JoBlo.com goes into the Editing Room of The Wolverine!
“The first thing I wrote on the back of the script when Fox sent it to me was ’everyone I love will die.’ ” – James Mangold
The road THE WOLVERINE has taken to 2013 has been long and reported… We know the headlines: Japan, Chris Claremont & Frank Miller, Aronofsky and then Mangold... Even with superhero adaptations continuing to be as profitable as ever, reboots seem to be the forgone conclusion when a franchise reaches a poorly received installment or when the primary players simply age out of their characters. So it’s kind of a miracle that six films in, Fox is still championing a series that began in 2000. Like most of us, my relationship with the X-MEN franchise fluctuates on a series of highs and lows depending on the film. So to gauge how my write up will possibly reflect your anticipation level, let me quickly make my peace with the previous installments: I really like X1, love X2, tolerated X3 (haven’t revisited it since theaters), loath ORIGINS and am generally ambivalent towards First Class… Yeah, that last bit is usually where my opinion differs from most. With that in mind, after viewing the first fifteen minutes of THE WOLVERINE as well as the train action set piece you’ll recognize from the trailers, I feel pretty comfortable saying this movie is shaping up to be the most promising installment to the universe since X-MEN 2.
James Mangold: “Westerns and Samurai films and superhero films have a lot in common. The scale of the visuals in the tent pole films can sometimes overwhelm the drama. What’s beautiful about the western is that the technological limitations of the era restrict the ability for someone to go crazy with stuff like CG. So you’re then forced to actually do your job and make a story about people you care about and shoot action that seems real.” As it turns out, James’ suite on the FOX lot was a playhouse of western, samurai and superhero iconography; a large conceptual art piece of The Silver Samurai hangs next to an original poster for Glenn Ford’s 3:10 TO YUMA, followed by the excellent brush stroked posters for THE WOLVERINE leading to the editing bay.
I love seeing work in the actual editing bay, there’s something raw and inviting where instead of an exported file, the editor simply scrolls to the beginning of the AVID timeline and presses play. That’s exactly what happened when James brought four of us in. “Let’s show the beginning Mike.”
I never want to spoil too much with these, but I’ll give a brief rundown of what James showed us with some general impressions followed by some more words from the man himself.
The opening scene after the studio logos starts quietly; two B29 planes gracefully make their way across the sky in the distance. After a moment we hear sirens, then the title card: 1945. Cut to a Japanese prison camp where soldiers are running in the opposite direction of the bombers. We pull back reveling Logan in a barred up well (how he became, or stayed a POW remains one of the many mysteries regarding this man), he peers out of the well holding himself steady by his boned claws along the interior brick. Three high ranking officers, knowing what’s coming, pull out their samurai swords and preform “sepukku” or ‘honorable suicide by impalement’ (honor’s a big theme of this film as I gather). A younger Japanese guard then opens the doors of the prisoner’s entrapments and tells them to run. “Those are B29’s bub. There’s no outrunning.” Logan says under his breath. The bombs drop slowly in the distance. The young guard pulls out his sword ready to follow in his commander’s footsteps before Logan interferes; “Run!” He grabs the soldier and throws him down the well, holding its giant metal cover over him. The bomb goes off. What ensues is the most grotesque regeneration we’ve ever seen of Wolverine in an X-Men movie.
Cut to Logan waking up from a dream. He’s with… Jean! You can see a good deal of this scene in the opening of the last trailer. It’s a bit longer, he recalls his dream of the bomb and they actually share a laugh. “You’re making fun of me” Jean quips. Damn I miss Famke. Logan promises, “I’ll never hurt you or anyone ever again.” Of course, he’s already impaled her without knowing it. “Nooo!” and…
He wakes up, a dream within a dream. Logan, post X-MEN 3, is in the wilderness of the Canadian mountains with a full beard. We see a routine of his simple day around his base camp including a humorous scene where he urinates as a bear walks by, neither Logan or the bear flinch at the other. Oddly it’s in these assorted moments when you can already tell Mangold is doing something quite different. There is a grace to the pacing of it. A focus. It’s taking its time unlike previous installments and frankly unlike most superhero films I’ve seen recently. Logan heads to a small hardware store to pick some supplies. Outside the store is a group of obnoxious hunters, loading their rifles and drinking.
Logan wakes up later that night when he hears howling, he investigates nearby his camp and finds the bear from earlier dying from an arrow wound. Logan gently pulls out the arrow. “Damn it.” He recognizes something about this particular arrow. The bear is in agony. “Don’t make me have to do this” he whispers under his breath before using his claw to put the poor beast out of its misery. It’s a surprisingly moving and poignant moment.
Unlike the first X-MEN bar fight, the one that precedes this bear scene is not Logan defending himself from some punks that “don’t take kindly to his type”; rather it’s Logan fixating his aggression towards the hunters from outside the hardware store. As he walks into the bar we hear a hunter brag about shooting a giant game to the other patrons. Logan asks (paraphrasing) “You the one who shot at the bear?” Logan takes the arrow out and stabs it in the hunters’ hand, right through the wooden table. “You used poisoned tipped arrows. They’re illegal. It didn’t kill him, it turned him crazy and he wound up killing campers.” The hunter screams “No! I didn’t!” “Then I guess your hand will be just fine then.” Logan pours some of the hunters whisky over the hand wound. He’s in agony. Logan’s on the edge.
