X-tra butter, please

Latest X-Men installment delivers the popcorn, but not much else

The Wolverine is saved again by his mutant biceps.

The Wolverine is saved again by his mutant biceps.

The Wolverine
Starring Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Svetlana Khodchenkova and Rila Fukushima. Directed by James Mangold. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0

Sometimes it’s hard to say anything more about a movie than: “It’s OK.” The Wolverine is one of those movies. It achieves “OK” largely by not being as bad as the abysmal last attempt to franchise the titular character, which just underscores how awful the last Wolverine picture was.

It’s a shame really, especially since The Wolverine doesn’t deliver on what is a promising first act. We join Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in a hole in a Japanese POW camp just across from Nagasaki during the endgame of World War II. He saves one of his captors from the ensuing nuclear holocaust and 50 years later is summoned to the man’s deathbed for an “Arigato gozaimasu.”

The former officer has done well in the world, going on to enjoy a full life as founder of the most successful electronics corporation in Japan. But now he’s dying of the deadly seed planted by “Fat Man” and thinks our hero’s mutant regenerative abilities might extend his life. Sorry, Wolverine says, it doesn’t work that way, and so the old dude exits, honking off his son by leaving all his wealth to granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto).

He also leaves her to Wolverine as a romantic interest, because that’s the way the template works. This is the point where any promise dies on the vine. Mariko is boring, in that her only narrative function is to look pretty and give Wolverine someone to protect. And she does need protection, since her father is in league with the Japanese underworld. So we end up with Wolverine doing that stabby/slashy thing with his metal claws to ninjas and gangsters over and over and over and …

It starts getting old fast. OK, there’s a lively set-piece involving Tokyo’s bullet train that’s fun, but otherwise it’s pretty much just the same ol’ Marvel Comics repetition from opening to closing credits (although there’s a post-credits scene that offers more potential than the movie itself).

Fortunately, Wolvie has picked up a sidekick along the way in the refreshingly mysterious Yukio (Rila Fukushima), one of those ass-kicking chicks who sport the tall boots, short skirt and deadly eyes that action directors love to fondle with their camera lenses. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only function Yukio serves. There’s also a sexy/creepy mutant named Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) slinking about, sapping Wolverine’s ability to regenerate properly, which complicates things as Yakuza thugs keep pumping bullets into him over the course of the movie.

The film has seemingly no destination in mind other than the inevitable boss fight, and it’s not even a surprise when we find out who is behind all the nefarious machinations.

At least The Wolverine serves its purpose as a mildly diverting excuse to sit in an air-conditioned theater eating popcorn that costs more than the movie itself. But don’t expect much more than that.