It does interesting things right from the striking opening scene, in which we learn that Logan (Hugh Jackman) was actually in Nagasaki when the bomb fell. We then cut to the first of many dream sequences involving the ghost of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), our hero’s one true love who he actually had to kill with his own claws when she went all Dark Phoenix in “X-Men: The Last Stand”.
When the Canadian mutant wakes up, we see that he’s now all long-haired and bearded, apparently living in the woods somewhere in Yukon. There’s a nice beat involving a grizzly, with whom the Wolverine seems to have an unspoken agreement, then after another incident involving the noble animal, Logan meets Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who convinces him to go back to Japan with her at a dying old man’s request.
Up until then and for a while afterwards, the film is moody and deliberately paced, almost like a film noir. But before too long, as we’re plunged in modern and traditional Japanese iconography, the action picks up and we’re suddenly hit with a rush of martial arts, shoot-outs and swordplay.
Yet “The Wolverine” remains a rather atmospheric picture, as Logan multiplies efforts to protect the lovely Mariko (Tao Okamoto) while dealing with the fact that he mysteriously seems to be losing his healing factor. Once in a while, there’s a big action scene like the particularly insane bullet train sequence or the big ninja attack, but this is hardly the wham-bam comic book flick you might have expected, for better or worse.
I’m personally all for a more thoughtful, stylish superhero movie, though I wish in this case that the screenplay was more solid. As mentioned, there are interesting little things throughout, like the idea that Logan is a ronin, i.e. a masterless samurai, but the plot is ultimately kind of a mess. I especially hated everything having to do with the Viper woman (Svetlana Khodchenkova), and the climax stretches the audience’s suspension of disbelief a bit too much.
I still rather enjoyed “The Wolverine”, thanks in no small part to the unwavering commitment of Hugh Jackman, who does wounded animal and badass antihero like the best of them. It’s quite telling that after starring in 5 features (plus that memorable cameo in “X-Men: First Class), Jackman’s Wolverine has yet to wear out his welcome.