Hugh Jackman has been pretty vocal about atoning for the disappointment of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” with his latest (and sixth) appearance as the popular mutant, but while “The Wolverine” is a slight improvement on the character’s first solo outing, it’s kind of like giving someone a less bruised piece of fruit and expecting them to be grateful for it. Though director James Mangold should be applauded for trying to do something different with a superhero movie, it’s still plagued by some of the same problems (and a few new ones, as well), ultimately resorting to an all-too-familiar formula in the end. As a character piece, “The Wolverine” is Jackman’s best performance in the role, but as a summer blockbuster, it fails to deliver the Wolverine that audiences want to see.
Loosely based on the much-loved miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, the film picks up sometime after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” with Logan (Jackman) now living in the woods like an animal and haunted by visions of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the woman he loved but was forced to kill. His past catches up to him once again when a mysterious Japanese girl named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) comes to whisk Logan away to Tokyo to pay his respects to her master, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a dying billionaire whose life he once saved as a young soldier during the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki. Yashida claims to have the technology to free Logan of his so-called curse and transfer his mutant powers to someone else, but when he refuses and the old man dies shortly after, Logan reluctantly agrees to protect Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) from the local yakuza, despite losing his coveted healing ability after he’s poisoned by an evil, snake-like mutant called Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova).