"The Wolverine" is the latest movie in the X-Men universe, and it takes the action to Japan, where Logan is tasked with protecting an old friend's granddaughter, temporarily stripped of his healing powers, and faced with an opportunity to once again become the justice-seeking Wolverine.
Hugh Jackman, who's always impressive as his brooding mutant antihero, learns the ways of the samurai and is even granted a second chance at love (or at least romance) while still dealing with his grief over Jean Grey's death. Full of sword-wielding ninjas, gun-toting Yakuza thugs and a venomous Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), "The Wolverine" will definitely be on the kid/tween/teen ask-to-see list.
But first, here are five questions to consider before taking the kids to see "The Wolverine."
1. How familiar is your kid with Wolverine?
If you don't know the Wolverine's origin story, several pivotal parts of the story will take longer to figure out, like why there's a red-headed ghost named Jean who visits Logan in his dreams, or why Logan looks the same in 2013 as he did in 1945; or what the heck adamantium is and why it's important. Without a working knowledge of the "X-Men" characters and previous movies, the movie will still make sense, but you won't get the full slate of references. Young X-Men-philes will obviously need no further explanations about Logan/Wolverine, but here's our guide to the movie.
2. How sensitive is your child to violence?
Except for the opening sequence, the movie is set in Japan, so it's not exactly a surprise that ninjas, samurai and the Yakuza are heavily referenced. In addition to Logan's own adamantium claws, the weapons of choice include broadswords, guns, and a bow and arrow (oh, and one mutant with a poisonous tongue). The body count is high, and Logan is responsible for countless injuries and deaths, but only a couple of deaths are shown up close; the others just look like dozens of bodies falling. There's also a spectacular fight sequence on top of a high-speed bullet train that's especially remarkable without being bloody. Despite the amount of violence, it's not graphic like "Only God Forgives" or even "Olympus Has Fallen."
One note for those sensitive to depictions of suicide: Three Japanese officers commit seppuku at Nagasaki moments before the bomb is detonated.
3. Do you worry about sex/language?
Unlike some of the other PG-13 action flicks this summer, there's actually a romantic subplot in "The Wolverine." First, Jean Grey pops up in Logan's bed (as he dreams) again and again wearing only a satin-and-lace nightgown and kissing him. Then Logan falls for a gorgeous Japanese heiress he's trying to protect, and they end up in bed together (very much in reality, not just a dream). And a corrupt politician is shown in his briefs about to go for "round four" with two women (possibly prostitutes) wearing a bra and panties. As for language, there's the now ubiquitous "f-k" and a few uses of "assh-e" and "s-t."
4. Who will enjoy the movie most?
Obviously, teens and tweens already fans of the X-Men comics or movies, or who are at least familiar with the Wolverine and a bit of his backstory will want to see it, but given Jackman's star status, the lack of other big action thrillers at the box office this weekend, and the enduring popularity of all things Marvel, "The Wolverine" will appeal to most movie-going tweens and teens, especially if they're old enough to have seen "The Conjuring" already (in which case, this is a no-brainer). If you're kids aren't middle-schoolers yet, a good litmus test is whether they've seen the other "X-Men" movies and spinoffs. If they have, you're good to go; if they haven't you might want to start with those.
5. What are critics saying about "The Wolverine"?
Reviews are mixed-to-positive, with some critics praising the "fish out of water" premise -- "The Wolverine shows that, while originality would be nice, a little novelty and enthusiasm in the presentation of the familiar can be quite enough" says Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle. Other reviewers expressed disappointment in the franchise for falling short of expectations and not being "worthy of Jackman's gifts," so says The Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek. As of this morning, it has a respectable 59 on Metacritic.