HOLLYWOOD—I was an avid fan of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” I thought the picture was an interesting tale placing the spotlight on America’s favorite mutant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), but I guess I’m the only critic who thought so.  Fast-forward several years later and we have “The Wolverine,” a sequel to that origin tale that takes place somewhere between the events of the last X-Men picture “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

With so many comic book adaptations hitting the big screen, it’s hard for a movie to stand out.  Ever since “The Dark Knight,” tons of flicks have attempted to mimic that picture with little to no success. “The Wolverine” does not.

In my opinion, this is an analysis of the tortured mutant who is forced to grapple with his past and inner demons.  It’s a character analysis piece and it allows the audience to delve further into the psyche of this tempered man; he’s a softy at heart, but be careful not to get on his bad side, otherwise really bad things can happen thanks to his heightened strength and sharp claws.

The movie takes Logan (Jackman) on a journey toJapanto reunite with an old acquaintance that he rescued during World War II thanks to Yukio (Rila Fukushima). There are tons of female players in this action-flick which is a departure from what is depicted in many comic book flicks nowadays.  Typically, the audience is given only one female fighting badass, “The Wolverine” changes that notion to appeal to the female moviegoer, as well as the male moviegoer. Yukio introducesLoganto Lord Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a very wealthy man who fears death.

The story begins to unfold when our hero finds himself being chased down by the Yakuza, a group of ninja assassins with some stellar fighting skills and sword skills that challenge the indestructible superhero.  The one thing for moviegoers to remember is nearly all of the action of the picture takes place in Japan, so the scenery alone, is a different backdrop from seeing monumental pieces from big cities in American culture.

During this journey,Loganhas to grapple with his decision to kill his one true love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who appears in several dream sequences).  Jean was the one person who could tame and control Logan’s indestructible rage lying inside him. This is what makes “The Wolverine” a superior sequel to its predecessor as the audience is allowed to learn more about this flawed character.

Director James Mangold does something that many comic book directors have trouble with: pacing.  The picture has the correct beats throughout the story, carefully balancing the action sequences with story.  It would be important to note, the 3D element that has been pushed in trailers and TV spots is not worth investing in.  Nothing really pops from the screen to the moviegoer so save that extra $3 to $4 bucks that you may have considered spending.

“The Wolverine” is a fascinating action ride, in the midst of many summer blockbusters.  Note: be sure to stay in the movie seat after the credits begin to role or you’ll be disappointed with the tease filmmakers leave audiences.

By LaDale Anderson