Buckle up, it's claws out in The Wolverine

Lycan allure: Jackman seals the deal as a standalone hero who can rip apart the rankings notched up by the likes of Iron Man, and maybe even the X-Men if he continues on his upward trajectory battling detractors like the svelte Svetlana Khodchenkova (above).

Who doesn't love Wolverine with his everyday jeans-and-T-shirt workman fashion sense and enviable bad-boy rock-star mutton chops facial hair?

The same probably can be said for the always charming Hugh Jackman, the Australian hunk who has now turned the fuzzy X-Men character into his own after playing him in half a dozen films, including two standalone ones.

So even though The Wolverine feels like a declawed summer superhero action blockbuster with an overwhelmingly romantic subplot, there's probably enough goodwill leftover from both the character and actor for comic book fans to not mind.

Like the last Iron Man film, there's an Oriental element with the movie set almost entirely in Japan and featuring more Asian actors than Caucasian ones.

But it stops short of blatantly bending over as much as Iron Man 3 did for Mainland China with specially shot scenes; so thankfully we don't see Wolverine endorsing Ginsu knives or slicing sashimi with his razor claws. (It does however include two Japanese supermodels - Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima - in the cast as eye candy.)

The film opens with a World War II prologue where Wolverine saves a young Japanese soldier Yashida (Ken Yamamura) from an atomic blast.

Fast forward a couple of decades and the latter (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) has now become one of the most powerful businessman man in his country. But like all human beings, age has taken a toll on his health.

He summons Wolverine to his deathbed and tells him he envies the superhero's immortality - something which our hairy protagonist ironically feels tormented by because of the constant pain he goes through while watching his loved ones age and die.

Yashida then asks his saviour for one last favour - to keep his beloved granddaughter Mariko (Okamoto), who will be heir to his fortunes, safe from harm after he's gone.

True enough, the moment he kicks the bucket, the chase for Mariko - led by her father (Hiroyuki Sanada) who's furious at being left out of the inheritance - is on as Wolverine takes her on a cross-country road trip to stay one step ahead of the Yakuza and ninjas that are coming after her.

That premise is more than enough to set up a handful of pulsating action scenes - including a gravity-defying one atop a bullet train in motion and another lengthy one with a hard-to-defeat giant robot that proves when it comes to electronic stuff, always look for the Made-in-Japan label.

Director James Mangold, working off a screenplay by Mark Bomback and The Usual Suspects' Christopher McQuarrie, keeps things summer-light without fussing too much about character backstories or even X-men mythology - there's no need to be a fanboy or comic-book geek to enjoy this.

He also gives the action set pieces room to breathe and the trail of destruction left behind is less messy and not as over-the-top as your typical summer blockbuster. In short, there's no need to worry about getting a headache (or earache) after stepping out of the cinema.

Compared to this summer's other superhero films, The Wolverine is less frantic than Man of Steel and much more straight-faced than the clown show that was Iron Man 3.

As a hairy solo adventure, this is not a bad outing even though it would be nice to see Wolverine sharpening his claws and cutting things a little deeper.

Rating: B


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