As the Marvel superhero juggernaut continues to produce a string of epic-scale blockbusters, it is refreshing to see the latest outing for Logan, the adamantium-clawed X-Man, rein in the action for a more restrained, character-focused adventure.

Citing a popular 1982 comic arc by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller as its primary source text, James Mangold’s film sees Logan invited to Japan by a mysterious old acquaintance, only to become embroiled in a war between yakuza gangs and rogue mutants, all pursuing Logan’s special healing powers.

Hugh Jackman remains on excellent form in his signature role, this time paired with two female Japanese companions – beautiful heiress Mariko (Tao Okamoto), with whom he becomes romantically involved while protecting her from the yakuza, and the feisty mutant Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who proves a worthy partner to replace Rogue.

The Wolverine dives enthusiastically into its Japanese environment, informing the character with elements of the samurai bushido code, while grounding the action in a recognisable, albeit exotic reality. This is captured perfectly in the film’s standout action sequence, an expertly staged brawl atop a speeding bullet train.

The decision to move away from the grand spectacle of previous entries is a smart one on Jackman’s part. He is clearly looking to distance the Wolverine character from the currently rebooting X-Men series, while ensuring he retains the role for the foreseeable future.

The Wolverine may feel somewhat anticlimactic to audiences expecting another dose of The Avengers or X-Men: First Class, but fans should welcome the efforts to flesh out one of the Marvel Universe’s more popular and intriguing characters.

This review first appeared in Cathay Pacific’s Discovery Magazine, November 2013

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