Hugh Jackman won't need an adamantium skeleton to guard against critics — most are retracting their claws in praise of "The Wolverine."
The superhero sequel hits theaters on Friday and finds the X-Man in Japan, where he encounters a crime syndicate and an old flame in Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). He is also sorely tested when an operation strips him of his immortality.
The bulk of early reviews hailed the picture as old-fashioned summer popcorn romp, praising it as more emotionally engaging than other men-in-tights adventures, although a few critics carped that it was all a lot of stürm-und-dumb.
"The Wolverine" scored a strong 72 percent "fresh" rating on the critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, a particularly good showing for a comic-book movie not directed by Christopher Nolan.
Many reviewers have yet to weigh in, so that average could head up or down in the next 24 hours or so.
TheWrap's Alonso Duralde wrote that there was enough excitement to overcome the occasional misstep. Action sequences such as an extended fight on a bullet train nearly wipe away the stench from the tough-guy hero's previous malodorous adventure, 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," he said.
"In the final wash, 'The Wolverine' provides a compelling look into a beloved screen character and offers up enough excitement to merit its existence … it may not make the case that Logan merits his own solo projects, but it will scratch your X-itch until the next big-screen mutant adventure comes along," Duralde wrote.
Film School Rejects' Neil Miller praised the film's more rage-filled tone, although he noted that the plot becomes murky at points.
"Even when the story becomes more convoluted, the scale of the action succeeds in ways that you’d expect to see from the films of Marvel Studios, not the recent X-Men films of 20th Century Fox. It has scale and speed, simplicity and brutality to match the demeanor of its titular character," Miller wrote.
For Peter Debruge, "The Wolverine" rises and falls with the man who wears those razor-sharp claws. The Variety critic seemed to enjoy the film primarily because it allowed Jackman to put more shading into the title character.
"Though Wolvie comes across a bit world-weary and battle-worn by now, Jackman is in top form, taking the opportunity to test the character’s physical and emotional extremes," Debruge wrote.
The Hollywood Reporter's Megan Lehmann echoed Debruge and said that after six films, Jackman "owns" the role of the loner tough guy, but she said "The Wolverine" ultimately is marred by a ludicrous ending.
"Each fight propels the narrative along — how’s that for novel? — although the PG-13 rating renders them weirdly bloodless and the climactic battle with the Silver Samurai is a giant letdown, which may even provoke sniggers," Lehmann wrote.
Not everyone was feeling Wolverine's return. Empire Magazine's Chris Hewitt acknowledged that this film was an improvement on Logan's previous on-screen effort but still found the picture to be overly formulaic. The special effects could have used a touch-up too, he noted.
"The final showdown, tonally and in terms of scale, is deeply unsatisfying, with ludicrous reveals, bad CG and plot turns so convoluted they threaten to derail the movie at 300 mph," Hewitt wrote.
Been-there-done-that was the conclusion of New York Daily News' Joe Neumaier, who doesn't seem to be holding his breath for a third Wolvie solo outing.
"Wolverine himself remains a haunted figure — lonely as a werewolf, deadly as Clint Eastwood‘s Man With No Name — but there’s only so much sympathy we can give him," Neumaier wrote. "He thinks he’s out, and people obsessed with mutants pull him back in. Then he snarls, they’re gored and we’re bored," he wrote.