After the tepid response to X-Men Origins: Wolverine a few years back, having another stand-alone feature for the mutton chopped grump didn't seem like a fantastic idea. But considering we had the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects on script duties and the director of the Oscar-winning Walk The Line at the helm, tackling the much loved "Wolverine Goes To Japan" storyline from the comics, hopes were high. The good news is that The Wolverine is quite a bit better than Origins, but the bad news is it's still quite a bit behind pretty much everything from the Marvel slate.
Kicking off just as the H-Bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, with Logan (Hugh Jackman) saving a local Japanese solider, we flash-forward to today where our clawed anti-hero is being quite literally haunted by ghostly images of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the love of his life he was forced to kill at the climax of X-Men: The Last Stand. Up pops Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who has been sent by the now super-rich-but-nearly-dead-from-old-age Japanese soldier, who claims he can cure Logan of his immortality and allow him to die like a normal person. Then a load of family troubles and dirty business dealings combine into the mix, but it's never overtly complicated: there are bad guys, and Wolverine must beat them up.
After the likes of Man Of Steel and Pacific Rim and other gigantically epic blockbusters this summer, it makes a nice change of pace to see an action scene that involves one guy punching another guy in the face. This has also got to be the most violent X-Men movie to date, and almost hand in hand with that, the least humorous and most dour in the series. The closest movie relative is the recent Jack Reacher (not surprising, as it shares a screenwriter), a lone vigilante out for justice, and the massive lack of actual mutants (this reviewer counted three) does nothing to help alleviate the overwhelming sense of suffocating seriousness.
Sixth time out and Jackman has this all sown up; it'd be impossible to see anyone else in the role. Nevertheless, he's surrounded by a cavalclade of very poor actors - especially Fukushima and Svetlana Khodchenkova as Poison Ivy rip-off Viper - and a very meh script. When the post-credits sequence rocks up and knocks you off your feet with its absolute awesomeness, you're reminded all too fully of what the rest of the movie was missing.