★★★ Initially I had high hopes as The Wolverine opens really strongly. Logan is held prisoner in Nagasaki as the atomic bomb falls. He ends up saving a Japanese soldier, an event that burns most of his skin off in the process. Thank goodness for healing factors.
Skip to present day. Logan is in hiding. He's given up being Wolverine and has grown a beard to prove it. He now looks like a cross between Grizzly Adams and Jean Valjean. Logan is living the Bruce Banner life, on the lam, going from town to town solving problems and then moving on. Except in Logan's case, he's more concerned with avenging grizzly bear deaths, as if he works for the fish and wildlife department.
Logan is haunted by Jean's Grey's death, an event that happened in X-Men: The Last Stand, a two star debacle from 2006. I would have been okay with Jean showing up once or twice, but Logan dreams and hallucinates her into existence so frequently it could be a drinking game.
We're told Logan is seeking an honorable death, but we never really believe it. The concept itself is interesting, and was done really well in the classic Hulk story, The End. But here it's halfhearted. We're simply told, "A man can run out of things to live for."
So a man from Logan's past offers him the chance to become mortal, just like in Superman II. Logan declines, but his healing factor is compromised anyway. His "mortality" is a bit silly as he's shot and stabbed multiple times yet still carries on pretty much like normal. He battles Yakuza and ninjas, and fights atop a bullet train in a scene that would be more at home in a Matrix film.
The Wolverine goes for laughs a few too many times. Logan makes metal detectors beep and is scrubbed down in a bathtub by two unlucky ladies. Scenes like these take away from what should be a serious story, if it weren't too complicated to begin with.
There's a arranged marriages, bankruptcy, a villain named Viper, Logan's sad story, his memories of Jean (take a drink), a villain named the Silver Samurai, the ninjas, the Yakuza, lots of exposition and Logan's halfhearted search for death. Though there's too much plot, there is enough here for me to recommend it. If for nothing else, Logan performing open heart surgery on himself is a pretty great scene.
The real problem with this film (and honestly with the last Wolverine solo film as well) is that it's not dark enough. I think it's finally time for an R rated Wolverine movie. One that's grim, gritty and packed to the gills with blood. In fact, I'd love to give the franchise over to Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller and see what they'd do with it.
In the end there's a nice post credit scene with Logan, Magneto and Xavier in an airport that's good, but doesn't really say much of anything except to remind us that there's another X-Men movie coming out next year.