The latest in the long and storied X-Men franchise comes out this summer, The Wolverine, following the solo adventures of everyone's favourite Canadian mutant, once again played by Australian Hugh Jackman. I was thinking about this the other day...Wolverine has essentially become Jackman's James Bond. I can't think of any other franchise that's kept the same actor for the same iconic character for so long. And not bad for a guy who kind of stumbled into it. As has been well documented now, Bryan Singer's first choice to play Wolverine in X-Men all those years ago was Russell Crowe, but Crowe passed. Then, Singer hired Dougray Scott, but he was playing the bad guy in Mission: Impossible II, and when filming on that one went long, Scott had to pull out. So it was down to #3 choice, Hugh Jackman, who was still primarily known in Australia as a song-and-dance man. Jackman accepted the role, it turned him into a global superstar, and the rest is history.
In a way, this particular film has been a pet project of Jackman's. Ever since he accepted the role of Wolverine and began researching the character, he's been dying to tell the tale told in the epic 1982 Frank Miller mini-series about Wolverine settling down in Japan, adopting the code of the samurai, and finally finding inner peace. But, of course, Wolverine always seems to run into trouble and he gets caught in the middle of ninja battles and yakuza wars. And before you know it, Wolverine is once again proving that he's the best there is and what he does, and what he does isn't very nice.
Getting this particular Wolverine adventure to the big screen took some doing. The always knew they wanted to do it as a sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but when the reaction to that film was kind of "meh," there was some doubt about continuing with Wolverine's solo franchise. But people still love the character, so they went ahead and started developing the sequel. Jackman brought in his old buddy Christopher McQuarrie to write the script. McQuarrie, of course, is Bryan Singer's longtime writing partner, who scripted The Usual Suspects and Valkyre. And for a director, Jackman asked another one of his buddies...Darren Aronofsky, who directed The Wrestler and Black Swan and, where Jackman met him, The Fountain.
But, that kind of fell apart. They wanted to film it on location in Japan. Makes perfect sense. But, filming on location in Japan would have taken Aronofsky away from his young family for about a year, and he didn't want to do that. So Aronofsky pulled out. And then the tsunami hit Japan a couple years ago, and that kind of frightened the producers away from filming in Japan. So the search was on for another for a new director and a new location. Much like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, they finally settled on filming in Jackman's homeland of Australia, and for a new director, they got James Mangold, who directed the Oscar winners Girl, Interrupted (the film that made Angelina Jolie a star) and Walk the Line (the Johnny Cash biopic).
So, the film itself. In the official plot description we've been given, they tell us it takes place after X-Men: The Last Stand. After the events of that film, he's been walking the Earth, finding himself, when an old figure from his past invites him to Japan. Where's the line that the studio handed out that's incredibly cheezy: "Vulnerable for the first time, and pushed to his physical and emotional limits, he confronts not only lethal samurai steel, but also his inner struggle against his own immortality, emerging more powerful than ever before."
Jackman, of course, is back as Wolverine. Japanese model Tao Okamoto plays Mariko, the beloved that Wolverine settles down with. Will Yun Lee plays Wolverine's Japanese enemy, the Silver Samurai. And, the trailers have confirmed it, Famke Jansen puts in a cameo as Jean Grey.
I know people were kind of worried about this, because, well, the film comes out this July, and we're only getting a trailer at the end of March. The fact that they were holding off for so long really started making people think that the film is going to be crappy. Well, let's take a look at and see.
Well, let's get back to my cousin's original question, shall we? What did I think of it? My reaction is somewhat...well, I'm underwhelmed. I'm looking at this trailer and going, "Meh." I'm just getting a real, "Been there, done that" vibe from this trailer. It's not getting me fired up. Looks like, for the plot, we're getting the whole "Hero loses his powers, and finds that he's still a hero without them" trope that we saw in Spider-Man 2 and Superman 2, and most other superhero sequels.
So, yeah. I'm just not feeling it with this one. But I'll still probably check it out, because I'm a sucker for all things superhero.
The Wolverine hits theaters July 26.