...which is why it's no surprise at all that The Wolverine is not a sequel. It is entirely its own movie, and only makes a couple of minor references to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Instead, it focuses on X-Men 3 as the springboard, and we rejoin Logan's company 10 years after the big battle in San Francisco. He's been living in the woods, has promised not to kill...once again, we see a wounded Wolverine, haunted by having to kill lover Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), blah blah blah, it's not really anything new, but then again, there ain't nothin' new under the sun. So if you're expecting a labyrinthine plot, go watch Patriot Games or something.
If you can put up with being able to see the end coming a mile off (not to mention anticipating every single plot twist the film throws at you), then you'll enjoy The Wolverine, because the main focus is the action. It's on seeing Wolverine hack some bad guys into spare ribs, and it does that phenomenally well. there's a good 15 minutes or so of sustained action, first at a funeral and then in/on top of a bullet train, and it's fantastic. The choreography is breathtaking, as are the visual effects.
The other draws are the setting and the scale. Coming straight after The Avengers, Man of Steel and Iron Man 3, you might think that it would be hard to take such a ground-level superhero movie seriously, but it isn't. Logan isn't saving the world, but that's quite refreshing. As amazing the battles of New York and Metropolis are, it's nice to follow a story that's not as big or as loud; something that knows it doesn't have to cause $2 trillion worth of damage to hold its audience's attention. I believe that there's a place for both in superhero cinema, and I'd like to see more on The Wolverine's level.
This villain annoyed me. She was boring and hugely cliche.
As for setting, all bar 2, maybe 3 scenes are set in Japan, which is unexplored territory for superheroes. in the X-Men universe it is quite important, as many important elements of Logan's past come from the comic run that this movie is loosely based on. In the movie itself, the location flits back and forth between traditional Japanese culture and architecture and modern Tokyo, and both are quite alien for Logan and (I would say) the audience. This really helps to give the movie a more frantic atmosphere; not only is Logan facing a new and previously unknown enemy, but he's been thrown into a foreign environment; both repeatedly threaten to swallow him up, but he manages to get through it and focus, not matter how hard it is initially. As Mariko (the love interest) says, "You wouldn't understand. You aren't Japanese."
So all in all, an enjoyable ride, but nothing new. It's the perfect Wolverine movie and nothing more, but then again it doesn't need to be anything else. Nobody working on this project was intending the film to be a masterpiece, because that would be a ridiculous aspiration.
But here's my question: how can Logan survive so much damage and yet show no signs of mental trauma? I mean, in the first five minutes he gets most of his skin burned off, and all he does is breathe deeply while it heals, and then he never mentions it again. I guess it's just a testament to his sanity that he can go through so much pain and not go mad, although I'm pretty sure that there's a point where the mind just gives up, no matter how strong your bones are.
Here's the UK trailer. Feel free to watch it, I won't stop you.
I'm not going to talk about the post-credits scene a) because I don't want to spoil it (though I don't think it's that much of a spoiler anymore), and b) because I'm going to do a whole blog post on the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, which hits the screen next year.
And I leave you with this awesome image: