). When Jackie first holds his newborn son (that he has with Rachel), he talks to his son and announces, for the viewers, who Jackie Robinson really is (I couldn't find the clip, but it's at the start of this trailer):
Who is the "father" who left him? Slavery. Men of child-bearing age, like Jackie, symbolize the active force of the economy or economic principles. In real life, Jackie Robinson was born into a system of slavery in the form of sharecropping which evolved at the end of the Civil War, and in its way it was just as much a system of slavery as that on southern plantations before the Civil War. The film presents us with the way art chooses how and what to take of "true stories" from history: the film didn't have to mention Jackie's father leaving him, it could have dropped it or changed it, like changing the circumstances of Leo's departure from the team, instead, in mentioning Jackie's father leaving him, it invites us to reflect upon it and understand how--in a greater, artistic scheme--we should understand a moral or cultural truth, the same way we are to understand Leo's leaving the team in a bigger frame of the story. So, let's take up the invitation.
When Jackie signs this contract, in effect, he signs the papers of adoption to become the "son" of Branch Rickey. Why? Branch becomes the father figure, the figure of both capitalism and the American Dream, that Jackie's childhood in sharecropping didn't know, but knows now through Rickey's determination, courage and, yes, capital in being in a position to do something about the wrongs he sees. Signing his name to that contract, Jackie Robinson BECOMES Jackie Robinson because he agrees to the terms and conditions set forth in the exchange of his talent--what we know Jackie Robinson for being--for a set salary, a uniform and a number, i.e., the RIGHT to play Major League baseball, and the right to get to sign a contract in exchange for his skills, and the right to MARKET his skills for the best contract he can get. In signing the contract, he becomes the first Black man to get a Major League contract, i.e., he becomes the man history will remember, Jackie Robinson; likewise, Branch Rickey becomes a "founding father" of baseball, a man who will be remembered for shaping baseball as a field upon which the wrongs of social injustice can be corrected, an endeavor of personal greatness for men like Jackie and an arena for ambition of an entire segment of the population. This scene above is possible because of both the American Dream and capitalism working together, one advancing the other, to advance all.
Just as many people don't remember slavery (the way I know nothing about Jim Crow laws, except what I have heard from older family members and seen in documentaries and read in books), Jackie doesn't (in the film) remember slavery but he vows the future generations (symbolized by his son) will remember him, the man who broke the invisible bonds of slavery in society holding him and other Blacks down on the social and economic ladder through competition on and off the field in all its forms, natural and unnatural. So Jackie Robinson not only becomes a "father" of social reform, but a "father" of the economic engines of society as well because boycott is directly tied to Jackie's role as he advances throughout the film, as well as the purchasing power of audiences going to see Jackie play.  
Choice. At any time, Jackie can throw in the towel and quit, but he doesn't. He fights the fight and plays the game on every level. Here's a controversial note: Jackie excels at "stealing" bases. Now, let's consider this. In the clip above, Rickey tells Jackie that if Jackie answers a curse with a curse, the only curse heard will be Jackie's, and he has to make everyone see that he is a "fine gentleman and a great ball player," by having the guts to NOT fight back; why? The rules of Jim Crow laws favor the whites and those who will use Jackie's color against him, like the manager of the Pirates making all the terrible racist slurs against Jackie on the field; again, the social laws favor him, but it's Jackie who comes out on top because Jackie turns the rules against the Whites by keeping "his place" and making Whites "take down" the laws themselves (such as when Jackie's team mate tells Jackie he shouldn't wait to shower until everyone else has left, that he's part of the team and should join them). What we have, in this scenario the film presents, is an example of "play." As defined by philosophers, "game" is established by a set of rules to benefit the ruling class (for example, if I wanted to become a basketball player, it would be incredibly difficult for me because I am only five-foot-two, so it limits the number of players eligible to compete for those desirable positions on the team). "Play" is philosophically defined as the absence of rules or the creative interpretation of rules to create a not-so-obvious advantage (like a short player using the rules to get fouled in basketball so they can get lots of free throws; that's a part of the rules, but an exploitation of the rules). In this way, we can see how, on two levels in the film, Jackie "steals" bases: in the game on and on the field, but also off the field each time he gets "closer" and more "in" with the team. "Stealing bases" has a negative connotation, although it's permitted by the rules and obviously shows up the "incompetence of the pitchers," as they put it in the film. Who else "steals" in films lately? Bilbo Baggins of The Hobbit (and Diane [Melissa McCarthy] is compared to Bilbo in Identity Thief). We haven't yet gone into The Hobbit, however, anyone stealing something from a dragon can be said to be a "holy thief" (like St. Dismas who died upon the cross beside Christ) because the dragon symbolizes the devil and the treasure being "stolen" is what was lost by humanity in Original Sin. In a like vein, the bases Jackie Robinson "steals" in the film are the bases symbolizing the natural standing and civil rights denied to Jackie and Blacks that are rightfully theirs.  
As a culture, we not only remember Jackie Robinson for what he did socially, historically and economically, but we will remember 42 later this year because of the arguments it posits against an upcoming film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In the sequel to The Hunger Games due out in November, Katniss and other contestants in the 75th Hunger Games are going to try and destroy the arena which makes the Games possible so as to start a revolution to overthrow the capitol. In the image above, we see the marginalized player, all alone, facing tremendous odds against his happiness and success, getting himself ready to take on the challenges awaiting him in the very same arena The Hunger Games series wants to do away with in favor of socialism. Competition isn't about victory, it's about finding out who you are and what you can do, under harsh circumstances, and coming out a better person for it and making the world a better place. A film like 42 not only validates competition, like we have seen in Monsters University, The Internship and Moneyball, but validates the struggles we endure in adversity: the best in us and others is brought out in struggle and everyone benefits.
Lucas Black portrays the Dodgers' short stop, Pee Wee Reese. When Jackie first comes to the team, reporters question Pee Wee about Jackie playing short stop and if Jackie is going to steal Pee Wee's position on team and Pee Wee responds, that if Jackie does a better job, he deserves the position. That's the way it should be, Pee Wee is willing to compete and improve his skills to get better and defend his place on team, he's not "entitled" to keep his position just because he's White or he had it first. Jackie, on the other hand, is not "entitled" to be short stop just because that's the role he plays or because he's Black. Jackie adapts to what the team needs and learns a new skill, being a baseman, so he can contribute to what the team needs. In the scene above, Pee Wee had received a threatening letter and he talked to Rickey about it, who showed Pee Wee files of hate mail Jackie was receiving. Manning up, Pee Wee finally realized the stress Jackie was under and "stands" with Jackie in this scene, regardless of the personal or professional cost. Being team mates, Pee Wee genuinely becomes a team mate with Jackie socially and professionally. Why is this important? It allows Pee Wee to discover who he really is by bringing out the circumstances for Pee Wee to have to make a decision of what he believes and giving him the chance to prove it to himself and everyone else. Adversity is never welcomed in our lives, but we can always turn it around to bring the greatest good from it, and the many moments of 42 amply demonstrates and reminds us of the choices we face daily and what we should be doing with our free will. 
Dear readers, THIS IS A FILM MAKING A DIFFERENCE, this is a film seeing the situation as it is, and recognizing the power each of us has on an individual level to do something about it, regardless of the color of our skin. This is a film that, just like Branch Rickey using his resources to support what he knew in his heart was right, is also using its resources to support what it knows is right: the freedom of each person to make their own choices, the freedom of each person to face and fight their own battles, and the freedom of each person to win those battles--not only for themselves and those they love--but for a far greater good as well as opposed to investing total power in the government to make all our decisions for us. Without hesitation, we can say that just as Mr. Jackie Robinson iss an American among Americans, 42 is a film among films. Eat Your Art Out, The Fine Art Diner
It would be a racist victory to merely say, Just as Jackie Robinson "reflects" upon himself in this scene, so, too, should the entire Black community "reflect" on their history, as a community and personally; because all of us, regardless of color, religion, sex or class, face the challenges Jackie faces at some point in our lives, at some point, all of us face being discriminated against because we are female, we are Christian, we are patriots, we come from a lower-economic strata of society, we are old and have to make way for the new, etc., and all of us, in some situation, find ourselves in the minority, just like Jackie, and the lessons Rickey and Rachel teach Jackie apply to us all, everyday of our lives. Many will see this and say, "That's why I want the government to fight my battles for me," and opt for socialism and affirmative action, but others, like myself, would rather fight my personal battles and claim my personal victories, and we are all in a position in history right now to where we must take a stand and decide what we want, and, ultimately, what is right.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Between a Viper & a Bear: The Wolverine & Issues Of Resurrection

Marvel Comics deserve applause for not only making big, entertaining films, but for making big, serious films taking on big, serious issues; The Wolverine is the most thorough examination to date of America's international identity in the atmosphere of economic instability: as Logan (Hugh Jackman) goes searching for his soul, so, too, do we as a nation; and where does that story begin? Where our story begins, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, ending World War II and catapulting America from a "poor country cousin" into a world superpower. You are probably anxious about Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) announcing, "I am a capitalist," and her being a prime villain (actually, she's an amazing villain! Not only was I impressed with her performance, but the character development as well) but, never, fear, the film answers that issue for us. Let's start where the film starts: 1945.
