“It’s 100 percent undiluted Wolverine,” director James Mangold (the very underrated “3:10 To Yuma“) said in yesterday’s Live Chat about 20th Century Fox’s “The Wolverine.” An interesting, surprisingly informative and thoughtful conversation between Mangold and his star Hugh Jackman, while the duo were in part-salesman mode — letting the geek constituents hear what they wanted to hear — the hopeful point of the discussion seemed to be selling fans on everything “The Wolverine” isn’t.
And what’s that exactly? From the sounds of it, a dark character piece that seems to dial back the super heroics and tell a potentially more soulful story about a man faced with the burden of his immortality, who begins the film at his lowest point ever. Yes, fans are well aware that “The Wolverine” is based on the celebrated 1982 limited comic series set in Japan, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Frank Miller, and they’ve surely all read it. But Mangold and Jackman seemed to walk a fine line of assuring fans it would be action-packed while also being less of the typical superhero film, aiming for something perhaps closer to the anti-hero seen in some of those comics.
Mangold confirmed recent reports that “The Wolverine” is not a prequel and takes place after the “X-Men” films we’ve seen thus far, specifically because everything that is dearest to the character is lost, including Professor X and Wolverine’s love Jean Grey. “The X-Men” are gone, Jean Grey is gone, a lot of his ties to the world are gone,” he said. “Almost every intimate connection to the world is either gone or broken.”
And, fortunately, this is a movie that looks forward and not back. “Enough with the ‘What is my past? ‘Who am I?’ questions,” Jackman said about the film’s new direction. “We’ve explored that, it’s more like the future. ‘How do I live with myself? How do I live with all the knowledge I have and [every thing that’s] happened?'”
“More than ever we’ve explored this war within himself that is so endemic to this character and why people have loved the comic book character. We explore the burden of his immortality. And he’s finding it tough to find a reason to live, and that essential battle goes with him throughout the movie,” Jackman promised. “The whole movie feels really different and really fresh. I know audiences are going to be surprised by it, but they’re going to dig it.” Here’s six things we learned from yesterday’s Live Chat.
1. “The Wolverine” is set after “X-Men: The Last Stand” for a specific reason: to heighten Logan’s emotional state and place him in the darkest psychic condition audiences have ever seen.
“Logan comes into it, very much the tragic hero. Everybody that’s meant anything to him is gone, a lot of which he blames on himself,” Jackman said about the guilt the character will carry. “The movie’s called ‘The Wolverine’ and what we talked about was we really wanted this movie, better than ever before, to to encapsulate that character.” Jackman suggested this meant pushing himself even more. “It’s meant in every way, physically, emotionally, I had to go further. You have to see him lower, more desperate, more at stake then ever before.”
2. Wolverine’s rage is going to be more pronounced than ever before. And don’t expect a lot of humor.
“And more rage,” Mangold underscored about how Logan’s character will evolve. “I think the other thing that I wanted to see, for those that of us that are fans of the comics, one of the aspects that is so huge in Logan’s character is his rage. His anger. For me there was a lot of thinking and research about how to find that, tap into it. The simmering rage, the bezerker rage, we explore anger in all its forms.”
“There are mutants with stronger powers, but his ultimate weapon is his rage,” Jackman explained, noting it wasn’t the claws or the healing, but the volatility that mades the character so powerful. “Who’s the least person you least want to annoy? Wolverine. And that’s what makes him badass, that’s what makes him cool and that’s the thing we’re trying to key in on.”
Mangold suggested a film that also won’t have a lot of comic-book-y quips and will be presented in a serious fashion. “My goal is to bring the integrity of a straight drama, with the acting and the intention of the conflict, where it doesn’t feel tongue in cheek, where it feels really committed and real.”
3. Mangold said getting inside the essence of the Wolverine character was easier in this film because he didn’t have to worry about other X-Men that also need screentime.
