James Mangold Explains The Pain Underlying Events In 'The Wolverine'

We're still waiting for a trailer for James Mangold's The Wolverine, which brings Hugh Jackman back to his signature role as the rapid-healing mutant augmented with unbreakable razor-sharp claws. You'd think that guy would be impossible to defeat, but X-Men Origins: Wolverine nearly managed the trick.

This film basically ignores Origins, and takes its biggest cues from the early '80s Wolverine mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller that helped define the character in the first place. That story sees Wolverine fighting for his honor and humanity in Japan, but we still don't know many specifics about what screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie retained, and what was changed. Now James Mangold has given an interview where he suggests a few things about his film, and explains why it takes place some time after X-Men: The Last Stand.

Mangold told EW in a long, detailed interview:

It's set after 'X-Men 3', but I wouldn't call it a sequel to 'X-Men 3'... [I chose to set it after those films] because of some of the themes in the Claremont/Miller saga. I felt it was really important to find Logan at a moment where he was stripped clean of his duties to the X-Men, his other allegiances, and even stripped clean of his own sense of purpose. I was fascinated with the idea of portraying Logan as a ronin – the definition of which is a samurai without a master, without a purpose. Kind of a soldier who is cut loose. War is over. What does he do? What does he face? What does he believe anymore? Who are his friends? What is his reason for being here anymore? I think those questions are especially interesting when you're dealing with a character who is essentially immortal.

We know that the film sees Wolverine in a complicated relationship web with the ninja Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who is in the employ of Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), whose daughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is — in the comics, at least — Wolverine's first great love. And then there's the villain Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who factors in as well.

A lot of that story and a lot of beats from that saga are in there — and a lot of characters. Without being religious about it, I think it's a very admiring adaptation. Obviously when you're adapting anything you make some changes. But all the characters are there – Yukio, Viper, Mariko, Shingen, and Logan obviously. The whole cast of characters that exist in that world exists in our film.

Mangold almost makes the film sound like a Western as he explains what advantage the Japanese locations provided ("the gigantic change of scenery – which Japan offers – gave us a kind of license to make the tone we wanted, as opposed to continuing another tone that may have existed") and then goes on to explicitly mention a key Western in defining the film's tone.

An old friendship [puts the story in motion]. What brings him there is an old ally in Japan. We find Logan in a moment of tremendous disillusionment. We find him estranged. One of the models I used working on the film was The Outlaw Josey Wales. You find Logan and his love is gone, his mentors are gone, many of his friends are gone, his own sense of purpose – what am I doing, why do I bother – and his exhaustion is high. He has lived a long time, and he's tired. He's tired of the pain.

The Wolverine also features Will Yun Lee, Hal Yamanouchi, and Brian Tee. It opens July 26.