A sequel has been in the pipeline for ages...
Despite a distinctly lukewarm reception from the critics, X-Men Origins: Wolverine still did rather tidy work at the box office, raking in a healthy $85 million on its opening weekend. So it should have surprised precisely noone when just days later, Fox announced they would be making a sequel.
And whilst irate fanboys had barely had a chance to begin griping about the first film, a host of its stars were already champing at the bit to stake their claim for a part in the follow-up.
Canadian star Taylor Kitsch didn’t even wait for the Origins to hit the screen before pushing for his character Gambit to bag a meatier role in a potential follow-up. “I would love to go darker,” the star told MTV. “(Gambit) in Vegas was fun, but I want to go into the Thieves Guild part of his story. How cool would it be to see him stealing things to survive because the stakes are so high? Of course, as an actor, I’m always going to the darker side, but for him that would just be way more intriguing.
Come on, Fox… Let’s do it!”
Liev Schreiber was another to express an interest, claiming that his character Sabretooth also warranted a second outing. “There’s been some smatterings of conversation about it, but nothing concrete yet,” he told Screen Rant. “I had a ball doing it, so I’d do it again. I’d love to find out what happened to Victor… I’d like to find out how my Victor became Tyler Mane’s Victor.”
Ideas aplenty for what (or rather who) should provide the meat of the story then, but encouragingly the film’s producers were also keen to acknowledge that the first film hadn’t exactly been everyone’s cup of tea…
The producers promise an improvement on the first film...
One of the criticisms levelled at the first film was the half-hearted approach it took towards establishing a truly compelling origin story. For example the promise of getting a look at Wolvie’s childhood in 1840s Canada was undermined by cramming it into a brief pre-credits sequence, whilst any real scrutiny of the character’s motivations usually ended up playing second fiddle to the string of bruising action sequences.
Indeed, director Gavin Hood came out after the film was released and explained that with such a wealth of subject material at his disposal, deciding what should and shouldn’t be included was a dizzying task.
“The truth is, what freaked me out a little when I was doing my research was that I was looking for the definitive origin story of Wolverine,” he explained in an official Fox Q&A. “And, of course, any of you who know the comics know that doesn’t entirely exist because this guy’s been written about for 40 years by many different writers, different illustrators. we had to make the choices that were right for this movie.”
However, with a sequel now approved, producer Lauren Schuler Donner was keen to stress that the follow-up would fuse a closer bond with the comic books, particularly those penned by writer Chris Claremont.
“I think it’s our responsibility to remain true to the source material,” says Donner. “There are other influences and other factors that make us deviate from it, the first of which being transcribing it to the screen, but we certainly are fully aware of the fan base and try in every way possible to stay close to the source material. I think in Wolverine it was a little bit different because there was a lot of different source material, a lot of different legends…there were some choices we had to make. But certainly in Wolverine 2 , in the Japanese saga, we will stay very close to the source material. I think it’s just best that way.”
“Japanese saga?” Sounds like we know where the plot is going to take us then…
The film is set in Japan...
That’s right Bub, Wolvie’s off to the far East in an adaptation of the popular storyline from the 1980’s, when Frank Miller and Chris Claremont were writing for the character.
In the comics, Wolverine had long been portrayed as longing to explore Japan, with Miller and Claremont’s yarn finally granting him that wish. The story sees Logan travel to Japan, where he falls in love with a woman named Mariko Yashida. However, Mariko is rather inconveniently the heiress to a powerful Yakuza crime family, with her villainous old man less than thrilled with Wolvie’s sudden arrival on the scene…
A fairly meaty storyline for our hero to get his claws into then, and happily it’s been transformed into a script by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie. Having already helped pen the first X-Men film with Bryan Singer, McQuarrie should already know the territory, and his pedigree as a screenwriter should allay any residual fears of another knuckleheaded action-fest.
So with a script in place, who would be stepping up to fill the director’s chair?