[Clint Eastwood‘s] “The Outlaw Josey Wales” is something I thought about a lot as I set out to make this movie,” he said echoing comments he made earlier this year. “That’s a film in which Clint Eastwood watches his wife and children murdered in the first three minutes. And the reason why I kept thinking about it is how neatly and concisely the set-up of that film set Clint off on a journey that was built on loss and rage. Not just depression and disillusionment, but a kind of quest for some kind of revenge. That aspect of darkness was an integral part of the Marvel legacy. And It’s easier to develop when you’re not dealing with a team or a squad, you can really get into Logan’s shoes.”
“I have to admit. From ‘X-men’ one, my secret dream was to always shoot this particular arc of the Logan story,” Jackman said.
4. His healing abilities are going to be dialed back to more realistic levels like they were in the comics, plus his adversaries will have figured out a way to combat that special ability.
Part of the challenge of making engrossing super hero films is that they are often close to invulnerable. Nothing can harm them. Mangold and Jackman seemed all too aware of this problem and said they had recognized and worked on it.
“You think [Logan] can get out of anything because he has healing ability, and unless you lop his head off, you know he’s going to come back at you. In this movie, how do we put it?” Jackman paused, dancing around possible spoilers. “Let’s say they discover his kryptonite.”
Mangold agreed, but suggested fans shouldn’t take it so literally. “Yes, there’s a type of kryptonite metaphor. We’re addressing that,” Mangold said of the healing powers that make him almost invulnerable. “Meaning that there is a challenge he faces that poses a challenge to him and makes it harder for him. Some of the people that Logan’s up against may have found ways of getting to him that are different from what we’ve seen before.” But Mangold said there were other aspects of Wolverine’s healing powers, and one of them was dialing those powers back. “We’ve made a very concerted effort to try and make the film more real,” he said. “And also pull back a little on the kind of super-duper abilities of Logan. Like he doesn’t bring down any airplanes,” he said, referring to perhaps one of the more ridiculous elements of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
5. Unlike the previous “X-Men” movies and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” Jackman and Mangold claim they are going to ground the film in a gripping reality.
“We wanted the action in this film to feel physical and to feel possible for someone with his credible abilities,” he said, alluding to part of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” that weren’t at all plausible. “I think that part of it is also bringing things down to earth in a way that is no less exciting, visually [or otherwise], but maybe a little less dependent only on giant CG. Hugh is one of the most talented physical actors alive. That he can jump into these fight sequences and the choreography that people are going to see is amazing. He’s doing it [the fighting], and there’s long takes and some badass stuff going on.”
Mangold also wisely recognized the futility of scaling up action to impossible levels that make for a lot of noise and clutter. “We don’t want to succumb to what’s been going on for years now, which is almost like an arms race of action movies in which they just try and outdo the spectacle, and it keeps growing and growing until you reach the ceiling,” he explained. “It’s like the music can only get so loud, and at some point you have to do something different. It just can’t be louder. Sure, this is a tentpole movie, there’s outrageous action, but also in the family and the world of the ‘Bourne’ films or the ‘Dark Knight’ films or in films where it’s not necessarily about blowing up planet earth, but much more earthbound… And the physicality of that action is something that people will find really gripping.”
6. The picture will act like a mystery, just as much as a character piece and action film.
Mangold used “labryinth” three times to describe the film, stressing that part of the energy of the picture comes from its sense of the unknown and the dubious nature of where allegiances lay. If most super hero movies are abundantly clear about who the hero and villains are and who it is they must save, in comparison “The Wolverine” is “much more of a mystery, a labyrinth,” he said. “‘Who can I trust? Where can I trust?’ Logan enters the story trusting no one. I think that one of the things we’re trying to do in this in this picture is [present] an array of people [that Logan] will come in contact with, who are both good, bad, or question mark.” As to who some of those people and antagonists are? Mangold listed out yakuza, samurai, ninjas, industrialists, politicians, other mutants, and women who come in various shades of “Can I trust them?” Comparing Logan to a fish out of water who enters Japan like Dorothy entering “The Wizard Of Oz,” Mangold summed up the picture by saying, “Logan enters a labyrinth of mystery, adventure, violence, love and heartbreak.”
“The Woverine” lands in theaters July 26, 2013. [Image via Empire]