Still reeling from the events of X-Men 3, an embittered Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is hiding in the Canadian wilderness in the hopes of hanging up his deadly claws for good. His languor is broken when the slinky Yukio (Rila Fukushima) arrives with an invitation to come see an old friend, who wishes to bestow upon him a gift. Cue an impromptu trip to Tokyo where our hero encounters his first real chance of salvation, while facing his greatest challenge yet...
Fans of the hirsute comic-book hero have been extremely vocal in the past about his onscreen depiction to date: he was too tall, he hadn’t been given enough focus, and he didn’t say his trademark “bub” enough, among other offences. With the damp squid that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine providing such an underwhelming origin story for everybody’s favourite mutant, the audience was crying out for justice. This picture, with the help of Walk the Line director James Mangold, attempts to address these problems. Well, all except the height issue because, for all intents and purposes, Hugh Jackman is Wolverine.
Reprising his career-defining role for the sixth time, Jackman perfectly inhabits the bestial Wolverine as a brooding “samurai without a master". Like an Eastwood for this generation, he spits quips that have the potential to be extremely cheesy but instead come off as the essence of cool.
The film boasts a slew of heart-pounding set pieces; one standout knife-fight on top of a bullet train will surely come to be regarded as one of the most exhilarating action sequences in film history.
At its heart is a simple love story between the titular hero and the timid heiress Mariko (Tao Okamoto), which manages to breathe new life into an iconic character who was in danger of going stale. While perhaps the least light-hearted of this franchise, there are definitely chuckle-worthy moments to be enjoyed, especially in one particular scene that seems to be copied-and-pasted straight from The Prince of Egypt.
The story loses some momentum through a bloated plot containing blather about family feuds, Yakuza gangsters, Japanese politics and ninja clans distracting from what should really be a straightforward story of love and redemption. The villains also leave a bit to be desired, with Svetlana Khodchenkova’s toxic Viper drawing unfortunate comparisons with Poison Ivy, and the final showdown involving a faceless robot that looks like a reject from Real Steel.
Ultimately, The Wolverine proves to be a massive improvement on the fiasco that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine - it will satisfy newcomers to the franchise while giving hardcore fans precisely what they ordered.
Be sure to stick around for a post-credits scene that will leave X-Men aficionados squealing with childish glee as well as whetting their appetite for next summer’s epic X-Men: Days of Future Past.