What’s a roughneck, rage-prone Canadian superhero doing kicking around eminently cultured Japan? “The Wolverine” will offer some answers when it hits theaters on Friday, as Hugh Jackman returns yet again as the “X-Men” fan favorite, a.k.a. Logan. Incredibly, the Australian star is now a seven-time veteran of the role, if you include next year’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and his wry, three-word cameo in “X-Men: First Class.” There’s also the obvious reasoning that if the X-franchise is getting stale — some snarked that the disappointing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009) felt like “X-Men 4” — maybe dropping the lead into a fresh setting can help. The recent Blu-ray reissue of another franchise with an Aussie pedigree reminds us how spectacularly a bold scenery change can work: Mel Gibson’s “Mad Max” exploits got a wild, post-apocalyptic makeover for “The Road Warrior,” and a global sensation was born.
The principal explanation for the new movie’s Asian fusion, though, lies with a three-decade-old comics story line that’s required reading for Wolverine obsessives, even if the studio hype machine isn’t particularly pushing the connection.