The intro to the film in Japan is a dream, which actually carries us through another dream with Jean Gray (Famke Janssen) and then Logan awakens in the woods but Yukio (Rila Fukushima) tells Logan she knows he has nightmares, and it's possible, from a psychoanalytic standpoint, to interpret the entire film as a dream sequence Logan goes through to "exorcise" himself of his inner-demons, guilt from killing Jane and not being able to be with the other mutants. While the mutants are the "margins" of society (those pushed away from the core population) Logan is marginalized by the marginalized, seriously removing him from the very necessary human interaction everyone requires for their mental health; so it makes sense that Logan would spend a film in a dream sequence working out issues from his past (killing Jane and saving Yashida); for example, Logan's interior processings might be questioning, why was I able to save that unknown Japanese man, who had me a prisoner, from an atomic bomb, that I never saw again, when I couldn't save the woman I loved regardless of what I did or didn't do? That's a conflict, connecting why Logan would have the Nagasaki dream, then "wake up" to talk to Jean Gray, then wake up again in Canada. Films have been interpreted as being entire dream sequences before, such as Christopher Nolan's Inception, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, Seven with Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, War Of the Worlds with Tom Cruise, Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy, Clark Kent in Man Of Steel, John McClane in A Good Day To Die Hard, and and the film noir Laura with Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney. All dreams, Sigmund Freud tells us, are fulfillments of wishes; so if The Wolverine is only a dream, what wish by Logan does it fulfill? The wish to live. If Logan didn't want to live, he wouldn't be fighting his demons, he wouldn't be engaging in an inner-struggle, he would just kill himself and die. Dreaming is a means of self-discovery and awareness, because it's in our dreams that we reveal our self to our self, the part we can't or won't consciously recognize or listen to in our waking hours, so our mind has to wait until we are vulnerable during our sleep (a common trait amongst schizophrenics is they don't dream). We construct our dreams by re-purposing people from our real life and re-assigning them new traits or qualities in our dream that actually reflect ourselves, not others. Through determining factors, however, we can see through this camouflage and discover what our deepest thoughts are really trying to tell us. So, using this, we can first, of all, see how the grizzly bear is a "projected" image of Logan's own identity: the way they both walk, and "mark" their territory, to Logan, the bear symbolizes himself, the animal that is a part of him; when the crude hunters have used illegal means to kill him, it foreshadows the illegal (or even "unfair") way Yashida and Viper will hunt him down (fulfilled when the ninjas have filled Logan with all the arrows). From the psychoanalytic perspective, which I an only scrapping the surface of here, that means the Silver Samurai Logan fights is,... himself. Because the Silver Samurai is built of adamantium like the indestructible metal grafted onto his own skeleton and his razor claws, when Logan fights the Silver Samurai, he fights his own indestructablity; why? As Logan says in the film, "What they did to me can't be undone," except by his death which doesn't seem possible on account of his mutant gift; Logan's crisis of lacking free will in determining what he would become (because he was a military experiment) is "solved" by the dream his unconscious creates so that he does use his free will to accept what he is and what he has, and to defeat the bad qualities within himself; even though his metal claws have been cut away from his body, his bones grow out of his hand to take their place, meaning that just as the metal was grafted onto his skeleton, so now his personality has been grafted onto the claws, and the two are now one, Logan knows who he is and accepts it and himself. If we pursue the psychoanalytic perspective, how does Viper play into being "part" of Wolverine? She spits deadly venom (she also uses her "claws" [fingernails] to attack people like Logan) and we have seen that in Prometheus with the alien who spits an acid that deforms people because that alien symbolized the guy who couldn't say anything nice to anyone else; Logan knows he has an attitude problem, and he realizes that things he says are like venom attacking people to whom he interacts. Letting Yukio come with him at the end of the film to be his "bodyguard" is a sign that he refuses to be Viper anymore, or the Silver Samurai, but has determined to be the best he can be (which he might be remembering was when he promised to protect Rogue and Yukio is taking her place). When Yukio wants to know where they will go and Logan just says, "Up," that's a sign (psychoanalytically) that he's coming out of the deep sleep where we dream and into a lighter, more restful sleep where he can be at peace; the post-credits scene taking place two years later, and us having no idea where Logan has been during that time, and Yukio not being there, suggests this very idea: Logan has been peacefully sleeping and resting all that time. His willingness to be "patted down" by airport security is an acceptance of the unpleasantness he must endure but he has chosen, with his free will to endure. There is more to all of this, and we will take a different approach in the post below, but these are just examples of another possible valid reading of The Wolverine
In the first film X-Men, it was the World War II Nazi concentration camp in Poland where Magneto first discovered he had the mutant power to control metal and now, at the Nagasaki bombing, we find Wolverine. Why? Why start out a major summer blockbuster about a powerful mutant having identity issues in Nagasaki seconds before its obliteration? Because that's exactly what's happening with the United States, and that's when our problems and our power began, when World War II ended. In the fight for our life as a country, and whether we should die (roll over and let the socialists destroy the country) or affirm our identity and destroy our inner-demons (rebuild capitalism and re-assert the power of the Constitution), taking control of our future once again, we struggle as Logan struggles, and if that isn't the case, then there was no reason for this film to be made, and certainly no reason for us to watch it. So what's going on?
An imperative reason to incorporate World War II into The Wolverine storyline is to make us remember who we are. That might not sound important, however, "memory loss" has come up consistently in films: there is Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in Fast and Furious 6, Jack (Tom Cruise) has his memory wiped in Oblivion, in Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, the siblings can't remember/don't know what happened to them and Peter doesn't remember his parents/know his parents in The Amazing Spider Man; in Wreck-It Ralph, the citizens of Sugar Rush has their memories wiped by King Candy, and memory wipes are typical protocol in Total Recall and Jack Frost doesn't remember who he is in Rise Of the Guardians. What's the purpose of this run-down? We know Logan has had memory problems in the past, so when Logan does remember something, we should be remembering it ourselves, like World War II. To destroy a person''s memory is to destroy the person, and to destroy a culture's memory is to destroy the culture. Whereas films like The Hunger Games and  Gangster Squad seek to "re-write" American history and convince us we were really supposed to become a socialist country after World War II, The Wolverine reminds us of what happened and why we made the choices we did (please see The Hunger Games: Hitler & America's Anti-Socialism and No More Business : Gangster Squad and the Police State for more). On a completely different note, the "well" where Logan is held by the Japanese Imperial troops is quite ironic because we know Logan isn't "well," and this word play alerts us to what Logan's up to, feeding a psychoanalytic perspective on the film. We only see his eyes peering out through a slit in the top of the well's cap, chained down to keep Logan in his subterranean cell, and this is an accurate description for Logan, because he's trapped "within himself," digging deep (the well) to discover where his demons are; we only see his eyes because one, he's searching to see within himself and, two, to emphasize that's what we ourselves should be doing, looking. We've seen this well before, in The Dark Knight Rises and the Pit where Bruce Wayne (Christina Bale) goes and has to escape, The Host, wherein the resistant fighters live and grow their wheat, and in GI Joe Retaliation when the Joes are attacked and three manage to get to the well and allude detection. Why is this important? It articulates a subtle yet definite point in the arguments capitalists wage against socialists: in capitalism, self-reflection and meditation is necessary, allowed and encouraged, whereas--in socialist states--meditation upon one's self and searching within one's self is not only discouraged (the State will think for you) but not allowed because that's personal freedom no one has a right to, everything has all ready been decided by the Party.
At this moment, seconds before the atomic bomb drops, Logan wants to live, telling Yashida that it's safer down in the well, so this moment conflicts with the moment when he wakes up in the wilderness (after he talks to Jean) and we hear part of Mozart's famed Requiem Mass playing on his radio. So Logan wants to live by avoiding the damage he knows the American Bombers are going to do, so what about Yashida? Although the three other generals, without a word to each other, know it's time to commit the ritual suicide of Seppuka (Hari Kari), Yashida isn't ready to die. Does Yashida do the honorable thing in not committing suicide, or the dishonorable thing in not committing suicide? (As a Christian, suicide is never honorable, it's always a mortal sin, however, the film wants to establish a dichotomy between Logan and Yashida [who holds Japanese principles, not Christian principles], between then and now, so that's the vein in which we are discussing this topic). Yashida fails to honor his country's military code which he pledged to uphold, so we can conclude, by his own standards, he does the dishonorable thing and we can be confident in this interpretation knowing he ends up robbing the company he starts to keep himself alive, so the dishonor he exhibits in 1945 continues within him to the present day, when he willingly robs Logan of his mutant gifts (and he does rob Logan because Logan--even though he doesn't really want to live anymore, knows better than to give his gift up to someone like Yashida). Why is this important?   
