JAMES MANGOLD [Q&A]: Unleashing “The Best There Is…”

I never thought this day would come.

It’s a chilly Monday night on the FOX Studios lot in Century City, where the Monsignor is just a few minutes away from helping celebrate the arrival of the “Unleashed Unrated” version of The Wolverine. It’s not often there are galas as impressive as this for big movie premieres, nevermind a lil’ comic book movie on Blu-Ray. But, for Wolverine director James Mangold, this is how the peeps at Weapon X party: Veggies and dip. Lo mien noodles. Assorted sushi. Cupcakes. Open bar.

I wonder if Logan enjoys a brew gluten-free.

Canadian Ninja Warrior.

You see, tonight is a big deal. Not only is tonight further proof that a great Wolverine movie can be made, but tonight is a very special night, personally, for your favorite geek-reporting clergyman.

After some primitive years of buying random Mighty Thor, Batman, and Uncanny X-Men comics from a few neighborhood driveways and local flea markets, Wolverine #50 was the very first Wolverine comic I ever laid my mitts on. It was this issue where longtime G.I. Joe scribe Larry Hama offered more details towards the Weapon X saga, and handed the world to one Lady Shiva. Inside was a beautiful looking comic, courtesy of Marc Silvestri pencils, with just enough slits through the burnt orange Case File wraparound cover to preview the forthcoming madness.

Since 1991, I’ve never had a more favorite comic book character — and, sometimes, idol.

While Hugh Jackman certainly took front and center for four of the five previous X-Men movies, it took a sixth appearance from Jack for someone to get it right. My biggest life disappointment a.k.a. X-Men Origins: Wolverine seemingly lost its soul halfway through when Jackman was done fighting Sabretooth, and someone decided it was best to introduce an entire line of mutant action figures…instead of more Ray Donovan. And, sure, X-Men: First Class was well received; but, you can’t tell me that the Canucklehead cameo was only there to make up for the Frosty performance of one who should have stuck to crying on Sunday night TV.

Thirteen-years later, Mangold’s The Wolverine is the quintessential Wolverine film, so much so that none other than Logan himself took the time out of his ultra-lengthy schedule of stuffing cigars down the throats of the most dubious of pub-crawlers to review the movie for GodHatesGeeks.

No worries, darlin. The School of Scientology is just a few blocks away.

The good news on this night — besides all of the 5-star festivities that welcomed us to the Far East? That the 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line director’s “Unleashed Unrated” cut of The Wolverine is all the more vibrantly vicious. No, it doesn’t turn the movie into anything grindhouse, as the additional 10-15 minutes offers far more than just more blood and claws.

The Wolverine: Unleashed feels even more like a comic book on-screen this time around, too, with more focus on supporting character development; look no further than more critical scenes with Logan and Yashida following the aftermath in Nagasaki. There’s also more of Wolvie’s would-be daddy-in-law, Shingen Harada, adding further levity to the film Silver Samurai’s “great will and testament.” Thus, Shingen doesn’t appear so one-note . Best of all, the second coolest part of the film (this side of the funeral scene, I’d argue) — the skirmish between Wolvie, Yukio and the Black Ninja Clan — is even bigger, longer, and more uncut. It’s brutal, but nothing compared to Saw, or anything you can’t already gross-out over during AMC’s “Walking Dead.”

With The Wolverine: Unleashed, you actually get to see those adamantium claws go through somebody.

You know you want to.

Why am I not shocked WB called you in for Man of Steel after watching Origins?

But, rest assured; no one enjoys seeing those claws — perhaps even those bone claws — more than James Mangold. Looking back at Jackman’s historic longevity as Wolverine, Mangold told tonight’s host Geoff Boucher (formerly of EW, Hero Complex) that he saw the actor and character as a “natural evolution. [Jackman as Wolverine] was the right person for the right job. It’s Sean Connery as Bond. There’s no reason it should stop.”

Mangold would delve further into Jackman’s range (as many know, Hugh is also fond of a little song and dance), in response to the notion that most of our “geek” heroes were typically typecast: “There’s a reality with Hugh Jackman in terms of his own versatility that is uniquely equipped to both eclipse and live within the world of his character. But, there’s nothing wrong [with playing the same guy]. There’s nothing wrong with being Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurry, or Errol Flynn. It isn’t only the measure of an actor whether they can change like a chameleon. It’s [in] your absolute ability to bring yourself to the screen, not just trying to [constantly] reinvent themselves.”

“If you find a groove, you should stick with it.”

Let’s hope those rumors of another Marvelous Mangold/Jackman Team-Up allow these two to stick with the slice-and-dice groove.

Just imagine Sentinels…that aren’t CGI.
  • Mangold, on Hughverine’s early X-film wigs and his decision to go clean: “It’s ‘tough hair,’ but you’re always trying to walk that line between some kind of relationship to the existent comic book art, and, at the same time, you’re having to physically make it work on human flesh. My thing is.. I just didn’t want Wolverine to look like Flock of Seagulls.”
  • Mangold, on Hughverine’s early X-film claws and his decision to go real: “Some things got over-designed. I literally pulled a page from Weapon X, right on the cover, where I said, ‘Make these.’ I felt like the [previous] claws looked fake. This wasn’t a film that wasn’t going to operate on a ‘Will the world be saved?’ question, so it was going to live and die on whether you were interested in [Logan] as a character. How can I make the reality of this character and his own humanity come to life?”
Dammit.
  • Mangold, on following the initial director of The Wolverine, Darren Aronovsky: “Felt like a suicide mission. Anyone who even attempted was going to get slaughtered. It would be like following Springsteen. Why would you bother?” But, as time went on, the humorously facetious Mangold would take the reins so long as he could figure what time period the film would actually take place. “Hugh was going to ask me, ‘Why am I [in Japan]?’. ‘Oh, I don’t know. It’s in the comic book.’ But, it struck me as the reason why [Wolverine] is there, is because he didn’t want to have any more contact. He wants to be alone. That was me trying to get under and support [Chris Claremont & Frank Miller’s comic]… It came to me that anyone [Logan] cares for…dies.”
  • Mangold, on comparing his take on the abilities of the superhero Wolverine to the Wolvie of Film Days Past: “When he leaps up and brings down a helicopter… to me, that’s too much. It’s getting into Superman territory. He doesn’t have frog legs. My own idea of him is that he has tremendous strength, but it’s still bound by physics. [If not] it turns into a video game watching characters flip through the air any which way,” to which Boucher replied “but, you’re not even playing.” X-actly.

The Wolverine: Unleashed Unrated Blu-Ray is available now for download, and stores everywhere December 3rd. SNIKT!

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