Hugh Jackman-680
Photo Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

Ho-hum. That sums up my reaction to this competently-made but uninspired action movie about the character last seen on his own in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The fact that the producers have added “The” to its title will separate it, I suppose, from that disappointing 2009 film—which most people refer to as Wolverine. When the biggest distinction a multimillion dollar movie has going for it is an article of speech, you know you’re in trouble. (In the same vein, this serious script suddenly reaches for cheesy catchphrase dialogue toward the end, in what seems to be an act of desperation.)

Hugh Jackman once again inhabits the character of Logan, a tortured loner who lives with the curse of uncontrollable anger, which manifests itself by the sudden appearance of sharp steel claws protruding from his hands. Adversaries usually shy away after one encounter.

Rila Fukushima as Yuriko
Photo by Ben Rothstein – Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Rila Fukushima as Yuriko

This time, however, Logan is sought out by a wiry Japanese woman named Yuriko (Rila Fukushima), who summons him to her homeland so he can say goodbye to an old acquaintance, a dying Japanese industrialist. This seemingly simple task turns complicated when Logan interferes in a family blood feud that also involves power-mad scientists and possibly even the Yakuza.

You’d expect a handsome hunk like Logan to be attracted to leading lady Tao Okamoto (as the granddaughter of the industrialist, or “damsel in distress”), but it’s still a stretch to connect this story to previous X-Men sagas. The movie’s production notes go on at length about positioning Logan as a Ronin—a Samurai warrior without a master. I would call this “justification.” There is dialogue dealing with that subject, but a giant metallic robot and an alien blonde villainess seem to take precedence.

What the film does offer is a lot of well-staged action, the unquestionable highlight being a hand-to-hand battle atop a bullet train. And if the mere sight of Hugh Jackman’s rippling muscles give you pleasure, you’ll get plenty of what you’re looking for here. But the screenplay, credited to Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, has little resonance. James Mangold’s direction is capable enough but the movie winds up as just another serving of summertime fast-food, quickly digested and just as quickly forgotten.