That’s when Yukio (Rila Fukushima) comes in. You can see the highlights of her bar introduction in the last trailer. She pulls some real Hattari Hanzo shit with her sword and the patrons rightfully freak. “It’s not worth fighting them. These men will die soon.” After some convincing, she escorts Logan to Japan by private jet. "How do you know those guys are going to die?" Logan asks. "Not all of us have claws." It appears Yukio is a mutant with the ability to tell some aspects of the future. Interesting... Now we skip ahead to a middle section of the move; the train sequence.
The train scene was the highlight of the day. Logan has to face a number of Yakuza inside a Japanese train car and by this time he’s already gained back his mortality. Wow, this Wolverine doesn’t give two shits about killing. Remember that moment of hesitation he had before unleashing his claws on the SWAT guys in X2? Not here, not when his life is actually on the line. It’s full on berserker from the get go. This was the most realistically choreographed fight I’ve seen in the series and the beginning reminded me of the trailer park fight between The Bride & Elle in KILL BILL VOL 2, remember when Elle couldn’t get her sword out because it was too cramped inside? Yeah, they play with the claustrophobic space of the train car well here too. I was surprised at how great the set piece looked when the action got on top of the train car; it looks much better than it did in the first few trailers. It’s also really engaging because the choreography of the fight demands Logan use some thought in how he’ll attack; it’s not just slash, slash, slash. At 300 MPH it becomes a game of chess with some of the goons. There is a great gag I won’t give away here, but rest assured the film delivers some excellent and fitting humor that never breaks the tension. Yeah, this is a terrific action scene.
If there was one word to describe my reaction to the footage I saw it would be: FOCUSED. Thinking about how this movie relates to other comic book films and specifically the X-MEN movies, I can definitely appreciate how James took one piece of an often-larger puzzle into Marvel’s version of THE MAN WITH NO NAME. The notion at least is similar to how they mostly liberated Tony Stark from s.h.i.e.l.d. and other heroes in IRON MAN 3 in order to make it a more personal story.
James: “I was the most interested in making the movie about… coexisting with the flagship plot movements of Claremont Miller and the pieces I was inevitably going to inherit from other films was this idea of the struggle of being immortal. Being forever. The struggle of knowing you loose everyone you love. That’s what I wanted to make the movie about. When I was a kid I actually wanted to make a movie out of the Bicentennial Man, the loneliness of someone who lasts forever. To add to that Logan’s own curse, that he either brings or signals the downfall of everyone he’s ever loved.”
It’s all the more interesting that this is the first time we’ll spend with him since the death of his friends in X3.
James: “It occurred to me when I first came on, an assumption no one else had made, was that this movie took place after everything. He was coming from a place where he has suffered the loss of his compatriots and mentors with no hope in replacing any of them. That seemed like a really strong thematic place to start. He’s also a stranger in a strange land and people are talking and there aren’t subtitles. I enjoy playing it that way, that there would be a sense of OZ to it all.
Given that this is a film without a nefarious gigantic force trying to take over the earth, the challenges are different. The plot structure is counter to what most superhero movies are. It’s more of a mystery noir picture. It’s less a ‘will he stop what’s the name from destroying cities. The stakes are more grounded and personal.”
He then relates the idea of the movie in general being more focused to the relationship minimalism has to genre,
“The idea of making a western where Hugh talks less is critical to me. Using the example of Samurai films or Josse Wales. The editing process has been one where you find stuff to take away. For my taste, I think movies tend to over explain. It’s kind of defense in part to the internet, you have so many people poking holes in things, it becomes a race trying to protect yourself from holes people will find.
Despite the fact that there have been a lot of movies, including an origin story that devoted it’s energy to that and other mutants, I felt there was this big softball down the center. You have a chance to do something that everyone, including me, wants to see done, which is to focus on him without the burden of telling us how he became Wolverine. To explore his rage, to his explore his conflict, his relationships without having to cut to nine other things.”
James concluded our discussion with what I think is the most on point assertion of what he is aiming for with THE WOLVERINE.
“I wanted to return him to the confines of his own abilities. He can’t jump up and pull down a helicopter in this film. I like the fact that he’s not Spider-Man, not Superman. It’s a little more about anger and determination, being a kind of Frankenstein monster of both nature and man. It’s more about the psychological wounds you’d carry than just doing ‘cool shit’. I wanted to bring in a FRENCH CONNECTION or BOURNE style action where you feel like it’s occurring in this world as opposed to being too fantastical. Growing up reading these, particularly the Marvel universe, is that it always felt like it took place in my world, an adult world.”
So there I was, after following the production and hoping for this kind of take on Wolverine since before ORIGINS I found myself leaving James Mangold’s suite with a very comforting vibe. This has every chance to be a high mark in the X-MEN saga. THE WOLVERINE opens July 26, 2013.
EXCLUSIVE WOLVERINE CHARACTER POSTERS
(click to enlarge)
|Shingen sumi ink graphic||Mariko sumi ink graphic||Harada sumi ink graphic|
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|Extra Tidbit:||Editor Michael McCusky has been involved in every Marvel outlet. In addition to cutting THE WOLVERINE for Fox, he cut THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for Sony and did additional editing on CAPTAIN AMERICA for Marvelís own cinematic universe.|