Logan shielding Yashida from the blast of the atomic bomb at the bottom of the well turned into a prison. Again, a well symbolizes a means of a person "drawing upon themselves" the way someone draws water from a well for life-sustaining water; similarly, self-knowledge and reflection is life-sustaining because we make terrible mistakes in life if we don't have wisdom, and only those who are fools don't value wisdom. So even though the well has been turned into a prison (Logan is being forced to reflect upon himself even though he might not want to at this point in his life) because he has done so, he's able to not only save himself (at least the full blast of the atomic fall-out that would be painful for him to regenerate from) but he's able to save Yashida, too. These are some of the fruits of wisdom. Throughout the narrative, others--and even Logan himself--compares him to a monster; why? At the end of World War II, the Japanese compared the US to a monster, to the king of the monsters, Godzilla, which we can easily find resurrected in the Silver Samurai in The Wolverine, and certainly in Gypsy Danger in Pacific Rim, in the father played by Bruce Willis in The Cold Light Of Day, the Lizard in The Amazing Spider Man (who is compared to Godzilla in the film) and the upcoming film to be released next year, Godzilla.  What happened then? Because of the US dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese invented Godzilla to symbolize for them the constant threat and danger the US had become to them (contrariwise, the US invented the terrible monster Jaws to symbolize the horror of the Japanese kamikazi soldier and the lives lost because of that). Has time went on, we see a change in Godzilla films: soon, there are monsters even worse than Godzilla, and the Japanese start calling upon Godzilla to save them from Mothra and Rodan; why? Because communism was invading all the Asian countries around Japan, and it was because of the US presence in Japan that Japan was spared falling to communism, symbolized by these later monsters (please see Jaws & the Cleansing Of America for more). In The Wolverine, Logan shielding Yashida from the atomic bomb seems ironic because we directly bombed them, however, we shielded them from the resulting wars continued post WWII by other socialists than Hitler. Hold this thought, please. In The Hunger Games, the first bit of information on the screen, and when Effie Trinket shows the video at the Reaping, reminding people of PanAm why they have the Hunger Games, there's an image of the atomic bomb going off and--because it's the 74th Hunger Games--74 years previously, the "Great Rebellion" was the US fighting to stop the spread of Hitler's socialism and, because of what the world saw socialism doing in China, Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union, the US--which could have become a socialist country under President Franklin D Roosevelt because of the Great Depression--under Dwight D Eisenhower became aggressively capitalist, which is what the Hunger Games tries to morph (the Games being for a socialist a metaphor of how violent capitalism and competition is; please see The Hunger Games: Hitler & America's Anti-Socialism for more). Back to The Wolverine and the scene above: being in a well, and shielding Yashida, Logan--as a metaphor for the US--asks himself, "Did I do the right thing at the end of World War II in shielding the Japanese from socialism and the US not becoming socialist?" We know the answer to this question is yes because, at the end, Mariko has successfully taken over Yashida Industries (instead of disbanding the company, or getting killed, or giving the company to someone else, or the company simply going bankrupt) and her new wealth is validated by Logan and Yukio using the jet Mariko loans them (a sign of her wealth socialists would despise). Even though dirty capitalism has to be cleaned up, as a system, it is validated, just as Logan validates his power, strength and gifts when his own bones grows to become claws to replace the metal claws cut-off by the Silver Samurai (we have seen something like this in Iron Man 3 and the desolation Tony Stark faced and his rising to the occasion of meeting his foe; more on this below).  
This is how intelligently the film is made, that the Japanese business owner is really a metaphor for the United States, just as Viper is a metaphor for Wolverine (and we have seen this done all ready in numerous films, most notably Fast and Furious 6 when they announced it to the audience that is what they were doing); what industries in America haven't "wanted to die" anymore than Yashida, and so stole something from someone to give them "life?" Any industry bailed out by the government, like the auto industry who took public funds--funds that didn't belong to them--or Wall Street, or the big green businesses that Obama started with tax payer dollars that then went bust,... Yashida's failure to do "the honorable thing" by his own cultural standards--ritual suicide--is employed by the film to demonstrate how companies that should have declared bankruptcy and dealt with their losses instead escaped death at the expense of their companies (like Yashida robbing his company) and tax payer dollars (the young Yahida not caring out justice upon himself for having failed his country and committing ritual suicide). But there is another important angle to this metaphor,...
It's terribly clever to cast a female Viper as a symbol of socialism for three reasons. One, it's women usually associated with socialism. As we have discussed previously, feminists are the first to support a socialist revolution in a society because they feel that only through the government taking away from white men their positions of power, wealth and influence (socially and financially castrating them, in other words) do women have a real chance at job and wage equality because they have faith in the government to enforce that, and they don't feel they can achieve that in a capitalist economy. Secondly, Viper dresses in green, which--like all colors--carries both a positive and negative connotation. Positively, green is the color of new life and hope, just like the new life and hope of spring when everything is being reborn, and socialism always sells itself as "hope" for those they persuade have been disenfranchised by a capitalist society; negatively, green is the color of envy, because one perverts hope and life in being jealous of what others have instead of what you yourself have (as we have seen in The Purge). Socialism employs class warfare to make the "under classes" jealous of the 1% so the 99% will want the 1% to suffer and, ultimately, die for having more than themselves so socialism intentionally inspires jealously in people, symbolized by the sickly green color Viper wears. Thirdly, just as we see Viper shedding her skin above to reveal a new, fresh face, so socialism does the same thing to each new generation it's ready to stalk as its prey: shed the old skin of failure and put on the new face of the new, and that's why young generations keep falling or it, socialism always manages to disassociate itself from its own failures so it's never linked to dictatorships, genocides like the Holocaust, or wars like World War II. So, if this is correct, and we know Viper dies in the film, how does her death by hanging reflect her as a symbol for socialism? Hanging is a death for horse thieves and traitors, and because socialism always removes the heads of government and destroys the sovereignty of a country, Viper hanging to death reveals how she herself sought to remove Mariko as the new, rightful head of Yashida to kill her instead. Further, Viper only gives the appearance of re-generation, whereas Logan actually regenerates; why? Socialism always appears like it can't be defeated because, like a snake shedding its skin, it always appears new and fresh, however, Logan--who symbolizes capitalism because, like Logan, capitalism genuinely regenerates itself and is constantly giving new life to new business and injecting new life into old business through innovation and change--actually regenerates his whole, entire system. (Note: men usually symbolize the active principle of the economy whereas women usually symbolize the passive principle of the motherland).
Yashida has to rob Logan of his regenerative powers, but he can do that only by putting the robotic parasite on Logan's heart to halt Logan's own regenerative powers; why is this important? When Viper comes to infect Logan with the parasite, she disguises herself as Jean; we have seen this done before in the 1981 film Excalibur, when Morgana disguised herself in Arthur's dream as Guenevere so Arthur would have sex with her; it's an interesting comparison, because, instead of Logan passing life in his seed into Viper as with normal sexual relations--as he does, for example, when he sleeps with Mariko--it's the female, Viper, passing something deadly into Logan in the parasite. 
The Unnatural and Natural Women of the film. Again, Viper has an "unnatural" sexual relationship with Logan in the she injects him with death (and, of course, the similarity to the Excalibur incest scene really wants us to understand how "unnatural" this is) but it's a traditional, natural relationship with Mariko. Why? The sex fantasy hotel where Logan and Mariko check into isn't a foreshadowing device of some kinky dimension of their relationship; rather, it comments upon history and what has naturally happened between the US and Japan (like the film Emperor with Tommy Lee Jones) and how the US could have dominated Japan, but didn't. Them choosing the Mars room, however, does foreshadow what might be someday: a joint US-Japanese mission to Mars. As two of the largest economic powers in the world (well, we were before 2008) it's natural the US and Japan would plan one of the greatest adventures humanity has ever embarked upon, an exploration of Mars, and the future of that possibility is partially what is at stake (before Star Trek Into Darkness came out, we discussed how similar space films and westerns are, and why there are so many more space films being made then westerns: westerns are looking back, either re-writing history--like The Lone Ranger tried to do--or validating and reminding us of history; space films point to the future and what will be and whether or not we will be there and what we need to do; including this little snippet in the film incorporates that whole idea of what the future will be like and who it will be there with us, the Japanese.  On a slightly different note, the vet has to remove the bullets because Logan is still mostly animal; what separates us from animals is our free will, and Logan--at this point in the film--still refuses to accept the decision made for him (that he would have this indestructible metal grafted onto his skeleton) with his free will, so in not putting his free will to good use, Logan is, in a serious way, denying he has free will at all. Mariko, as a symbol of the motherland (a female of child-bearing age) shows she can give life by knowing what Logan needs for his to continue and taking action to make sure he survives.  
