Wolverine isn’t your classic superhero.
He’s darker and more antisocial than most, and his chief superhero power is the ability to absorb heavy amounts of punishment (yes, the claws are cool too).
How hard is it to kill Wolverine? Well, we find out in “The Wolverine” that not even the atom bomb could do the trick.
A kindly Japanese prison guard saved by Hugh Jackman’s sideburned hero at the time of the Nagasaki bombing helps fuel the plot in this second solo flick for the most popular X-Man.
The guard (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) is now a wealthy industrialist (are there ever poor industrialists?) who is dying and wants to say goodbye to the man who prolonged his life.
Rila Fukushima plays Yukio, a pint-sized girl with mad samurai skills who fetches Wolverine from his brooding, solitary existence in the Yukon — his best friend is a bear — and convinces him to visit Japan.
Once there, of course, Wolverine will have to battle ninjas, yakuza, a sexy mutant and just maybe a weird giant robot. The catch this time, however, is that he begins to lose his ability to regenerate. What will Wolverine do when bullets and blades can actually damage him?
“The Wolverine” is good, though it doesn’t quite reach the level of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which benefited from some family tension and a better ultimate foe.
Jackman is excellent, as always, and gets some great support from Fukushima, his energetic, self-appointed bodyguard, and from Tao Okamoto, as Mariko, a beautiful potential love interest who needs Wolverine’s protection. Svetlana Khodchenkova is less convincing as the evil mutant, Viper.
Famke Janssen’s Jean Gray is the only other X-Men influence spotted in the film (in flashbacks and dream sequences), until the closing credits.
“The Wolverine” takes time to build its story and characters, and it has some nice battle scenes as well, particularly one on top of a bullet train — a pleasant surprise considering how clichéd the fight-on-the-train scene has become.
It’s not a special movie, but it definitely keeps the X-Men franchise moving forward.
Rental recommendation: Director James Mangold also helmed the dark Western “3:10 to Yuma.” Grade: A-
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Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto
Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language)
Running time: 126 minutes