A far better, more thought-out example of a solo-superhero film spun off from an ensemble superhero franchise than its predecessor, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This take on the Adamantium clawed anti-hero who can completely get away with bloody murder, The Wolverine, delves far deeper into the primal horrors that test him and the humane questions that haunt him. Directed by James Mangold of Walk the Line, this film balances the right amount of comic book fantasy and real world reality (which applies to the best of the X-Men films) that allows the characters to smoothly weave in and out of the normalcy and the occasional painful grit of everyday life to a futuristic, technological world where machines can save (or kill) and the expected conceit that people with superpowers exist.
Interestingly enough, this may be one of the only Marvel films where only three main characters have mutant powers, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), femme fatale Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) and Samurai warrioress/sometimes clairvoyant Yukio (Rila Fukushima). In a different plane of existence in the story, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) exists in dreams/flashbacks. In fact, the rest of the cast is full of human characters played by Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hal Yamanouchi, Jiroyuki Sanada, Brian Tee, Will Yun Lee, Ken Yamamura and Garret T. Sato. This is what makes The Wolverine so very interesting. The enemy is mostly comprised of non-superheroed human characters. Even the Viper character's powers of temporary weakness are only utilized for medical purposes or quick assassinations; exploiting a very minimalist take on superbeing abilities. The film's central theme encompasses Wolverine and his thoughts on living. Since most of the characters are utterly mortal, this provides a rather unique look on the subject of immortality. It is an easy task for Wolverine to kill anyone, but as the enemy has it-- can it become easier to kill a weakened, closer to mortal Wolverine? And in the end, does he really have much of a reason to stay living?
Hugh Jackman shows us the answer through brawny action sequences, an extremely imaginative and almost absurd train fight sequence, a gruesome fight to remove a machine from his inner chest organs, as well as some touching drama between him and his new lady love, Mariko, not to mention a budding friendship with swordswoman Yukio. Can Wolverine overcome the pain of his past and the pain of losing Jean or will he simply run as he always has?