The parasite Viper passes (rather like the one from The Matrix passed into Neo) is an artificial constrictor so he can't grow (re-grow, rather); nothing else in the world does this except socialism, when the government decides how big or how small a company will be (or putting restrictions and regulations on trade, for example, through taxes and tariffs). Now, the controversial point: Viper tells Logan she's a capitalist, so how do we reconcile that with what I have been writing, that she's actually a symbol for socialism? She also tells Logan she's a metaphysicist; when do we see her ever confronting any issues in metaphysics? She doesn't, because she's not. What she is, however, is a snake, and snakes are always metaphors for liars, just like the serpent in the Garden Of Eden lying to Eve (hence why serpents have forked tongues and, so, too, does Viper, because they always mean something other than what they say; please examine the last image of this post, where Viper's forked tongue is seen). There's one more, revealing way, however,...
Who is Yukio? She is a part of Logan, that's why we don't "see" Yukio with Logan in the post credits scene, he has "taken her into himself" and instead of being a separate part of him, she (what she symbolizes in Logan) is as much a part of him as Logan's natural, regenerated bone claws (and not the metal claws). Her hair is red, the most notable, distinguishing characteristic she has, and we know it has to be artificially dyed, so isn't that like the artificial parasite put in Logan's heart by Viper? No, because hair symbolizes our thoughts, so we "see" Yukio's thoughts in her red hair. Just as green has positive and negative connotations, so, too, does red: red can symbolize love because, when we love someone or some thing, we are willing to spill our red blood to preserve it; however, red can also refer to anger, because when we are angry with someone or some thing, we are willing to shed their red blood to appease our anger. Because Yukio cares for Logan so much, and wants to preserve his life, it's more consistent with the film to understand her as a part of Logan's love for himself he must experience. Genuine self-love, and self-care, are necessary components of wisdom; if we don't properly love ourselves (the way God loves us) we are apt to throw our lives away foolishly and not fulfill the purpose for which God created us. Yukio appears at a moment when Logan could be getting himself into serious trouble at the bar, maybe because he wants it, so, in effect, from the very start, she is acting as "his bodyguard," literally guarding over his body to keep him from killing himself. Her sword validates this: the sword separates, just as she herself is a "separate" part of Logan that has to be successfully re-integrated into himself so he can be whole again.
When Logan appears to Yashida, he tells Logan Viper is his oncologist, a specialist who deals with cancer, so that's how we know what Yashida is dying from. Viper doesn't heal Yashida's cancer, rather--just like socialism--she takes from the healthy (Logan) to sustain that which is dying (Yahsida). Socialism never heals or cures the cancer in society or a business, because it can't; that's what wealth re-distribution is all about, taking from the healthy to keep the sick or weak going. This is the fundamental formula of socialism and why there are no "greats" in a socialist society, only mediocrity, because anyone strong or wealthy has to be sacrificed for the masses and sick, just as Viper intends to sacrifice Logan for Yashida.  
Now that we have all that established, we can talk about Jane Grey. Logan only sees her in his dream, so it's his mind keeping her alive, artificially. Just like Viper willing to keep Yashida alive artificially with Logan's regenerative powers, so Logan keeps Jane alive, not with his love, but with his guilt, reflecting a very real phenomena of capitalism. Who didn't feel guilt and loss when it was announced Twinkies weren't going to be made anymore? Well, at least, I did. But the company did it the right way, they declared bankruptcy and then went about taking care of its own "cancer" (it seemed there was a problem with its union, imagine that) and restructured--regenerated its strength and healed its wounds--has now been bought by another company and is going to start production again. Hooray! Regardless of how difficult it is to allow a company to die, like GM or Chevy, if they have failed to heal themselves of their own induced cancer through bad practices or failing to keep up with the market demands, they have to be allowed to die (declare bankruptcy and re-organize), and Jane feeding off Logan's guilt, and the pain and weakness resulting in that, demonstrates to us the viewers the difficult choices in capitalism; difficult, but not impossible. Just as Logan's guilt over killing Jane drains him of strength and resolution to go on living, so, too, does a company that needs to just die drain the economy and resources. Logan's willingness to let Jane go off and "be there all alone" gives us the first glimpse that Xavier isn't there where she is, and why we can expect to see him again.
So what about the bear scene?
Going back to the beginning of the film, Logan living in the wilderness makes the bear a metaphor for what will happen to himself. It's almost like the bear is a part of his dream, because it mimics the way he walks and after Logan "marks" his territory with a swipe on the tree, so the bear "marks" his territory with his urine. The hunters using the illegal poison to kill the bear foreshadows Viper using the parasite on Logan to take him down (because Logan's being hunted for his abilities to regenerate). Why does Logan kill the bear with his claws? It foreshadows the choice Logan will have to make about his own life and whether or not it's more honorable for him to commit "ritual suicide" when he's on the operating table or try to save himself. 
Logan being in the wilderness is a counter to a trend taking shape in recent films, i.e., that we should abandon technology and go back to a primitive way of life. We see this advanced in Moonrise Kingdom (the two kids following the Indian path of migration and camping) and Oliver Stone's Savages, with the threesome living--not in a California utopia--but a primitive, third world country and that being advanced as a kind of perfect state for us to be in. The Wolverine, on the other hand, acknowledges that this isn't a plausible solution because there are hunters out there looking for easy prey (the hunters Logan sees who would happily kill him). So why do we first see Logan in this situation? Let's start with the long hair. It's not a sign of effeminacy for his hair to be long (we will be seeing Hercules with long hair according to the pictures tweeted by Dwayne Johnson for next summer). In the Bible, prophets--like Samson--had long hair because they would often go into the wilderness--away from civilized people--to purge themselves of sin and vice, so their outwardly state of uncleanliness (the long hair and beard) was actually a sign of their inwardly holiness (like John the Baptist). Logan has separated himself from society in an attempt to face his inner demons and purge himself of guilt and anger. The purging he undergoes in the wilderness strengthens him so he's strong enough to undergo the purge on the operating table when he cuts himself open and removes the parasite from within himself (I know, I know, we need to talk about The Purge, the Ethan Hawke film; in that sense, those film makers are mocking how capitalists believe in purging society of companies that are weak and struggling, rather than having the government save the all; we will discuss it more next week). We saw a similar situation with Tony Stark in the original Iron Man when he was "living the life" and then kidnapped and stranded in the desert and had to fight his way out; Logan has to make a choice. Going with Yukio is the first step of that choice even though he tells her, "That's not who I am anymore." When Logan agrees to the two old women bathing him to present him to Yashida, that's Logan agreeing to be presented as the world knows him, the Wolverine, in the way he has been. So renouncing the world is a fruitful step for a temporary purging of one's self, but it's not a permanent fix to abandoning life and the world.
When Logan is on the operating table (where Yashida had been) and sees the parasite on his heart, Logan has a choice: he can let the parasite kill him (the way the poison was killing the bear) or Logan can use his claws to open his own heart to remove the parasite and save himself; choosing to swallow the bitter medicine so he can get well is the capitalist's answer to recovery (like the blond girl cutting off her infected arm with the automatic knife in Evil Dead) that sometimes you have to get worse before you can get better, and Logan takes that path. This is the second of three resurrections Logan experiences in the film: the first being the bath the old women give him, then he removes the parasite instead of just dying, then he regenerates his claws to replace the grafted claws. These three resurrections counter the resurrections of Jane (in Logan's mind), Viper's shedding her skin and Yashida "resurrecting" from faking his death earlier.
The Silver Samurai. Man Of Steel's General Zod, with all his armor, is similar to this, as well as the virtues of the Japanese soldier discussed in Emperor. The difference between Logan and the Silver Samurai is that Logan rises to the challenge whereas the Samurai is avoiding death and has stolen what he has (not only from his company, but from Logan as well). The excess bulk of the Samurai is contrasted to the interiorized steel frame of Logan, just like the contrasts we see between Clark Kent and General Zod in Man Of Steel. It's clear, then, that the Silver Samurai is the "beast" the film has talked about, and not Logan, as we saw in Brave, with princess Merida thinking her mother was "a beast" but the real monster was Mordor.  
Now we can discuss what happens in the post credits scene. Two years after the "end" takes place (Yukio and Logan getting into Mariko's jet), we see Logan approaching the security station at an airport watching an ad for Trask Industries about their new technologies (perhaps like the new technology developed in Iron Man 3 allowing Tony Stark to get his natural heart back) and, dreading the alarms that will go off when he steps through because of the metal grafted onto his skeleton, he tells the attendant he wants the pat down. Metal objects start moving on their own and Logan turns to see Magneto standing behind him. Everyone in the airport completely freezes except them, and Magneto tells Logan there are dark forces building a weapon that will destroy "our kind." Logan asks Magneto, "Why would I trust you?" to which Magneto replies, "You wouldn't," and out zips Charles Xavier. Logan asks, "How is this possible?" to which Xavier replies, "I told you when we first met, you're not the only one with gifts."
 So, what does this mean?
