It's a good thing we don't have adamantium claws getting in the way, because we found ourselves scratching our heads pretty vigorously after seeing The Wolverine. Does Hugh Jackman's Logan have an endless wardrobe of wife beater tank-tops? Did Hiroyuki Sanada really make the right choice in leaving Revenge to play a walking example of generational decline? Could we possibly be any more excited for Days of Future Past? Well, we can't really answer those questions for you, but we do take a stab at these eight. But beware, major SPOILERS are ahead.
1. Is the plot of The Wolverine eerily similar to the plot of Prometheus?Well, both movies feature a quest that's spurred by an old man obsessed with immortality (Will Yun Lee in The Wolverine, Guy Pearce in Prometheus) who is presumed dead before it is revealed that he faked his death and is surviving due to extreme artificial methods. (I love the idea of Will Yun Lee's Yashida at some point announcing, "Okay, I'm going to fake my death. But I'll continue to run my multi-billionaire dollar company from inside the comfort of this Silver Samurai suit!") In their respective quests to live forever, both men also seem to have become a bit homicidal.
Also, the heroes of both movies (Hugh Jackman's Logan and Noomi Rapace's Dr. Elizabeth Shaw) discover they possess unwanted parasitic intruders in their bodies. And they must surgically remove them. All by themselves. Luckily, Yashida's medical scanners are on par with the late 21st century technology seen in Prometheus.
2. What is a "love hotel"?"Love hotels" are lodgings geared entirely for short stays. As in, couples check into a room for a tryst and then check out. They're geared entirely around sexual encounters, so love hotels may not have the amenities that hotels that accommodate longer stays might have. But they do have themed rooms like "nurse's office," "police station," and "mission to Mars," as seen in The Wolverine when Logan and Mariko (Tao Okamoto) rent one in which to hide out. Love hotels have existed in Japan in one form or another since the late 1800s, but became particularly popular in the '60s. Free love, baby!
3. Wolverine showed off some mighty wood-cutting skills. Is that just yet another opportunity for Hugh Jackman to flex his muscles, or something more?You might be excused for thinking that moment when Wolverine picks up an axe to clear away a fallen tree is a pretty self-indulgent excuse just to see his ripped biceps. Not so! This was a nod to Logan's on-again, off-again career as a lumberjack, as seen in the comics over the years.
4. Was that "I didn't know there was a pool there" joke ripped off from Diamonds Are Forever?Both movies feature somebody getting thrown from a great height into a pool. Both movies then crack a joke about somebody getting thrown from a great height into a pool. You draw your own conclusions.
5. What's the Silver Samurai like in the comics?The depiction of the Silver Samurai in The Wolverine is wildly different from that in the comics. There, he wasn’t the father of Shingen Yashida, but his son. He was also a mutant with the ability to charge his katana — kind of like what Gambit can do to playing cards — which, in combination with his silver armor, made him pretty much invincible. In the movie, it seems like his charged katana is the result of technology more than natural ability.
When he made his first appearance, in Daredevil #111 in 1974 fighting the blind hero, Silver Samurai was a professional criminal by trade. He'd end up fighting Nick Fury, Spider-Man, and, yes, Wolverine over the course of his career. And just like in The Wolverine, he'd team up with Viper, who in the comics was more of an international terrorist. But rather than being her employer, he usually served as Viper's bodyguard. He totally needed a promotion to make the jump to the big screen.
6. What is Trask Industries?In the post-credits sequence, it's two years later and Wolverine is standing in line at a U.S. airport. He's watching a TV monitor and is greeted by an ad for Trask Industries. It's the kind of ad you'd expect from a major security contractor and weapons manufacturer — it's all about how it's going to keep you safe. But given what we know of Days of Future Past, we'd bet that they're talking about protecting the rest of humanity from the mutants. And that they intend to do so by building giant Sentinel robots.
7. Is Svetlana Khodchenkova's Viper the campiest comic book villain since Sharon Stone's cosmetics mogul in Catwoman?Since Viper's villainy is pretty much defined by her ever more ridiculous array of costumes, we'd say yes.
8. Wait... Magneto has his powers back and Xavier is alive? How did this happen?Who cares? As long as it erases the horrible plot turns of X-Men: The Last Stand that saw Magneto robbed of his abilities and Xavier exploded by the Phoenix, we'll take it. And Bryan Singer, while you're at it, why don't you bring back James Marsden's Cyclops? Dude deserved better than an offscreen death.
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After X-Men Origins: Wolverine turned out to be a bit of a mess, I was equal parts skeptical and hopeful about The Wolverine. I was skeptical for obvious reasons. But I was hopeful because this seemed like a completely different movie that was actually going to tell Wolverine's story without the distractions of mutants flying everywhere and shooting lasers out of their eyes. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed.
The Wolverine is the movie I (and many fans) wanted Origins to be. It takes place some time after X-Men: The Last Stand, when Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) had to kill his love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Doing so made him question his whole identity, and that internal struggle is the driving force behind this film.