A string of directors were linked to the project...
With critics having given the first film a bit of a kicking, it soon became clear that Gavin Hood would not be invited for a second round of directorial duties, sparking a whole string of rumours as to who Fox were lining up to replace him.
Initially, it was reported that the studio were circling a quartet of intriguingly diverse names, with big hitters Kathryn Bigelow and Tony Scott mentioned alongside Cloverfield ’s Matt Reeves and Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov.
The latter’s previous experience with comic-book material was thought to have counted in his favour, whilst Bigelow’s name was perhaps the most eyebrow-raising. However, the talk was soon revolving around Scott and Reeves being named as the final two, before all four were scrapped entirely!
Suddenly, Red director Robert Schwentke was being touted as a potential favourite, before he too was supplanted by Twilight Saga: Eclipse ’s David Slade. However, just as fanboys everywhere were preparing to march on Marvel HQ in protest, a new name was announced that just about blew all the others out of the water…
Fox surprised everyone by hiring Darren Aronofsky...
Talk about an upgrade! Out of nowhere, Darren Aronofsky’s name became linked with the project, before Fox officially confirmed him as the film’s director in November last year.
“Darren’s vision has brought audiences some of the most original and memorable stories and characters in recent motion picture history,” boomed the official press release. “We at Fox witnessed this first hand with his work on The Wrestler , and Black Swan , and we can’t wait to see what else Darren has in store for us.”
It’s an appointment that certainly seems to confirm the studio’s desire for a more cerebral follow-up to the crash-bang-wallop antics of the first film. From Aronofsky’s perspective however, it seems a slightly odd choice given his indie sensibilities. However, the chance to work with a bigger budget seems to have been the key incentive behind this latest career move.
“(Comic-book movies) are all Hollywood is making,” says Aronofsky. “I do think there are interesting stories and characters in that world. And people like to go see them. I’ve kind of done these five movies where getting the money for them has been more of a challenge than making them. I’ve been the only person in the room who’s wanted to make these films. Now it’s kind of exciting to be in a room where every single person wants to make the movie.”
The film is not a sequel...
Shortly after Aronofsky was installed as director, the film was given an official title, The Wolverine . Note that that isn’t Wolverine 2 , with Aronofsky stressing that the film will not take the shape of a conventional sequel and will stand up on its own merits, completely independently of Origins . “It’s a standalone piece,” he says, “it has nothing to do with anything else in the whole franchise or in that universe.”
Meanwhile, the director seems to be relishing the chance to surprise everybody with his take on the big-budget action movie. “Every time I start a film, everyone’s like ‘what the hell is he doing?’” says Aronofsky to Movie City News, “so hopefully once again I’ll surprise everyone. I want to see if I can do what I do in that world. It’s not like I’m going to change my process. I’m going to be working with the same team, but really trying to do something different. Let’s see what happens.”
One of the aforementioned team will be cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who should be a great asset to the project having already worked on other comic-book adaptations in the form of Cowboys and Aliens and the two Iron Man films.
As for the actual subject material, Aronofsky has spoken of the Japanese element playing a large part in attracting him to the project. “There’s all the samurai elements that are really exciting,” he told SuperHeroHype, before confirming his intention to cast a lot of Japanese actors. “'I’m a big fan of Japanese movies, and we're going to try to have a good time.”
“Chris McQuarrie wrote a great screenplay,” continues Aronofsky. “We're trying to get it into a slightly better place but he's working on it, and I think it'll be easy to fix. Chris is an amazing writer and I'm very lucky to have him as a collaborator
And speaking of collaborators, there’s one rather significant one we haven’t mentioned yet…
Hugh Jackman will don the claws for a fifth time...
Hugh Jackman has never made any secret of his desire to do a Wolverine sequel, and it seems that the signing of Aronofsky, his director on The Fountain , has only got him more excited about the project.
