This Wolverine will be different
The Wolverine star Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold today participated in a live YouTube chat with fans, responding to questions submitted via Twitter.
Filmed a few days prior to the film wrapping up shooting in Sydney, Jackman said he was sad to be close to finishing, though he also promised that there "is still plenty of time left for us to screw it up."
In a conversation that lasted a little more than ten minutes, presented by Ryan Penagos from Marvel Digital Media Group, Mangold somewhat impressively managed to compare the story for the new movie with Isaac Asimov's The Bicentennial Man - a tale of an immortal robot - Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Wizard of Oz.
Mangold stated that the previous films provide an important context, placing "this story after the other X-Men story when he's lost everything."
"This film situates itself essentially after the three X-Men movies that exist and finds Logan at a point where the X-Men are gone, Jean Grey is gone. A lot of the ties he had to the world are gone.
"Almost every intimate connection he had to the world are either destroyed or broken."
In comparing the film to The Bicentennial Man, Mangold explained he felt that in the film Logan was experiencing "the theme that I find really interesting: The weight for gods, the weight of forever. The heavy burden and living forever and what it means."
"The aspects of going forever and losing everyone you love. What is it like to live essentially forever to keep trudging on, to keep rescuing men, to keep losing the ones you love.
Jackman agrees that this film marks a change in the approach to immortality. "I remember our first conversation. He said to me 'enough of the 'I can't remember who I am,' we've explored it, a lot'. It's more about the future. How do I live with whatever knowledge I have? I thought that was such a fresh perspective.
Both the actor and director repeatedly emphasised that this film would be a different film to the other X-Men films.
"I never thought I'd be playing one character for this long," said Jackman, "but I have to admit from X-Men 1 my secret dream was to film this particular arc of the Logan story.
"This film feels fresh and I know the fans are going to be surprised by it."
For Mangold, The Wolverine has to stand alone. "It was important to me that I wanted to place this movie in a place where it could create its own world. There wasn't a sense of having to hand off to another movie."
This was a part of the appeal of shooting a film set in Japan. "Japan is Oz for the Logan character," explains Mangold.
Jackman feels that "Logan in his very essence is in many ways the very opposite of Japanese culture." Referencing the traditional qualities associated with Japan of duty, families and honour he feels that "the juxtaposition is like perfect."
They both felt that the isolation provided by that contrast will allow the movie to focus on its central character.
"Everybody that's meant anything to him has gone, a lot of which he blames on himself," says Jackman. "This movie is called The Wolverine, we really wanted this movie, better than any before, to encapsulate that character. You're going to see every side to him. There's going to be some surprises in there too."
"You have to see him lower, more desperate, more at stake than ever before."
Mangold was quick to point out that the movie will also show more rage. Referencing the western The Outlaw Josey Wales, "a film in which Clint Eastwood watches his wife and children murdered in the first three minutes. How neatly and concisely the set up of that film sent Clint off on a journey."
Jackman agreed. "Yes he has claws and adamantium skeleton and healing ability, [but] his ultimate weapon is his rage. There are mutants with stronger powers on paper. Who's the person you least want to annoy? It's Wolverine. That's the thing that makes him bad ass. That's the thing that makes him cool."
To highlight this they drew a distinction between physicality and action. "We don't want to succumb to what has been going on for years now which is sort of an arms race of action movies where they try to out do in terms of spectacle," said Mangold. "Music can only get so loud.
"Sure this is a tent pole movie there's some outrageous action, but also in the world of Dark Knight and Bourne films. They physicality is something that people will find really gripping."
For that purpose Mangold was glad to be working with Jackman, "one of the most, if not the most talented physical actors alive. He can jump into these fight sequences. There's long takes where there's bad ass stuff going on."
Jackman said he had done more preparation this time to prepare himself physically including chatting to actor and former wrestler Dwayne Johnson and a diet that he summarised as "I've killed more chickens than I'd like to mention"
"Finally, physically, what is on film is what I had in my head," said Jackman. "This is not a vanity thing. It's important that that rage inside is seen in his body. I wanted to see veins, I wanted him to be animalistic. I wanted it to look not pretty, frightening."
"Nothing speaks louder than his silhouette in scene with lightning in the sky," added Mangold. "You understand that this guy could tear you apart."
That physical presence only added to the pressure of finding a genuine threat to Jackman's character.
"You're always in danger of thinking he can get out of anything because of his healing ability," said Jackman. "In this movie he discovers his kryptonite."
"We're very conscious of that,' added Mangold. "Some of the people that Logan is up against might have found ways of getting to him."
According to Mangold's list, those enemies include "Yakuza, industrialists, politicians, women of varying degrees of who are they, what are they, can I trust them ... it's elaborate. Other mutants. There's an array of people he will come in contact with, both good bad or they're a question mark.
"Most super hero movies are eminently clear about who the bad guys are at the beginning of the movie. Logan enters the story trusting no one."
For Jackman though there is only one major enemy.
"I always think: himself," he said. "More than ever we've explored this war within himself, which is so endemic to this character and why people love this character. More than ever, we've explored that and the burden of that. At the beginning of this movie he's finding it tough to find a reason to live."
And Mangold enjoyed torturing him.
"It is awesome. Logan enters a labyrinth of mystery, violence, love, heartbreak."
The Wolverine is in cinemas from July 2013
-Sydney Morning Herald