Because we have seen three false resurrections (Jane's in the dream state, Viper's shedding skin and Yashida's faked death) and Logan's three genuine resurrections, when we see what happens in the post credits scene, we are not surprised. "Resurrection" has been a theme of the films this last year (for example, Captain Kirk being resurrected from radiation poisoning, Tony Stark being resurrected from his arc reactor heart, Pepper being resurrected from falling into the inferno, Lettie being resurrected in Fast and Furious 6, etc.). We know this scene sets up the premise for X-Men: Days Of Future Past coming out next year, and what and how that film will be is teased here.
Why do they have post credits scenes? Why not just have the scene at the end of the film instead of making you sit through the credits? For one, it undermines the ending and the closure it brings. That Logan arrives at the airport without Yukio (after two years of us not knowing where he has been) suggests that he has fully incorporated her "into his being," and is no longer separated, but whole and healthy, as he should be at this point in his life. If the scene with Magneto and Xavier were put right after the airplane scene, the "journey" Logan has been on wouldn't occur to us as we watch it. But here's what I think the real reason is: these stories are based on comic books, and to have a post credits scene, a scene taking place "outside" the film, is an act, basically, of self-awareness, that there are events going on "outside" the comic book world, outside the film world. When Logan walks into that airport, there is an entire world that has progressed without him knowing anything about it, the advances at Trask Industries, Magneto's powers being restored, Xavier being resurrected, a new weapon being developed; so even while some things have stayed the same (Logan not being able to go through a metal detector, for example) the rest of the world has gone on at a realistic pace. Okay, so why is that important? Because they want to assure us they are aware of what is going on outside of Hollywood. THEY, the film makers, know there is a world outside their movies and they want us to know that they know we are out there, in the dark theater, watching them, and they are watching the world and what is going on. What's the point of everything "having meaning" as the film tells us, if there is not a real world in which that meaning can be anchored?
Magneto has his powers back and is the first to "recruit" Logan for the next mission. Magneto is getting that "second chance" we see Gru getting in Despicable Me 2 and Loki in Thor the Dark World (because America is the land of second chances) and it's possible this will be Magneto's "conversion" will take place. The "dark force" Magneto warns Logan about is obviously an "evil more evil than evil" because even Magneto is afraid of it and knows he can't defeat it on his own, which is probably something to do with the advances in robotics in the Trask Industries commercial Logan briefly saw on the airport TV before his pat down.  
In this image, Yukio and Logan have gone to the funeral of Yashida after he has faked his death. Yukio tells Logan that Yashida found her going through a pile of garbage looking for food and adopted her to be a playmate for Mariko. Why is this important? When Logan gets into her rental car at the bar where she meets him, there are food wrappers all over the front seat and she says, "It's a rental." That doesn't really make sense, does it? Well, actually, it does. That pile of food has become a reminder to Yukio of the trash pile where she was looking for food; why? Food is necessary for our survival, and Yukio--as a "psychoanalytic double" for Logan--is still looking for food to survive because Logan doesn't want to love himself or go on living, so Yukio looks for what she (as a symbol of real self-love) can possibly live on to survive. That's why Yukio can see a person's death: as a bodyguard, she needs to know in what way a person is in danger so she can help them avoid it and preserve their life. Now we know why "A Japanese sword must be held with two hands": our hands symbolize our strength, and each person has two sources of strength, the physical and mental, the logical and emotional, the worldly and spiritual. To hold a sword with both hands means that your entire being has been united for that task at hand, there is no holding back, rather, you are focused and willing to do what must be done. Only when Logan is ready to "hold the sword with both hands" has he experienced his third resurrection; he hasn't completed his spiritual journey, but he's achieved the level he needs to achieve in order to complete it.
Why has Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) been resurrected? To answer that, we might consider another important person resurrected: Joe, the founder of the special ops force. In GI Joe: Retaliation, Joe (Bruce Willis) is resurrected and re-enlisted by the Joes when there is no one else they can turn to or trust to defeat the evil they are battling. Like Joe, Xavier is the founder of the X-Men, who need their "founding father" to give them direction in this new battle, which suggests a return by America to our own founding fathers; we won't know, however, until the first trailer is released!
It's regrettable that The Wolverine didn't score a bigger haul at the box office, however, we are in an economically devastated economy, and it's not that The Wolverine didn't do better, it's rather miraculous that so many amazing films have done as well as they have, given the limited amounts of expendable income most middle-class American households currently have. Again, I have only scrapped the surface of a film that's a theory-gold mine for those who enjoy interpreting films and art, so please don't judge the film based on this all-too-short post; instead, I hope it will tempt you to want to see the film for yourself, especially since Days Of Future Past appears to be so exciting (AFTER POSTING THIS, I FOUND THIS ARTICLE/INTERVIEW revealing a few more details about the next film at this link here!)!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
Character art work for Viper; please note the forked-tongue in red, denoting a liar.


Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wolverine & the Post Credit Scene


Wolverine is not caught between two women in his newest film; he's caught between four women. You can't have a great hero without depraved villains, and Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova, left) is amazing! Yukio (Rila Fukushima, right) delivers a strong performance and you can't get enough of these two characters. From top to bottom, from characters to costumes, from traditions and history to the now and pressing social issues, this is a well-crafted, serious film. Ironically, as I was leaving the theater, the scene everyone seemed to be obsessing over, besides the post-credits scene and the huge surprise contained therein, was the grizzly bear. All art is a metaphor for reality and culture, what takes place and how we can handle situations, but some films transcend that and give us metaphors about the metaphors, the grizzly bear being a perfect example: the bear and its fate foreshadows what will happen to Wolverine himself in the film, which we will discuss in the post.
(N.B.: This is just a pre-review; the entire review can be found here: Between a Viper & a Bear: Wolverine & Issues Of Resurrection). There has been a great deal of discussion on "box office bombs" as of late, and to some degree, that's an accurate assessment; on the other hand, I am confident in saying that 2012-13 will mark cinema history as a high-point in high-quality, high box office returns because so many incredible films are coming out, we can hardly keep up with them all. In a summer swelling over with phenomenal films, it's possible The Wolverine--for as amazing as it is--might get lost, or not get the attention it deserves; just the post-credits scene might be the most important post-credits scene ever filmed (and you might be saying, big deal about a post-credits scene, if it's such a big deal, why not put it in the film; because it's an encore performance, AND to have it in the film would undermine the ending, and to have it "bracketed" between the ending and the credits establishes a critical self-awareness validating the rest of the self-reflecting the film does; for X-Men fans, you're going to love this! So, make sure everyone going to it stays for the scene after the first batch of credits, you don't have to stay for the crawl, just the main credits). The Wolverine takes on some massive issues, and does so wanting to make sure we know it's doing it. Again, I am going to break my neck to get this post up and if you are planning on seeing it tonight, it should be a fun time! (NOTE: this post was just a pre-review; the entire analysis can be found here at Between a Viper & a Bear: the Wolverine & Issues Of Resurrection). Eat Your Art Out
The Fine Art Diner

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Just Like Yesterday: RED 2 & the Virtues Of 'Silliness'

RED 2 did not fare well this weekend at the box office, opening in the number five position for being labeled "silly" by numerous critics; I agree, the film is "silly," but we disagree--as usual--about the meaning of why the film is silly and probably which parts are silly. This isn't a pro-capitalist film, it's not an anti-socialist film, it's a pro-America film, which is probably what critics didn't like about it. In this day, in this age, when zombies are plaguing the screen and there is so much uncertainty in our future, silliness is not only a statement of counter-cultural importance, but a theological concept as well. Each character has a international identity that plays out in one arena in the film, however, the film's insistence on "doing what's right" and emotional security creates a two-way dialogue with films such as World War Z, while bringing in the Man Of Steel and you know, dear readers, that I love these kind of discussions. We're going to keep this a short post, but we have to start with the most important character in the film: Sarah.
