Pictures taken on the set of The Wolverine that appeared on The Life of the Mind blog show more than just a haggard and woolly Hugh Jackman, they might just show what direction the X-Men Origins: Wolverine sequel is headed.
The four pictures presumably show Jackman on the way to the set, and cut a very different image of Wolverine than we are used to. Instead of the buff, sideburns wearing Wolverine from the rest of his film appearances, they show Jackman with long, disheveled hair and a bushy beard, looking quite like a homeless person or a young Alan Moore.
But he could also look like a prisoner of war, which would fit with previous information we have received about the film.
Several weeks ago, the Australian press was invited to the film’s set. At the time, the gathered press took many photographs of the set pieces being built and the concept art made for the film. These images made the rounds on the Internet, but quickly were removed (much to some news organizations’ chagrin). The photo to the right is the only one we dare to share, if only because the pictures there are so small. But you can still find some of the original images online if you know where to look.
The set pictures showed two set models. One was a pit of sorts with a heavy metal vault-like door on top that appears to something you’d place a particularly nasty prisoner in. This model was shown already build into a full size set piece. The other model was of a prison camp, with barracks surrounded by metal fencing. The concept art showed the prison camp, scene of a nuclear bomb being detonated, and the destructive aftermath of the bombing on Japan.
These pictures seem to indicate that a fairly sizable portion of the film will take place in a World War II era Japanese prisoner of war camp, and, added to the pictures released today, Wolverine most likely was rather long-time guest at one of the camps.
The camps and the nuclear war imagery also leads one to believe that another one of Wolverine’s iconic comic book stories will be partially adapted into the film. 2008′s Logan, written by Lost‘s Brian K. Vaughan and draw by Eduardo Risso, add a new wrinkle to the character’s back story–a stay in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the final days of WWII. The miniseries famously detailed what would win in a battle between Wolverine’s healing power and the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima (SPOILER ALERT: The healing power wins).
The miniseries also introduced a new enemy for Wolverine, an American who was turned into a flaming skeleton in the blast. This villain is later confronted Logan in the modern day, when Logan gets revenge on the villain for actions he did decades earlier.
In my opinion, the film will keep the whole “fighting your nemesis decades later” aspect of the story (which is confirmed by the studio’s plot summary for the sequel) but take away the flaming skeleton and insert Shingen from the Claremont and Miller Wolverine mini series. As I mentioned here, it looks like two actors, one young (Hiroyuki Sanada) and one old (Hal Yamanouchi), have been cast as the villain from that series, Shingen Yashida. It would not be a stretch to believe that the film will have Sanada play a WWII-era Shingen, perhaps as an abusive guard or commandant for the camp Logan/Wolverine is in, and then have the older Yamanouchi play Shingen later in life. Due to the age differences in the actors possibly playing Shingen, this would place the non-WWII parts of The Wolverine in the 1980′s, after X-Men Origins: Wolverine, yet quite some time before X-Men.
If this is in fact the way the writers are going with this film, I think it is both good and bad. Good in the sense that it builds a stronger sense of conflict between Yashida and Logan, and it would be interesting to see how an amnesia-suffering Logan reacts to facing his old enemy. Bad in the sense it takes a bit of the pathos out of the relationship between Logan and Mariko. It takes the randomness out of the love affair and brings in too much coincidence for my tastes.
Another area of concern is the film’s continuity with its previous installment. X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s opening credits expressly shows that Logan and Sabretooth were part American forces taking part in the Normandy invasion in the European theater during WWII. This asks the question, how did Logan move from one theater of war to another in the span of 14 months (if he’s really going to be in Japan when the bombs drop) and where Victor/Sabretooth is while Logan is a prisoner, because that title montage shows the pair were inseparable until well after the Vietnam conflict. The X-films have played fast an loose with continuity, and there have been other elements of X-Men Origins: Wolverine contradicted in other films, but these are still issues that need to be addressed.