DVD Release Date: December 3, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: July 26, 2013
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language)
Genre: Comic book/Sequel/Action
Run Time: 126 min.
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hal Yamanouchi, Famke Janssen, James Fraser, Tao Okamoto

Truth be told, it wouldn’t have taken much for The Wolverine to surpass its thoroughly lackluster predecessor, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. After all, when the film’s leading man admits it was, well, awful, you know there's a major problem.

What is surprising, however, is how much better The Wolverine is in every possible way. Not only has Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables) officially awakened from the zombie-like slumber that plagued his performance last time, but the clawed one's storyline is just as compelling as the special effects—imagine that.

It turns out Logan still isn't good at keeping a low profile and staying out of trouble. Retreating to the Yukon wilderness, a seemingly perfect place for avoiding unpleasant interactions with his fellow humans, mutant and otherwise, Logan can't seem to shake his inherent need for justice.

This becomes quickly apparent when he stumbles across a bear suffering badly from an arrow wound. Rather than calling it a day after putting the poor animal out of its misery, Logan immediately makes his way to the local watering hole to find out who was responsible. Needless to say, that person probably regretted his actions after experiencing the Wolverine's razor-sharp claws.

Making these proceedings interesting is a feisty little redhead who has been watching Logan every step of the way. She's been instructed by her employer to bring the Wolverine to Japan to say goodbye to the dying man he heroically saved from a nuclear blast in Nagasaki years ago. It eventually becomes clear to Logan that saying no to Yukio (newcomer Rila Fukushima) is going to be difficult. So, reluctantly, he boards the private plane.

Of course, the real reason for Wolverine's visit to Japan is far more complicated than paying his respects to Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi). But it's during his journey across the ocean when Logan is forced to confront his own demons. Already haunted by dreams of his beloved Jean (Famke Janssen, X-Men: The Last Stand), who he was forced to kill, Logan now must struggle with whether to accept Yashida's offer to remove his "curse" and make him mortal. Thus, we get a revealing glimpse of the man behind the mutant.

Beyond the thoughtful character development, what also helps The Wolverine stand apart are a pleasing aesthetic quality and stunning action sequences that actually feel fresh (especially the nail-biter that happens on top of a moving bullet train). Instead of countless action scenes that are all flash but serve no particular purpose (as in so many comic book movies), there's a lot more imagination invested here.

That said, no one will mistake The Wolverine for a perfect movie. The third act is so haphazardly strewn together and rushed from a storytelling perspective that it diminishes some of the goodwill established in the beginning. Overall, though, the positives far outweigh the negatives with The Wolverine, a vast improvement that not only plays to Jackman's acting chops but serves as an enticing lead-in to what’s next for the X-Men.