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

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

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

Ben Rothstein/20th Century Fox/AP
'The Wolverine' stars Hugh Jackman.

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.

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.

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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