Haunted by dreams of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Logan aka The Wolverine (Hugh Jackson) has retreated from human society and is trying to live a life of seclusion in the far reaches of Canada.
However, he is tracked down by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a punky, elfin Japanese spitfire who works for Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a soldier Logan saved from the bombing of Nagasaki at the tail-end of World War Two.
Yashida, who now runs Asia's largest tech company, is on his death-bed and supposedly wants to say a final farewell to his old friend.
However, there are machinations aplenty. As well as Yashida's true reason for wanting to see Logan again, there are complications over who will succeed him as the head of his company, which pits his son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) against his granddaughter, the gorgeous Mariko (Tao Okamoto).
As a reader of the X-Men comics from the Claremont era, just the mention of the name Mariko sent a fannish frisson of excitement down my spine as I already knew of her importance in Logan's life.
However there is another element at work in this brilliantly complex plot - a clan of ninjas working with a well-known Marvel Universe villainess (no spoilers) - whose motivation we don't discover until the big reveal in the final act.
But nothing is ever easy for Logan as he realises - when he steps in to save Mariko from yakuza kidnappers - his healing mutation has stopped working. He's still one tough son-of-a-bitch, but the lack of rapid healing is a major hiccup in his plans.
The Wolverine is a brilliant mix of comic book action and character-driven plotting, with everything being set up perfectly thanks to expert foreshadowing and well-rounded character development.
This truly feels like a run of X-Men comics brought to life thanks to the tight script by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank and the intelligent direction of James Mangold that make this 132-minute cut of the movie a thrill to watch. Logan's time in Japan was always a key element of his character in the comics and this film does that thread great justice.
My only slight regret is - because of all the licensing issues etc - that this isn't part of the same Cinemtaic Marvel Universe as The Avengers movies, as I'd love to see Hugh Jackman's Wolverine rubbing shoulders with Captain America (great potential for flashbacks to the war there), Iron Man etc.
Let's hope when the rights eventually revert to Marvel they have the good sense to keep the X-Men movie continuity.
Sure, Hugh Jackson may be considerably taller than the Logan depicted in the comic books but now it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing the role.
Unsurprisingly The Wolverine is a very violent flick, even if the gore quotient is quite low, and there are a couple of f-bombs if you're thinking of watching this with impressionable children around.
The action set-pieces are phenomenal, with the stand-out moments being the fight on top of the 300mph bullet train and Logan and Yukio facing off against a village full of ninjas.
The Wolverine is a slick palate cleanser for getting rid of the bad taste left by the klunker that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine and bodes well for the sequel that Hugh Jackman has been teasing in the press recently.
However, before that, thanks to a geekgasmic mid-credit scene (and a couple of unexpected cameos by familiar faces), The Wolverine serves as a fantastic prequel to next year's X-Men: Days Of Future Past (which, of course, Logan plays a key role in).
|Wolverine and his bodyguard, Yukio|