Before we get into the importance of Victoria's contract to kill Frank, let's talk about a costume trend throughout the film with her: fur. Generally speaking, women don't wear fur (as much) nowadays as they did say, during the 1930s, '40s and '50s, because of animals' rights activists, so seeing a woman wearing fur in a film should give us pause to consider why film makers made that decision (in this image, she has black fur around the shoulders). Victoria is a killer, a professional assassin, and the fur brings out the animal qualities of her identity as a killer in spite of her professional demeanor (for example, her elegant appearance in spite of her being surrounded by the multiple corpses of dead, yet armed men; this contradiction is what creates the "humor" of the scene and an unexpected, or surprise quality in Victoria's character). This comes out more in the original RED, but animal instincts are usually conveying a sense of our own animal nature, and Victoria's nature is as a killer (in the original, when Frank seeks out her help, she's been retired and is bored with not killing anyone). In RED 2, Victoria helps Frank and Marvin by staging their deaths in their jeep and Sarah asks her where did she get the bodies to take the place of Frank and Marvin, to which Victoria replies, "My freezer." Clearly, the construction of this joke is that a freezer is a place where meat is kept, however, not human meat, and that Victoria would have even considered placing multiple bodies in her freezer "brings out the animal in her." But, as with most symbols, "fur" is two-fold, with a negative and a positive side. Consider, for example, in the image above: Victoria stands in front of a window (symbolic of reflection and meditation) and she's surrounded by the window frame, so in this image, Victoria has been "framed" for our deeper meditation of her character and the gesture she makes indicate what path we should take. Her right hand holds a glove but her left hand is still covered by a glove, so--because the arms symbolize our strength(s)--part of Victoria's strength is "exposed" (symbolized by the un-gloved hand) while part of her strength is still "concealed" (the hand still wearing the glove). Her strength is her ability to kill, evidenced by the dead bodies, but her other strength is also knowing when NOT to kill (Frank and Marvin, for example) and we have all ready seen this in another MI6 agent, Skyfall's James Bond (Daniel Craig) when, in the National Gallery, Bond tells Q it's important to know when to pull the trigger and when not to pull the trigger. So Victoria, while elegantly dressed, is really an animal in two ways: she exhibits the killer traits of an animal, but also the loyalty to the "pack" (Frank, Marvin, Sarah, Ivan) an animal can have and while the film makers keep Victoria in this profile, they also manage to explore her characterization in consistent, but new, ways.
Why is Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) the most important character? Because Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) loves her and would do anything to protect her. Sarah is largely innocent about the kind of life Frank as a CIA operative led, and it's her innocence from this kind of trauma which is precisely the reason why Frank loves her and needs her: he not only wants to protect her life, he wants to protect her from becoming a killer and becoming stained with bloodshed, which he can't do. This might seem simple, however, the opening scene takes place at CostCo, and the scene is layered like a taco with meaning. 
A great poster can do exactly what this image does: take a scene no where in the film, but tell you exactly what is in the film. We saw in the image above the two animal natures of Victoria, and now we see the two animal natures in Marvin. Marvin is, like a sheep, incredibly docile and Marvin pretty much "goes along" with anything Frank wants to do (sheep are so docile, they are used as a metaphor for Christ himself being led to the slaughter). But we also see these sheep in their herd, and we see Marvin do that as well: herding the herd together. When Marvin realizes something is going to happen, he goes to get Frank and says, "If it makes you feel better, bring the girl," but what Marvin really means is, "It would make me feel better if you bring the girl because there's safety in numbers" which is why, when Marvin arrives at the CIA headquarters to rescue Frank, Marvin all ready has Sarah with him: he wants them all together and, the reason why Marvin calls Victoria and tells her where they will be, he wants her to be with them.  But the other side of Marvin's animal nature is the sheep that can smell a wolf, and why not knowing if Victoria was really willing to kill them made Marvin so uneasy, but exactly why when Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) appears and he knows she's trouble and Marvin knows Frank is in jeopardy. The bazooka (I guess that's what it is) sticking out of his backpack (even though he's amid a bunch of sheep) let's us know that Marvin considers himself to be "one of the fold" amongst the sheep, but also a kind of shepherd to the whole flock (he looks out for Frank and Sarah and wants their relationship to succeed and doesn't like any of them being vulnerable). Just as a humorous contradiction is created above with Victoria being elegantly dressed amidst the corpses, so Marvin being so heavily armed amidst a group of sheep is humorous; additionally, just as part of Victoria is concealed (her gloved left hand) so Marvin is partially concealed, turned away from the viewer, allowing us to see only part of him, not to mention whatever else he has in his backpack; why? All the drugs Marvin was given has damaged him, and Marvin has "baggage" from his days in the CIA (his backpack) which has created a burden for him (he wears his "baggage" on his back, symbolizing his burden, or his cross to bear). This is the vulnerable side to Marvin he won't let be seen and why he carries so many weapons, leading us to discussion on why he's always giving Sarah guns. Like Sarah, and because he's also a shepherd who knows there are wolves, Marvin knows what it's like to be vulnerable and doesn't want Sarah to feel vulnerable the way he does so often, so he arms her so she can protect herself. When Frank takes the guns away from her, it's not because he wants her to be vulnerable, or he doesn't believe in the Second Amendment, it's because he--being the active principle of the military protecting the economy and American interests--wants to protect her himself AND doesn't want her to be potentially "lose her innocence" that he values so deeply about her, the normalcy of life he can have with Sarah that Frank doesn't feel he can have on his own. Marvin will probably never have any normalcy, so feeling like he's a part of a herd is the closest he can have to being a part of a relationship/family. 
The first shot of the film is the shopping cart "loose wheel." With a film filled with leading stars, why introduce the narrative with something as inconsequential, unnoticeable and boring as the wheel on a shopping cart, unless the wheel of the shopping cart is NOT inconsequential? The wheel could mean numerous things, even a reference to the importance of the "loose" Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) and the role his wobbly allegiance will play in the film, or the uncontrollable Marvin who does such crazy things, or Han who is unsteady and refuses to be driven by a greater good like the other characters (up to a point in the film, anyway); all these are valid readings, however, I think the most fruitful is that the wheel symbolizes a part of what's wrong with Frank's and Sarah's relationship: it's off balance.
In the beginning of the film, definitely when Marvin comes to rescue Frank at the CIA interrogation center, Marvin wears a duster and a cowboy hat. Why is this important? Cowboys are a specifically a US icon, symbolic of the Old West and in numerous films as of late (Django Unchained and The Lone Ranger are the two, anti-American cowboy films, but there have also been several pro-American, pro-Capitalist cowboy references, such as Silver Linings Playbook (the Cowboys are America's team), Cowboys and Aliens, Gallowwalkers (coming out August 6), A Good Day To Die Hard (the "dancer" says, "You Americans are all cowboys,"). We could say that, just as the cowboys have died, so Marvin has died (this is the first time we see him after his funeral) but just as Marvin is "resurrected" so too are cowboys (Frank tells Sarah Marvin has faked his death numerous times, but Marvin really seems to be dead in the coffin; why? In some way, Frank, Victoria, Edward Bailey, Ivan (who Frank tells, "I watched you die," but didn't die) and Katja are ALL resurrected in the film the way zombies are "resurrected"; so what's the difference? To socialists, there is no difference: if you are pro-America, you are a zombie, but for those who are Christians--and there is an interesting reference made to Christ in the film via Edward Bailey--we die so we can be resurrected in a purer, more holy state, a state more capable of virtue and fighting evil, a point particularly applicable to Marvin who we see blessing himself when Katja dies. So, just as Marvin is resurrected, the "cowboy spirit" is resurrected with him because that spirit is what it's going to take to win this battle, just like the Cold War and this is an important line of analysis because I am confident we will be seeing something like it in Captain America: the Winter Soldier.
Sarah complains about "all this bulk" in the store (even as she's eating out of an over-sized bag of chips) and almost immediately, Frank decides they need a power-washer for the house and patio; why? These is a critique of capitalism, that we buy way more than what we need because stores like CostCo make it available (we have been "at" CostCo is two other films recently, The Watch [Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughan] and The Apparition, and both films make similar statements). Yet the power-washer is also an over-statement: a hose would probably be sufficient for what Frank needs, but he wants it really clean, and that is a reference to Sarah. As usual, Sarah symbolizes the "motherland" because she's female and (reluctantly) characterizes the passive role; usually, men symbolize the active role of the economy, and Frank shopping (here at CostCo and then he gives Sarah money to shop  in Paris) supports this, but without the military protecting American interests, the economy isn't safe (please see the character poster below for elaboration), so more specifically, film makers have aligned Frank's character with the really active (and not passive role) of the military and America as an international peace keeper, which is why the film opens at a store and the initial conflict is set-up for us here,...
