Everyone hates X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I don't - I mean it's got problems with too many characters and a totally poochscrew of Deadpool at the end which made everyone mad - but compared to real garbage like Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Elektra, it's an OK flick. That said, everyone is comparing The Wolverine to Origins when they should be judging it on an independent basis and on that basis, it's a good movie, though it stumbles toward the end due to our old friend, poor writing-by-committee.
This is a direct continuation of X-Men: The Last Stand - another movie everyone claims to hate beyond its flaws - with Logan (the even more ripped HUGE JACKEDMAN) living in a cave in Alaska or Canuckia, drinking whiskey and having nightmares in which Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), his lady love whom he had to kill at the end of the last movie, appears to him, basically encouraging him to die and join her in eternity. He's Emo Grizzly Adams.
While getting into a scrap with some illegal hunters in town, he's assisted (like he needs help!) by Yukio (newcomer Rila Fukushima), a kickass anime-looking chick with a wicked sword who has been sent by her boss, a billionaire Japanese tycoon whose life Logan saved while in a prison camp outside of Nagasaki when an atomic bomb was dropped on it. He's old and dying, but wants to thank Wolverine by taking away his immortality. (Yeah, kind of a weird thanks, no?) After the old man dies, Yakuza thugs attack the funeral and attempt to kidnap his granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). While rescuing her, Logan is shot and for some reason isn't healing like normal. Something has happened and he's vulnerable.
Partially based on an acclaimed run by Chris Clairmont and Frank Miller (I haven't read it), there were high hopes, especially when Darren Aronofsky - who directed Jackman to what should've been an Oscar nom in The Fountain - was supposed to direct, but after the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear plant disaster he bowed out and James Mangold (Walk the Line and Girl, Interupted; both of which earned acting Oscars for Reese Witherspoon and Angelina Jolie, respectively) stepped in and does a good job with things. The action scenes are respectable, but it's even better in the quieter moments that allow Jackman to get into the conflicted state he's in. The best parts of the first two X-Men movies were the moments in which you really got the feeling that while superpowers are nice, not being alone because of those powers because the world is terrified of you would be better.
Where The Wolverine gets its paw stuck in a trap is the convoluted plot involving the old man, control of his company, that he skipped his son in favor of his grandfather and what side the Yakuza and a ninja army are on. By the time we get to the third act and the obligatory, studio-pleasing battle royale between Logan and a giant metal mecha-samurai (thus enraging nerd purists about the Silver Samurai), it's all cards produced from sleeves and who cares? It doesn't help that Mariko is too bland to be a compelling love interest, too. She's attractive, but dull. Give me the weird ninja chick any day.
Still, it's good to see Wolverine slashing (bloodlessly) up the silver screen again and make sure to sit through the first part of the end credits (you don't need to wait until the end like others have done) for a very cool scene which directly sets up next year's uber-team-up, X-Men: Days of Futures Past.
Score: 7/10. Catch a matinee.