("As the only film opening in wide release, James Mangold's dark take on the clawed mutant opened strong and walked away with about $21 million on Friday, which includes the $4 million it made in theaters that began showing the movie at 10 p.m. on Thursday night." EW.com via CNN)
Logan, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), is a mutant with retractable claws and a self-healing, metal skeleton. As a member of Marvel Comics' X-Men, he has appeared in all five of the franchise's prior screen adaptations, most notably, the eponymous installment exploring his origin.
At this episode's point of departure, we find him in Alaska and awaking from the clever cinematic contrivance of a nightmare within a nightmare. In the haunting dream, he'd been confronted by Jean Grey, aka Phoenix (Famke Janssen), the lover/colleague gone bad he'd been forced to stab to death in "X-Men: The Last Stand."
Here, she makes him feel so guilty about gutting her belly and aborting their baby that he promises never to hurt anyone ever again. Trouble is, Logan has anger management issues which cause him to morph into feral Wolverine whenever he loses his temper, and he proceeds to break the vow the very next day in a bar fight with a bunch of inconsiderate local yokels.
However, the film's setting changes from the Yukon to the Orient soon after the arrival in town of bottle red-head Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a capable bodyguard sent by Ichiro Yashida (Haruchiko Yamanouchi), the terminally-ill CEO of Japan's biggest corporation. Since Logan saved Ichiro's life when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, you'd think he was being summoned for a grateful, fond farewell. Think again.
The old man suddenly wants to live forever and has hatched a plan to steal Wolverine's secret to immortality. And he's assisted in this diabolical endeavor by and army of ninjas as well as by Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), an evil temptress with an immunity to toxins.
Meanwhile, Logan is lucky that Yukio has decided to shift loyalties from her boss to him. At this juncture, the picture launches into a ballet-like display of non-stop martial arts fare, the highlight being a breathtaking Kabuki dance to the death atop a careening locomotive.
When the dust settles, Logan of course not only emerges victorious but will have to choose whether to ride off into the Land of the Rising Sun's proverbial sunset with two-fisted, tomboy Yukio or with gorgeous Mariko (Tao Okamoto), Ichiro's granddaughter. Provided you're not suffering from blockbuster fatigue in this summer of sequels, this engaging and enchanting Asian adventure definitely deserves to be added to your "Must See" list.
Crouching Viper, Hidden Wolverine!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and intense violence
In English and Japanese with subtitles
Running time: 126 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
(To see a trailer for The Wolverine, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th1NTVIhUQU)