Slicing and dicing his way through another action adventure, Hugh Jackman personifies the Marvel Comics character known for his bladed knuckles and immortal body. Yet that ability to survive any battle and have your wounds magically heal is one that is weighing on Jimmy Logan (Wolverine’s “real” name). He has lived through years of sorrow whilst grieving the loss of his love Jean Gray (played by Famke Janssen in multiple flashbacks) and wishes that life could come to an end one day.
In the meantime he’s taken up residence in a cave in his northern home and native land, with only a bear for a friend and dressing in leftovers from Grizzly Adam’s closet. His depressing existence gets even worse after a group of thugs kills his bear (think of it as a big dog), so he pulverizes them in the local bar.
Then a strange turn of evens appears to offer Logan his death wish. Yashida (Ken Yamamura and Hal Yamanouchi), a former Japanese soldier who was once his captor in Nagasaki during World War II, sends a neon-haired woman named Mariko (Tao Okamoto) to bring the Wolverine back to Japan. Now a wealthy high-tech businessman, the POW camp guard was saved by Logan’s immortal being during the moment the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. Yet rather than counting his blessings for a life recovered, the aging Yashida has dwelled on the possibility of claiming the chemical that powers Logan’s endless life for his own benefit.
To bring his plan to reality, Yashida somehow employs the mutant Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) to remove Wolverine’s Get Out Of The Graveyard card and transfer it to him. (She has a tongue long enough to do an effective tonsillectomy, but the mechanism required to take our hero’s magical powers and transfer them to the dying old guy who is lying on a high tech bed of nails is just one of many plot points obscured in darkness.) Meanwhile Yashida’s daughter Yukio (Rila Fukushima) is positioned to take control of his massive corporation. She also seems to be a love interest for Logan—although the script once again muddles this possibility with more Jean Gray flashbacks. It also doesn’t help that Fukushima looks like she has just graduated high school while Jackman is starting to resemble your father’s Oldsmobile.
Lighter on action than some may expect, our brooding protagonist still gets plenty of opportunity to show off his blades and insert them into a variety of opponents. Add to this a bevy of Samurai swords and other weapons and you have good reason to expect confrontations resulting in deaths and injuries, often with detailed bloody effects. Overall it feels darker and more violent than other X-Men episodes. Jackman also gets to boldly use the token sexual expletive in this film (is this expected after his cameo in X-Men: First Class?), along with a few other profanities.
Of course this violence will likely be the biggest barrier to considering this film’s appropriateness for teen viewing. But there’s another consideration that seems to be an advancing plague in the superhero universe: Dull, brooding scenes devoid of the tongue-in-cheek humor that was once a subtle mainstay of this genre. First we saw Tony Stark get way too serious in Iron Man 3, then an agonizing Clark Kent in Man of Steel, and now we have Wolverine sadly soloing through a series of knife fights with the expectation of serious cinema. Really? Screenwriters everywhere, remember these characters fly with funny looking capes and soar in iron suits. Sure watching a superhero deal with his inner-demons is part of the genre, but when former CIA ops are having more fun than a guy with hairy bladed-knuckles, it’s time for a un-reality check.