The movie opens with Wolverine saving a young Japanese soldier, Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), from the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki. We then flash to the present day, where a full-bearded Logan is living in a cave and is friends with a bear (sort of). After killing Jean, he is afraid of what he's capable of, and he would rather live away from people than risk hurting anyone again. It is only when Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a fiery warrior with equally fiery red hair, finds Logan and tells him that Yashida is dying and wishes to say goodbye that Logan returns to society and heads to Japan. But Yashida actually wants to offer Logan the chance to become mortal again, which only makes it harder for him to acknowledge his true nature.
Once in Japan, Yashida dies and Logan ends up protecting his granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) from the Yakuza gang and from her father, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada). There’s sword fighting, knife throwing, and some ninjas with bows and arrows. In the middle of it all, of course, the claws come out. The action is what the audience loves to see, and it doesn't let us down. And when Logan isn't sticking his claws through some bad guy, he's dreaming about Jean. There's a nice balance between the two that reminds us that, even though Logan has healing powers and an adamantium skeleton, he's also a man who has seen and done many things and is struggling with who he is and who he wants to be.
It’s been 13 years since Jackman first played Wolverine, and he knows this character inside and out. That comfort level is what makes it so easy for the audience to connect with Logan and his struggle. His brooding, scowling performance brings Wolverine down to a more human level and shows that you can still have an existential crisis even when you’ve been around for hundreds of years.
There is, however, the matter of the Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who takes Logan's healing powers at the beginning of the film. The Wolverine is possibly the most relatable of the X-Men movies, but the Viper brings a heavily melodramatic element to the film. Her costumes are so outlandish as to be laughable, and her main motive seems to be villainy for villainy's sake. She's almost too embedded in the comic book reality for a movie that focuses less on mutants with powers and more on the internal difficulties Logan is facing.
While the first two thirds of the movie deal with human emotions and identity crises, the film does get a bit overzealous in its final act. Wolverine fights the Silver Samurai, a giant made of adamantium, while Viper continues with the melodrama. But all in all, director James Mangold managed to make an entertaining film that gives us more of an insight to Wolverine than we've ever had before. It's a standalone Wolverine film that is actually about Wolverine.
And, true to Marvel fashion, there's an excellent post-credits scene.
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After three successful X-Men with a total domestic gross of nearly a $1 billion, a spin-off, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and one of the greatest modern cameos of all time (his f-bomb in X-Men: First Class is truly inspired), one would think Hugh Jackman getting another round of mutant comic book action off the ground would be easy peasy lemon squeezy. Not so.
The latest hiccup for Wolverine's second outing, simply titled The Wolverine, sees Jessica Biel vacating a role that she never quite had. Rumors were swirling around Comic-Con that Biel was in talks for the costarring role of "Viper" in the film. The actress was in talks with the studio for the part on Friday, but the negotiations fell through. Biel, who previously lent her action acting skills to the third installment of the Blade franchise and the upcoming Total Recall, reportedly had "cold feet" regarding the role and opted out of joining the sequel.
The departure of Biel is another bump in the road for The Wolverine. After the middling success of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, questions over whether the gruff, ballbusting hero would get another chance at a solo career. Director Gavin Hood insisted that a second film was on the way, with writer Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Jack Reacher) hired to pen a script in August 2009. When Hood was not asked to return for a follow-up, plans for a sequel were stuck in limbo. But after the success of Black Swan, Jackman's former Fountain director Darren Aronofsky stepped in to helm the picture with a revamped title that separated it from the previous Origins series: The Wolverine.
Aronofsky boarded The Wolverine in October of 2010, but by March of 2011, he was bowing out of the project, citing the need to remain in the country with his family (the director had split from his wife Rachel Weisz in November, following the announcement). The departure of the director wasn't even The Wolverine's biggest issue: McQuarrie's script for the film took the action to Japan, following one of the character's most famous arcs, but just before Aronofsky's departure, Japan suffered a massive earthquake that devastated the country and left business out to dry. Once again, Fox was stuck with a project they were dying to make but with no one and no where to make it. An immediate search began for a new director, and by June 2011, the studio settled on James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Knight & Day) to helm the picture. The film was on the fast track to shoot in fall of that year in Australia.
With whether concerns in Japan a lingering problem, The Wolverine bounced around start dates with its star eventually taking on another project in the interim, the musical Les Miserables. But after years of false starts, the pieces for the comic book sequel are falling into place, Jackman confirming at this year's CinemaCon that production would begin in August for a release date of July 26, 2013.
The Wolverine has already begun assembling its primarily Japanese cast, signing on Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi , Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima for key roles, but the loss of Biel comes as a blow to the production. The star is one of the few go-to female action heroines — and her profile is only growing. Who can go toe-to-toe with Jackman on both a physical and emotional level. In the comics, The Viper character begins in a romantic relationship with Wolverine before double-crossing him and taking him down. The casting of Biel is an indication that, at the very least, Viper will be seeing a bit of the action in the film (and with a name like Viper, how could she not?). There's no word yet on who could fill Biel's shoes, but if Total Recall is any indication, actress Kate Beckinsale has the chops to contend with Biel. An ample replacement? Who should take over Viper from the quickly-departed Biel?
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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[Photo Credit: New Line Cinema]