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'The Wolverine' makes its hero more interesting than in past installments

'Wolverine' has a newly weakened protagonist and is as much an homage to Asian martial arts movies as it is a comic book film.

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'The Wolverine' stars Hugh Jackman.

Ben Rothstein/20th Century Fox/AP

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The Wolverine is back and battling ninjas. Directed by James Mangold, “Wolverine” is as much an homage to Asian martial arts movies as it is a Marvel Comics spinoff. (The two domains are not all that far apart.) Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine/Logan, trying to douse his inner beast, has been secluding himself in the Yukon wilds. But, of course, the big bad world keeps pulling him back – this time all the way to Tokyo, where he finds himself embroiled in family clan wars.

Worse, one of the resident nasties (she is literally viperish) has found a way to drain Wolverine/Logan of his recuperative powers. All of this makes him more vulnerable – i.e., interesting – than before. At least now we know he can be killed.

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Dewy corporate heiress Mariko (Tao Okamoto) provides the sappy love interest. He’s better matched, albeit platonically, with the pixieish, red-velvet-haired Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a whirlwind of martial arts moves.

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Mangold front-loads the action, but a first-rate fight atop a bullet train between Wolverine/Logan and some especially pesky ninjas puts the train fights in the recent “The Lone Ranger” to shame. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.)

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