“This is, hopefully for me, going to be out of the box,” he told Vulture. “It’s going to be the best one, I hope. Well, I would say that, but I really do feel that. I feel this is going to be very different.” And as for Aronofsky? Will a comic-book movie jar against the director’s usual subject material?
“This is Wolverine,” responds Jackman. “This is not Popeye. He’s kind of dark. But, you know, this is a change of pace. Chris McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects , has written the script, so that’ll give you a good clue. (Aronofsky’s) going to make it fantastic. There’s going to be some meat on the bones. There will be something to think about as you leave the theatre, for sure.”
And apparently, the Japanese angle has made the same impact on Jackman as it did on Aronofsky. ““The whole time from when I began,” he says, “the one story line that I went and said, ‘That’s a movie!’ while I was reading the comic books, was this whole saga in Japan… It’s really beautiful, different and fantastic. I thought, ‘That’s a movie.’”
And he'll be bulkier than ever...
Now that filming is slated to begin in April, Jackman is reportedly back in training to ensure he’s got the right build for the part. “Expect to see four chicken breasts and a whole pile of steamed broccoli on my plate,” he said recently, before revealing his intention to eat around 6,000 calories a day to help him bulk up.
Intriguingly, Jackman says he is planning to be bigger than ever before for this, the character’s fifth outing, in an attempt to be more faithful to the character’s comic-book appearance.
“Darren said with the last one, ‘Hey you looked great, but you're so tall that in those long shots you looked kind of like Clint Eastwood, and that's not Wolverine,’” said Jackman to Hero Complex. “He said that Wolverine, in the comics, is powerful, stocky - you know, he's short and thick. So he said, ‘I want you to go there, get bigger.’”
“I always think of Mike Tyson when he first came on the scene,” continues Jackman. “Sometimes, he was a full foot shorter than his opponents and bent over (with this) massive build. There’s real power… That’s what I’m going for, and if I have a massive heart attack first, well, you tell everyone what I was going for.”
Does this mean we’ll also see the big-screen debut of the yellow spandex? Well no, probably not, but you can’t deny it’s heartening to see Aronofsky and Jackman doing their homework…
We won't be seeing him anwhere else...
With so many Marvel projects appearing on the horizon, there has been no shortage of talk concerning potential crossover appearances for Wolvie, with Jackman himself fanning the flames concerning a spot in The Avengers .
Any movie with Robert Downey Jr, I want to be in,” Jackman told MTV. “I'm open to it (because) I love playing this guy. The great thing about Wolverine is he's still a fun character. He's a tortured soul but he's always got a quip. He's always got a line. He's like Dirty Harry and Mad Max. These aren't nice guys but they get the job done. He marches to the beat of his own drummer. That's why I love playing him.”
Since then however, Joss Whedon has made no move to include the character, and attention has instead turned to Matthew Vaughn’s upcoming X-movie, First Class . The rumour mill was quick to grind into action when Jackman was recently spotted in Georgia, where First Class had been shooting, with speculation rife that the Australian had been on set to film a cameo.
However, producer Bryan Singer has since moved to quash the rumours, tersely remarking that Jackman, “isn’t in the movie. He’s in the Wolverine movies.” Fairly comprehensive then: if you want to see Jackman get his claws out, The Wolverine will be the only film to provide it.
The film will arrive in Summer 2012...
With filming due to begin in a few month’s time, The Wolverine has been pencilled in for a Summer 2012 release date, bundling it in with a whole host of other comic-book giants, including The Avengers , the Spiderman and Superman reboots and of course The Dark Knight Rises .
Whilst previously we might have thought a sequel to X-Men Origins might have been a poor relation to those other films, the addition of Aronofsky has got us hoping that Christopher Nolan could be in for some real competition in the “serious super-hero” stakes.
We’ll be waiting for further casting news with baited breath, but with Jackman already in place, and some stellar subject material being subjected to the combined talents of Aronofsky and Chris McQuarrie, we’re confident this could be a return to form for everybody’s favourite X-Man.