Remember 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'? No, me neither, not really...or at least not enough to keep me away from this way better Wolvie solo film, which is basically a samurai film (with mutants). Hugh Jackman returns for the sixth time playing Logan (counting his cameo in X-Men First Class) and he is phenomenal as always. The story centers around his famous ability to heal quickly and his slow aging, whether or not that is a blessing or a curse and the bad guy who is manipulating that 'doubt' in Wolverine's mind to steal said mutant power.
Remember at the end of X-Men 3: The Last Stand, how Logan killed Jean Grey because he had to? Well, this film also centers around the guilt that he feels for killing the woman he loved. Famke Jansen plays Jean Grey in a series of dream sequences that can either be interpreted as Logan feeling guilty or Jean talking to him from the grave. I prefer the former, but you can take it either way. Kind of like at the end of Les Miserables, when all the characters show up in Hugh Jackman's dream when he was old and you COULD take it that they are in the afterlife, or maybe the old man is just remembering the peeople he's known. Well, this is like that and the movie is about Logan dealing with his terrible choice.
Remember that SNIKT sound that Wolverine's claws makes when he is fighting? He'll run into a crowd full of bad guys and slash at them all PG-13 style and they will fall with no slash marks or blood shown? Well, there is alot of that here, but there are also scenes where WWII Japanese soldiers stab themselves (no blood shown) to "regain their honor" and scenes where Wolverine is bleeding, getting stitched up and/or has to get this weird thing out of his heart. Same level of action as the other X-Men films, but with those more intense/gory things added for historical accuracy and medical context (that shows Wolverine's healing ability or lack thereof), I would not recommend this for very young superhero movie fans.
Remember that cameo in X-Men First Class where Logan showed up randomly when Xavier was looking for mutants and it was funny except for the f-bomb that Logan dropped? Well, towards the end of this film, he drops another one. I was "rolling with" the other "words" he shouldn't have used because Wolverine is supposed to be a tough, no-nonsense character, but he uses the F-bomb, again, in a genre that appeals to younger fans and that was disappointing.
What I liked about this movie is the level of realism that they achieve for most of it. The acting is really good. It is basically like a samurai movie, lone warrior kind of thing, except for the light sci-fi element of Wolverine losing his healing factor and a few mutant characters. The opening scene is great and very intense, taking place in WWII as the atom bomb was being dropped on Nagasaki. There is a really good fight scene later on top of a train where Wolverine does some things that he can only do because he is a mutant, but it's nowhere as ridiculous as X-Men Origins (chopping helicopter blades in half and then slowly walking away from a fireball etc.). The story involves political corruption, the Japanese mob (yazuka) and "real world" stuff. That is, until the end, where it goes really over the top for the final fight scene that almost feels like it was plucked out of a crazier movie. Yes, I liked seeing Silver Samurai (a character I only knew from the video game Marvel vs. Capcom), but that whole fight scene did feel forced. And then, it goes back to realism until the closing credits.
Overall, if you are looking for a well-acted light sci-fi film that nods to lone warrior type films, either westerns or samurai films or if you liked the other X-men movies, give this one a try with the above reservations. And...stay a few minutes into the credits, for their is a teaser for the next X-Men film, one that I am even more excited about 'Days of Future Past', based on the famous Chris Claremont X-Men time travel storyline.
BOTTOM LINE: 3.5 out of 5 adamantium claws