"The best never rest," and this simple tagline contains three important concepts for our attention. First, "the best," those who abhor mediocrity, those who have worked and honed their skills and talents to use them for a greater good as Frank keeps rallying everyone in the film to do, to save the world, not fulfill their own agendas. Saying the best should utilize their skills for a greater good, as the film does, radically challenges Steven Spielberg's film War Horse, wherein the Thoroughbred Joey wasn't prized or spared because of his talents for racing, but because Joey "lowered" himself to pull the plow and a wagon, a job the horse Truffle couldn't do, so Truffle died; this concept of ignoring the skills and talents of someone and forcing them to do "grunt work" instead is prevalent throughout Max Brooks' novel World War Z, where--regardless of who you were or what you could do, cleaning the latrines is your new way of life and you will find if far more rewarding. Likewise, in Gangster Squad, two of the best on the force are killed because they are the best and, in a socialist society, anyone really good at what they do can't be allowed to live because it will make the mediocre feel bad about not being exceptional and those with exceptional skills will pose a threat to the government control. In The Conjuring, Lorraine Warren's exceptional talent is "punished" by the film makers because she's tempted to put herself above her husband; the family is nearly killed by their neighbors in The Purge because the neighbors are jealous of their financial success and want those "above them" dead. In Young Adult, Mavis (Charlize Theorn), the one who became a successful writer, is shown to be an alcoholic wreck because that's what success does to a person, so don't become successful, stay a mediocrity.  So just the concept of "the best" is a traditionally American one, but one coming under increasing attack from those who want to promote mediocrity instead (and there are facets trying to do that).  For example, Mission Impossible, GI Joe, The Avengers, Fast and Furious 6, X-Men, (and any crime show on TV), etc., all advertise that you are going to see the very best in their field at work; why? Because they inspire us to be the best we can be in our own fields, regardless of what that is, and because we want America to be associated with the best. The second of the three concepts is "rest." There is always a need for the services of those who are the best in their field, and retirement or vacation doesn't exist for people like Frank Moses and Superman, Tony Stark and Captain Kirk because the evil in the world is always at work. In another recent Bruce Willis film, A Good Day To Die Hard, John McLane keeps saying, "I'm on vacation!" as he helps his son to catch the bad guys; why does he say this? Because Americans' role in international politics has been so substantially diminished since 2008, it's like America is "resting" or "on vacation" and has completely forgotten that terrorism is on the loose (we haven't as a country, but that's the policy of Obama).  This leads us to the third concept: "never." There is no time at all when a letting down of vigilance is permitted, like when Frank lets down his guard and takes a drink of the poisoned wine offered to him by Katja, or when Han lets down his guard and his plane is stolen. There is never a time when America can't be America and working to keep the peace in the world and when we, as Americans, can allow our government to let our guard down. 
Frank wants Sarah to be completely happy and blissful in her world of consumerism (eating the huge bag of chips she hasn't paid for) in a state of utopia; but she's not happy. We have to take this as a political statement for ourselves, that America is not just about living in a consumer's paradise (the CostCo and Sarah eating the chips) and never being bothered about anything unpleasant (which is how Frank protects Sarah), rather, because Marvin shows up wearing a camouflaged coat covering his face, that there is a hidden message being sent to us like Marvin covertly showing up, and that message is: without the reality of the danger of life--not a thrill or excitement, but the reality of how vicarious life can be--other realities cease being realities, like Sarah's and Frank's love (consequently, we will probably be seeing this again in 300: Rise Of An Empire, where the need to defend the homeland against the invading forces to preserve their way of life is at stake). In other words, Sarah doesn't appreciate how well Frank  protects her because she has no real concept of how dangerous danger is; the others, like Victoria and Katja, are so used to danger, everything becomes dangerous with them and there is no peace anywhere. Danger is a part of reality, for America as well, and excluding a part of reality--like danger--drains reality of reality and our lives become unbalanced and then nothing properly functions; like the wheel on the shopping cart.
In one hand is the gun, and in the other is a basketful of groceries; the gun makes it possible to have the groceries, while the groceries provides incentive to have the gun. We genuinely take it for granted that we can go to the store whenever we want, and know whatever we want will be there; we pick it up, pay for it and walk out without having to wait in lines, take rain checks, compromise because it's not in stock, worry about starving or doing without, etc., and that's because our military protects our interests overseas and at home. This store behind Frank is the exact opposite of the stores we see in both Contagion and World War Z. So it's ironic that such a tough guy like Frank Moses would become such the perfect home-maker, however, without the tough guys like Frank Moses, "home-making" wouldn't be possible. In the store, Marvin calls Frank "kemosabe, a direct reference to the Lone Ranger; why? In The Lone Ranger film with Johnny Depp, Tonto says that kemosabe means "wrong brother," but in the original TV series, it meant "good scout," and we can see Frank not only being able to scout out the problems in the film, but also "scouting" each person's skills and strengths so he can recruit them to help him. Additionally, just as Iron Man 3 knew The Lone Ranger would cite the Sand Creek Massacre incident from history (please see Season Of Terror: Iron Man 3 for more), and Iron Man 3 pre-empted that discussion, so the next line Marvin says is, "They're coming," we also hear Brad Pitt's Gerry Lane say in World War Z. Whereas Lane means "They're coming," to be the United Nations coming to save them, because America can't save itself, Marvin's reference is to the enemies coming trying to destroy us.
When Sarah tells Frank that their relationship has become stale, in a way, that's a terrible thing to say because he does so much for her to make her happy and safe; on the other hand, it's a sign of love for her to tell him the total truth and not hide it from him because even though it seems like she just wants some excitement, in reality, there has to be the dark side to show how bright the light is, just like with each of the characters in the film having their own dark sides in addition to their "heroic" side. It's not apparent to Sarah that Frank is protecting her because he protects her so well, she doesn't realize danger actually exists, rather like us Americans living our day-to-day lives in the paradise this great country is because every second our military offers us total protection from the harsh realities of the countries that hate us and want to destroy us, like the socialists/communists in America today trying to do just that. When Marvin tells Frank, "You haven't killed anyone in months," Frank replies, "That's a positive thing!" and on the surface, we think it would be, however, the harsh reality comes out: if you haven't killed your enemies, your enemies are going to kill you, and that's exactly what happens. In other words, Frank has been so busy "home-making" for Sarah, he has forgotten to protect her by taking out their enemies, and not having done that, he's viewed as a "patsy" and linked to the nightshade operation because no one's afraid of laying the blame at his door.
The machine gun standing on its butt mirrors the strong vertical structures of the champagne glass, the black and red window divider behind the couch, and the buildings in the skyline behind Katja; the window divides the outside from the inside; why? That black and red dividing line in the middle of the image divides the old Russia on the right (the Kremlin) from the new Russia of business on the left, and Katja's body is part on one side--her legs in the old Russia, and mind in the new Russia--and part on the other; why? Feet symbolize the will, because they take us where we want to go in life, and what is Katja's instinct when it comes to her will? "Follow orders," which is a typical, "Old Russia" response because that's who communism works. On the other hand, she thinks like a modern woman in wanting to save the world for the benefit of humanity, not just get a bomb for the Russian government. We could talk about this more, however, the post is all ready longer than I anticipated, but there is a glass wall separating the inside of the apartment from the outside, and we might "reflect" that, on the inside, Katja wants a good life of luxury (the big couch and champagne) but on the outside, she wants to be the good "Comrade General."
There are two additional features to Sarah substantiating her role as America the innocent and pure: she's from Kansas and, as she says, "No one ever called me Frank Moses' kryptonite." Her being from Kansas invokes someone else from Kansas: Superman (Henry Cavill). At the end of Man Of Steel, Clark Kent tells the general, "I'm from Kansas, I'm about as American as you can get," and this is probably a great indication of why Sarah's character is from Kansas as well because she's supposed to convey the heartland image of the "motherland" of America and the characteristics of America Frank loves so well (I like for you to know my biases as I write these posts because who we are always flavors our reading of art; I have lived in Kansas nearly my entire life, however, I wouldn't be mentioning this point about Sarah unless we had all ready been introduced to it through Man Of Steel which I think the RED 2 film makers consciously wants us to consider just as they were employing "kemosabe" to make us think of The Lone Ranger: great art always invokes other art, and RED 2 wants us to think of other Kansans [Superman] to expand the frame of reference for the film). 
Again, frames and windows. How can we say Edward Bailey is a monster? Not only because he calls himself that, but because the very luxury we see him enjoying in this scene (he mentions dinner and the opera when Frank and Victoria first see him in his cell) is what he wants for himself but won't allow anyone else. Edward Bailey claims his motivation for wanting the red mercury bomb to explode is revenge for the death of his wife and son, but isn't his entire career spent thinking of ways to take the lives of women, children, husbands, fathers, brothers? Even though he's referred to as "the DaVinci of death," Bailey is a one-track man unable to "reflect" on what's right the way Frank Moses encourages everyone to do who joins him to stop Bailey. Bailey has appetites (like his desire to smoke his pipe and eat the dinner above) but his genius for killing people won't allow anyone else to enjoy what he wants for himself. Why is he only "half" in handcuffs? When the British government put him on ICE (incarcerated cannot execute) sure, they locked him up, but failed to get the bomb or help him turn from the temptations of setting the bomb off, so he's only "half" secured because when Frank and Vitoria come to see him, he slips out of his cell, indicating he was never really secure. When Bailey has set off the nerve gas in the plane, and confronts Jack about his betrayal, Jack utters, "Jesus," and Bailey responds, "Yes, that's a sad, old word you know," and this is perhaps (besides Marvin blessing himself when Katja dies) the most interesting religious reference the film makes, because we know Bailey is a monster who wants the destruction of humanity calling the Name of Jesus "sad" and "old," not a name, but a "word." Why? Because Bailey cannot eve begin to understand what Jesus means or what He taught.
Sarah complaining to Marvin that, "No one ever called me Frank Moses' kryptonite," invites us to examine how Sarah is NOT Frank Moses' kryptonite. Kryptonite is NOT mentioned in this year's blockbuster Man Of Steel, rather, it hearkens back to the days of Lex Luther and the Superman of 1978. Kryptonite is a radioactive material from Superman's home Krypton and is his Achilles' Heel, weakening him when nothing else can; like Superman, the "Golden Warrior" Frank Moses (as Edward Bailey describes him) has a natural weakness but if he's weak, he can't save the world, and that's what Katja is to Frank: assured self-destruction.
