It's hard to relate to a superhero who doesn't bleed, or if he does, not for long. Which is why the sixth outing for Hugh Jackman’s razor-clawed Canadian Logan, aka Wolverine, is partly a welcome breath of fresh air.
Robbed of his healing powers (yes, like Superman II), he becomes cause for concern as bullets suddenly hurt after all these years.
Setting it in Japan was also a wise move.
Since 2000, we've seen Wolverine tackle assorted villains in the States, so good to get a change of scene.
The first two thirds of James Mangold’s movie are a stylish, occasionally thoughtful affair, with our hirsute hero first clashing with generic bad bear hunters, and then sent East to be reunited with the Japanese officer he saved from nuclear death at Nagasaki.
Orbiting around these two men are assorted relatives, ninjas, yakuza, and the odd acid-spitting mutant (Svetlana Khodchenkova) who chews every scene she's in, and refuses to look embarrassed by an absurd green costume in the third act.
Sadly, it’s that final chunk that becomes Marvel-by-numbers: boss monster, aka a giant robot samurai; massive smack down, heat and serve.
I love Marvel films and robots as much as any fan, but they really need to add a few different colours to their generic antagonist palette. Chrome has been used on their cinematic canvas for way too long.
While there are echoes of assorted other films, such as Eastern-themed Bond epic You Only Live Twice, the disappointing Prometheus also reared its ugly head thanks to a wince-inducing self surgery scene and an ageing protagonist’s machinations. (No spoilers but all will become clear).
Thankfully it's far better than X-Men Origins, and The Last Stand, but X2 still stands as the saga’s high point.
Added to the mix are alluring, flame-haired aide Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and key heroine Mariko (Tao Okamoto).
They help tame the eponymous beast, and are a welcome distraction from the orgy of slashes and gunshots.
Good to see Famke Janssen back as ex-X-Man Jean Grey too, albeit as a ghostly presence and with a weird digital anti-ageing makeover reminiscent of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s CGI anti-wrinkle treatment from X3.
Just a shame it’s all so meh. There are no sucker punch moments that get under the skin, and some of the dialogue is yawnsome. However, an action scene atop a bullet train adds a few fresh licks to the sense of Mission: Impossible déjà vu.
Stay tuned for the now obligatory credits teaser for the next key Marvel outing, in this case next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Thankfully you won't have to stay through the entire credits trawl for the privilege either.
Not as much fun as Iron Man 3, or as ponderous as Man of Steel, but good escapism for a dull Sunday afternoon.