THIS MUTANT LIFE #13: ‘Wolverine’ Gets Modern

Anyone who’s followed the slow development of “The Wolverine” over many years and directors has, or at least had, an idea of what the movie was going to be about. Riffing off Chris Claremont’s landmark miniseries, the film was going to pick up with the Canuck in Japan, where he would find himself competing for the love of a Yakuza leader’s daughter, while also continuing to sort out his whole loner thing.

But director James Mangold dropped somewhat of a bombshell this week when he revealed that “The Wolverine” would be set in present day — as in, following the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the last moment of modern X-continuity seen on the big screen.

“Where this film sits in the universe of the films is after them all,” Mangold told Empire. “Jean Grey is gone, most of the X-Men are disbanded or gone, so there’s a tremendous sense of isolation for him.”

That is what we’d call a big announcement. For months, it was assumed that “The Wolverine” would be another prequel akin to its predecessor, filling in the blanks of Wolverine’s life in between his bullet-induced amnesia at the end of “Origins” and when he meets up with the X-Men in the first film. Something else that’s interesting: Empire’s photos clearly show Logan with bone claws, not his adamantium ones. Could something have happened in the years since to deprive him of that advantage? It might just be a flashback, and not worth reading too much into. OR: It could further speak to the sense of the loss he’s endured over the years, by having something previously essential to his physical personhood ripped away from his body.

Mangold also talked about the context of where Logan’s head is following “The Last Stand.” “I wanted to be able to tell the story without the burden of handing it off to a film that already exists and having to conform to it,” he said. “The ideas of immortality reign very heavily in this story and the burden of immortality weighs heavily on Logan. For me that’s such an interesting part of Logan’s character that is nearly impossible to explore if you have a kind of league or team movie.” That would seem to be the rub: to find a place in the timeline where he was more alone than normal, having recently seen his acquired friends — and greatest love — fall by the wayside due to unavoidable tragedy.

The revelation that Famke Janssen might’ve been filming scenes for “The Wolverine” was good enough, but now, it might seem we’re due for appearances and cameos from just about all of the X-Men: Halle Belle as Storm, Anna Paquin as Rogue, Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, and so forth. And why not, really? With more than half a decade gone by since most of those characters have shown up on screen, it would be a perfect opportunity to inch us toward that inevitable crossover. If nothing else, it would be a nice wink and a nod toward what was as the franchise clearly attempts to move in a separate direction.

But judging from Mangold’s comments, I’d guess against any cameos outside of Janssen (which would be most likely to happen in a dream sequence or flashback, in account of her dead-ness); as I’ve written about before, Jackman’s stated that “The Wolverine” is its own film, divorced of obligation to the existing X-continuity. That’s probably for the better, as those tantalizing cameos could come at the expense of tonal consistency. (This is a Wolverine movie, not “X-Men 4.”)

It also wouldn’t do much to talk about how alone Logan is, and then show him interacting with those old friends. But it seems like they’ll have to acknowledge the timeline at some point, and that’s enough to get a little more excited for 2013.

This Mutant Life explores all corners of the cinematic X-verse, from the kids of “First Class” to the berserker rage of “The Wolverine.” Suggest topics for future columns in the comments or on Twitter!

Previously on This Mutant Life:
» Mark Millar Rights the Ship
» Can Mutants and Marvel Heroes Coexist?
» Is Phoenix Rising?
» Wolverine’s Film History In Photos
» Should Patrick Stewart Return as Charles Xavier?
» How Much Does Continuity Matter?
» The Value of Bryan Singer
» Talking “Wolverine” With Chris Claremont
» Claremont Looks Back on “Days of Future Past”
» Why “Wolverine” Should Stick To His Own World
» Hopes For A “First Class” Sequel
» The Status Of “X-Men” On Film