On the other hand,...  
Sarah's light-colored trench coat conflicts with the dark colors both Katja and Frank wear; why? That's Sarah's whole character, the reason Frank loves her and needs her, she's not "dark" like Katja and himself. Whereas the chest area of Sarah's coat covers her, the chest area of Katja is exposed; Katja makes an open show of her affections for Frank, but Sarah keeps more to herself (especially as her arms are crossed over her chest). In spite of being dressed like Katja, it's Sarah that Frank sits so closely beside, not wanting to lose her. Frank wears a gray shirt underneath because gray is the color of the pilgrim: Frank isn't in Paris sight-seeing or shopping, in Russia visiting old friends, or in London to eat; he's remembering the bad things that happened during the Cold War and trying to right what was wronged. During most of her scenes, just as Victoria wears fur, so Katja wears hats. Sitting atop our heads, where our thinking takes place, hats can symbolize either the types of thoughts we are having, or that we are keeping our thoughts to ourselves, usually a sign of duplicity or not letting someone else know the full measure of our thoughts or intentions (like Katja not letting Frank know about being so loyal to the Russian government then taking the key; when she's decided to really help Frank, she's not wearing a hat, signifying that she can be trusted).
We can say Sarah, too, is Frank's destruction because in his valiant effort to protect her, he forgot everything else to make her happy (Again, "The best never rest," but he has rested with Sarah) which is the reason why Frank ignores Marvin's warnings two times to join him on a mission, Frank wants to stay with Sarah. On the other hand, Sarah's innocence and not being an agent or operative is what gives Frank strength and a purpose, a genuine reason to do what has to be done, so Sarah isn't Frank Moses kryptonite, Sarah is Frank's strength and total happiness. How can we be so sure? Because the film shows us the opposite of this truth in Edward Bailey.
Usually, a bed is the place where sex takes place which is the creative act leading to life; the guns piled upon the bed in this scene (which actually takes place in the film) resonate death. Further, people usually sleep with the one who means the most to them, but it's his guns that mean the most to Han, taking the place of human relationships like with Bailey. At the end of the bed are the two bags, like Marvin's backpack, symbolizing that Han, indeed, has "baggage" he needs to deal with. That Han possesses a double motive for killing Frank--because of how Frank betrayed him and the money he will get from the kill--it's even more important that the Korean Han chooses to help Frank instead of kill him and demonstrates the importance of Frank's leadership in bringing the group together in a united effort and for a much greater good. 
Please remember, first, that Bailey claims, because his wife and child were destroyed, he wants to see the red mercury bomb go off; in other words, not having anyone he loves to protect (the way Frank has Sarah) he doesn't care what happens to anyone. Secondly, whereas Frank has the genuine relationship with Sarah--even if there are problems--and Frank's love for Sarah and the world moves him to act in a manner to save the world, Bailey's lack of real relationships with anyone (remember, he was talking to no one when Frank and Victoria find him in his cell) causes Bailey to move relationships and his own actions to a theoretical scale, a plane of pure thought with no emotion, hence the reason he makes everything he does out to be a game ("I bet you didn't see that coming," and "I didn't see that coming," is like the keeping of a scorecard, especially when Bailey holds Sarah hostage and Frank gets on the plane, Bailey says, "We've reached a stalemate" referencing chess, like the game between Moriarty and Holmes in Sherlock Holmes A Game Of Shadows). We could say Bailey was, like Han, a monster who was created, but he was probably always like this and just needed the right excuse to carry out his evil genius to "the proper conclusion" of building a bomb he would then want to explode.
So, now, "emotions" in the film,... 
This is the scene when Frank convinces Katja to ditch Russia and help them save the world, and she's not wearing a hat, she's revealing her true thoughts. Now, a character never dies in a work of art unless they are all ready dead (Sarah asking if they could just kill her earlier reveals that Sarah all ready knew Katja was dead). Why does Katja die? She's enough of a modern woman, but she's still "Comrade General," or a communist deep-down inside who hasn't fully made the conversion to the modern world and capitalism. Being the dark, smouldering femme fatale she is, even though Sarah thinks she herself is the one at a disadvantage, it's Katja because Katja's kryptonite/radioactive, not a source of strength for Frank or anyone else.
Marvin emphasizes that Frank needs to "make the run to emotional security," and Frank finally does that. Why is this important? It's not just for Frank, but for all of us; it's not just in our relationships, but in national security and policies as well. In both Bailey (who looks at everything as either a game or in terms of death) and Katja who prefers orders to emotions or morality, and even Han who only really cares about how much money he gets and his plane, Frank has to embrace his emotions because emotions are what makes us human; not having emotions, or suffocating our emotions, or stifling our emotional needs turns us into,... dare I say it?,... "zombies." (Yes, I am directly countering World War Z that wants to claim anyone who loves the Constitution or other people are zombies). Our strength as Americans come from our emotions, our humanity, our love of being human and not being afraid of being "silly," wrong, or making mistakes. And we have seen this before in at least two places: Emperor (Tommy Lee Jones) when the Japanese soldiers' "perfections" are compared to the undisciplined behavior of the American soldiers and, once again, in Man Of Steel, when General Zod (Michael Shannon) tells Clark Kent he was trained to be a warrior, but Clark was "raised on a farm." Because Clark was raised on a farm, he learned the most difficult of lessons for humans: how to NOT become an animal, which is exactly what Zod is (the Japanese General in Emperor said the Japanese soldiers lost their humanity  the War) and what Edward Bailey is.
One of the only scenes when she doesn't wear fur. Victoria is wearing the stocking hat when she steps out in front of Frank's and Marvin's jeep, possibly ready to kill them; they don't know what she's thinking, about taking the contract, so she wears the hat to communicate that to us. But this is also part of Victoria she keeps hidden from others, and comes out just a few seconds before they believe the red mercury bomb is to go off, and she tells Marvin, "Put your arms around me," because Victoria doesn't like being alone and while she's strong, she's also emotional and needs human relationships even though she's also a killer. The biggest reason I was so concerned regarding RED 2 was the debate over our traditional allies, England, and how some films, such as Oblivion and even Star Trek Into Darkness, suggest that England's increasing trend of socialising the country is deadly to America because people here see England becoming socialist and use that to justify America becoming socialist; further, Russia is more our ally because they have committed themselves more to capitalism and we need to help them build up their economies so ur shared trade will insure peace, not nukes and misiles. RED 2, however, with Victoria protecting Frank and helping him, and Katja dying, definitely supports the more traditional international allegiance with which we are familiar.
One last item,...
Why are the flowers in Frank's garden yellow? When Frank needs to know if he can trust Katja, he asks her a validity question to see if she had really gone by his house years earlier and questions her about the color of the flowers in his front yard and she correctly answers they were yellow. In the language of flowers, yellow means friendship (although just the color yellow symbolizes different things) and that statement in Frank Moses' front yard--the statement of the US in our international policy--is that of friendship: we don't start wars, we defend the rights of others and will go where there is all ready a fight, but we didn't start World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War on Terror, etc., others started those; we want peace for all, just as we want it for ourselves, but we know there is a price for freedom, but it's a price worth paying. Just as Frank was minding his own business, and didn't launch the nightshade operation, so America didn't start this war; just as Frank doesn't back down from the fight, so America shouldn't back down from the fight either, although you wouldn't know that by Obama's policies.
Frank can play all the games, on any level. When Bailey lets Sarah go in this scene, he tells her to "Go to your golden warrior," and the irony is, Bailey's right, Frank is now the "golden warrior" because he has done everything perfectly, from figuring out how he's being framed, to trusting others, not taking revenge, but sparing others so they can help him and growing emotionally in the direction Sarah needs him; Frank has done all things well which he was supposed to accomplish, whereas Bailey hasn't done anything well.
This turned out to be a far longer post than I intended and I apologize; yet there is still more in the film that can be mined, I only scratched the surface. RED 2 is a silly film, however, the silliness is meant as a targeted response to propositions that we need to become inhuman and abandon our emotions so we can be "stronger" and "perfect" (like Seneg in World War Z and Cypher [Will Smith] in After Earth). Like the characters in the film, America has a dark side, but without the dark, we wouldn't be able to see the value of the gold and not take it for granted.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
Frank's leadership and confidence is so strong, he let's Han make the decision to join and recognizes he needs Han's help. This not only helps them save the world, as well as Frank himself, but brings out the best in Han, who then helps to bring out the best in the other characters (like trusting Sarah to follow through with a critical part of their plan). This "potential tapping" is what we see also in Monsters University, Despicable Me 2, Fast and Furious 6, Moneyball, Man Of Steel, After Earth, The Internship, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, etc., countering the idea of General Zod in Man Of Steel that humanity is totally expendable, and the same idea presented in World War Z.