When it was announced that the sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine would take place in Japan, comic book fans were hopeful that it meant that one of the seminal works in the character’s comic book history, the 1982 Wolverine miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, would be adapted for the big screen. When Hugh Jackman, in San Diego to promote his upcoming film Real Steel, announced that the Silver Samurai was going to be the main villain in the sequel, called The Wolverine, it caused websites such as /Film to say that the film was “fully based” on the Wolverine miniseries.
I say, not so fast. Because the character of the Silver Samurai doesn’t even appear in the original miniseries.
The 1982 Wolverine miniseries played a fundamental role in expanding the character and making him as popular as he became. The miniseries establishes that Wolverine had a girlfriend living in Japan by the name of Mariko Yashida. When Mariko fails to respond to any of his attempts to get in contact with her, he travels to Japan where he find out that Mariko is married to another man, a marriage arranged by her father, Lord Shingen, who has taken control of the Japanese underworld.
Knowing that Logan/Wolverine will never let Mariko be married to an abusive man who she doesn’t love, Shingen sends his team of ninjas to assassinate him. Logan joins up with a female martial arts expert by the name of Yukio. Yukio seems to be fighting the same enemies that Logan is fighting, but he soon finds out that she is not exactly what it seems.
The book is important in the history of Wolverine because it marks the occasion when the character got his bestial nature under control and also introduced Asian influences into his back story. It’s an interesting story in and of itself, and Shingen makes for a powerful villain (he defeats Wolverine in combat at least once during the series).
However, the Silver Samurai doesn’t appear in the miniseries at all. He does appear in the ipso facto sequel to the miniseries, which ran in Uncanny X-Men #172-173. In those issues, the X-Men (whose line-up at the time included Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Kitty Pryde, and Rogue) have come to Japan for the wedding of Logan and Mariko. The Silver Samurai, who is Mariko’s half-brother, Keniuchio Harada, has also come to Japan to stake his claim of leadership of Shingen’s criminal empire (****SPOILER ALERT!****Shingen dies at the end of the Wolverine miniseries). Mariko refuses because Harada is a criminal and she wants to clear the family’s name.
This installment is great, and does feature a kickin’ battle between Silver Samurai and Wolverine, but it’s not likely to make it to the screen in exactly as it appears in the comics. For one, Silver Samurai isn’t the main villain of the piece. He’s working with Viper, a green-haired woman who is in charge of Hydra at the time of the story. And since Hydra is an aspect of Marvel not owned by Fox, instead owned by Marvel Studios as evidence by its use in Captain America: The First Avenger, it’s likely the Viper character will be altered in some way or removed completely.
And while the only X-Men other than Wolverine who play a part in story are Storm and Rogue (the team was poisoned by the Viper and Silver Samurai, Rogue’s metabolism counteracted the poison, and Storm didn’t drink it, the rest are in the hospital for the majority of the two issues), the characters are quite different than their film versions. The comic book Rogue at the time was a reformed villain who came to the X-Men to help control her powers. The lack of trust between her and Wolverine is a big part of the story and what helps make it great.
On top of all that, these two issues play a part in the overreaching arc of the series where the illusion casting telepathic mutant known as Mastermind is using his illusions to create suspicion and distrust amongst the X-Men. Mastermind is a heretofore unseen character in the film franchise and while his overall plan does not need to be known to enjoy the story, his involvement is essential to the plot of these two issues. It’s doubtful that they would expend the screen time needed to introduce the character in this film.
So, therefore, the inclusion of the Silver Samurai in The Wolverine pretty much guarantees that it won’t be “fully based” on the Chris Claremont and Frank Miller miniseries. Heck, I even doubt that we’ll see him in his shiny silver armor in the film. So the question is where he will fit in?
Shooting is set to begin in October with a planned Fall 2012 release.