Manifesto734’s review published on Letterboxd:
Perhaps it's entirely unfair of me to judge this film in comparison to Logan (quite possibly the best comic book movie ever made), especially as I always say a movie should be judged on its own merits. And maybe it's also unfair that I avoided this for years based on how truly awful his Origins movie was, but alas, here we are. Yes, I watched the trilogy out of order. No, I couldn't stop thinking "Logan is so much better than this," but at least it was clear as day how much the series was improving at this point.
The script is decent enough, although I couldn't help but feel like an adaptation of Frank Miller should have been better. As director, James Mangold proved that he understands the Logan character, though, and worked to make up for some of the shortcomings of what was on the page. Mangold would go on to show just how well he could do with this character four years later, and it starts here.
Hugh Jackman does well as the adamantium-skeletoned hero once again, and it feels like he is buying in a bit more after such a letdown in Origins. The Wolverine starts off with a bang, as we find Logan locked in a prison camp on the outskirts of Nagasaki on the day the atomic bomb fell. A guard, Ichiro Yashida, sets the prisoners free when he hears the air sirens, and Logan, locked at the bottom of a metal shaft twenty or thirty feet down, shields the guard from the fireball that consumes the rest of the city. Yashida is forever in Logan's debt, later referring to him as a ronin (a samurai without a master). The opening scene is fantastic, and while the film slipped down into standard hero fare for much of the remainder, the outset does a great job of setting up the story and making it feel unique. Years later, Logan is brought back to Japan by a friend of Yashida's granddaughter, to pay final respects as Yashida is nearing the end of his life and wants to thank the man who made it all possible. But there are other reasons he sent for Logan, which our hero will soon discover.
I teally dug the setting, and Mangold did well to use everything at his disposal. Modern day and classic Japanese esthetics mixed well, which again helped this story look and feel unique in the Wolverine lore. There are some solidly humorous moments, good action (although, I don't care what anyone says, that train fight was wildly stupid), and some good pathos for our main character. It's by no means a great film, but it does several things well enough to be good.
Also, Hiroyuki Sanada!