Whatever else you may say about The Wolverine, the latest Marvel comic-book adventure to reach the big screen, say this: It takes guts -- and, apparently, both a big movie star and a popular hero -- to get Hollywood to spend a bundle on a tentpole movie the bulk of whose characters are Japanese.
Hollywood has a massive fear of foreign film and stars who either don't speak English or don't look obviously American. Why? Because Americans -- particularly that crucial young audience, many of whom seem to spend so much of their time writing and reading texts -- apparently hate subtitles. (And black-and-white -- but that's another issue.)
So while, yes, The Wolverine is about a famous comic-book figure (the most popular of the X-Men), it's still a movie that is primarily set in Japan and features mainly Japanese actors. (Though its subtitles are, in fact, minimal.)
Thankfully, there is more to be grateful for than just Hollywood's (reluctant) effort at diversity. Director James Mangold, working from a script by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, has made an extremely entertaining comic-book movie -- though a comic-book movie nonetheless. Which means that it is long on action and short on tension, filled with the antics of the engagingly gruff, anger-management-challenged mutant named Logan, played by Hugh Jackman.
Set after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (and long after the story in the sorry X-Men Origins: Wolverine), The Wolverine finds Logan living in the woods somewhere in the American northwest. (This, after a prologue that shows him as a Japanese POW near Nagasaki, saving the life of a guard when the Americans drop the A-bomb.)
He's plucked from his hermit-like existence by a young Japanese girl with crimson hair and a wicked touch with a samurai sword. She's Yukio (Rila Fukushima), the adoptive granddaughter of the man Logan saved in Japan. That man is dying in Tokyo and has sent her to bring him back so he can personally thank Logan once again.
This review continues on my website.