Editor's note: "The Wolverine" was not previewed for Pittsburgh critics.
"The Wolverine" is nothing if not ambitious -- a moody, haunted tale of Logan the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) coping with his ghosts and settling old debts -- in Japan, no less.
And if this James Mangold take on the superhero franchise stumbles up blind alleys, overreaches and turns long and repetitious by its bloody-bland predictable third act, at least it gives Mr. Jackman something worth chewing over for the first 90 minutes.
2 1/2 stars = Average
Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Famke Janssen, Tao Okamoto.
PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.
We first see Logan in solitary, stuck in a well in a Japanese POW camp at the end of World War II. His captors panic at the sight of a couple of B-29 bombers, and one frees the American prisoners.
Logan shields the guard when the big blast comes because this turns out to be Nagasaki. Decades later, the immortal mutant with the Adamantium knives in his fists is summoned to the side of the man he saved by a martial arts pixie (Rila Fukushima).
The dying old man (Hal Yamanouchi), now a billionaire, offers his savior the chance to lose his immortality, to live a normal life span without the super-healing powers and strength that make the very idea that Wolverine would have ever been a prisoner of war absurd.
Wolverine finds himself mixed up in the succession between the dying man and his heirs. The Japanese mob, the Yakuza, is trying to nab the supermodel-thin granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), and Wolverine chases her cross-country to protect her.
Wolverine takes his place within Japanese culture as a Ronin, a loner, a samurai without a leader or purpose. He's dreaming about the mutant he loved but had to kill (Famke Janssen), and fretting over the dying old man's doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a fork-tongued devil. And then his powers start to fail him.
Mr. Mangold sets up an interesting premise of an immortal tired of living faced with mortality. How brave can Wolverine be when the bullets leave permanent holes, when every arrow fired by a ninja could kill and every slashing-fight against samurai sword-wielding foes could be his last?
Then the movie stumbles into the curse of the feeble villains -- none worthy of Wolverine's knives -- and the trap of endless fights. The action sequences are grimly violent and entertaining, but there is no one written or cast in this worthy of his best efforts.
This "Wolverine" gets our hopes up and falls short.