Susan Granger's review of 'The Wolverine'
Set in Japan, this latest installment in the X-Men series is elevated above the ordinary comic-book adaptation by the charismatic ferocity of buffed-up Hugh Jackman, now in his sixth reprise of the indestructible, mutton-chopped, metal-clawed mutant.
As his story begins, Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine) is alone in the Yukon wilderness, haunted by tortured dreams about Jean Gray (Famke Janssen), the woman he loved and killed. One night in a bar, after he takes revenge on a cowardly hunter who poisoned a grizzly bear, he's accosted by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a mysterious, sword-wielding martial artist who has been dispatched by Tokyo industrialist Shingen Yashida, whose life Logan saved at a P.O.W. camp during the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Yashida is dying and wishes to bid a final farewell. Or, at least, that's what Logan is told.
In actuality, Yashida covets Logan's immortality, precipitating a family feud as Japanese gangsters, the Yakuza, threaten Yashida's granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who has been designated to take over his empire. Brooding, glowering Logan is determined to protect Mariko not only from them but also from her avaricious father, ambitious fiance and Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a mutant geneticist.
Since the Logan/Wolverine's backstory was established in "X-Men Origins; Wolverine," screenwriters Mark Bomback and Scott Frank have used a romantic encounter lifted from a 1982 Marvel saga by Chris Claremont, illustrated by Frank Miller.
Director James Mangold ("3:10 to Yuma," "Walk the Line") and cinematographer Ross Emery stage several spectacular action sequences, the most exciting atop a bullet train speeding at 300 m.p.h., although the 3D postproduction conversion doesn't add much, even when bands of ninja warriors swoop in for a snowy, climactic ambush.
FYI: While Disney now owns much of the Marvel group, 20th Century-Fox maintains the rights to the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Wolverine and the X-Men franchise.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Wolverine" slashes a sharp 7 -- and be sure to stay through the credits for a teasing glimpse of next year's "X-Men: Days of Future Past."