4.5 stars I'd say. This review is long overdue for me. I enjoyed this movie very much, but more than that, I thought it was a great film. Bryan Singer's X-Men films are breathtaking in their spectacle but this film is equally impressive in its meditative quality. Aside from the action sequences, which are great, and a bit of a wild climax, there is a good bit of downtime in this film during which the film explores Wolverine's struggle with his powers, the cost of those powers, and the meaning of immortality. I don't think the films delves into it as intellectually as it might have, but, by filming it the way he has, James Mangold shows us that the film is a least as concerned with being a story about people and legacy as much as it is with being a "superhero" movie. I have always liked the association of Wolverine with Japan in the comics. It seemed very natural, and I'm glad to see that story translated on film. The theme of Wolverine as a Ronin ties in nicely with the problem Logan has of outliving everyone he may fight for (Yoshiga) or care about (Jean). Lovely storytelling.
All in all, I expected this movie to receive better reviews from critics than it did. It's underrated, not just as a Marvel movie, but as a film in general (and Mangold, as usual, continues to be underrated as a director). The movie gets around to one of the seminal events in superhero storytelling--showing us the hero without his powers. The question is, implicitly, is he still a hero? And it allows for an examination of the character's humanity. This was done in Superman II when Superman gives up his powers to be with Lois Lane; it's done in Spider-man 2, wherein we see Peter save a child from a burning building without the benefit of his powers; we saw it in Iron Man 3 when Tony Stark has to improvise an attack without the benefit of his suit; we saw it in The Dark Knight Rises when Bruce Wayne goes broke, and has to see what he's really made of as a man in escaping from the pit. And generally, showing us a superhero without his powers has basically the same effect as planting a fundamental weakness in the hero--eg. Kryptonite for Superman and Water for Bruce Willis's character in Unbreakable. The device works well in The Wolverine as Logan is repeatedly haunted by thoughts of Jean Grey forcing him to wonder if being mortal is really such a bad thing.
As I said, I think this film is underrated, and I would in fact place it in the top five superhero films to come out of the genre since the release of X-Men in 2000. In no particular order, I think the top five of the last 15 years are Batman Begins, Spider-man 2, Unbreakable, The Wolverine, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, there are a number of others of surprisingly high quality that they could appear on such a list--Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X2: X-Men United, and X-Men: First Class, to name just a few. I continue to be amazed by the quality of Marvel films, since it seems like studio executives will inevitably screw up a good thing by trying to get too involved, thinking they know best (e.g., Superman III, and, recently, Amazing Spider-Man 2). Finally, this review would not be complete without giving props to Hugh Jackman for giving the role and the character such respect, and not playing the character with a big wink of the eye (like Roger Moore did with his James Bond films), just because it's a fantasy story. Overall, an excellent addition to the Marvel film canon.