Often, what you see on a screen when it comes to Hollywood blockbusters is not at all what the initial footage looked like. Whether it’s CGI, practical effects, models, costumes, make-up or any of the other numerous tactics employed to create movie magic, the finished product is almost always enhanced in some manner, especially when it comes to big budget films.
Thankfully, nearly every major blockbuster has its production recorded and documented by photographers and over the years, some truly incredible, exciting and often hilarious behind the scenes photos have made their way online. And so, on that note, join us today as we settle into another edition of our weekly column, where we’ll be exploring James Mangold’s The Wolverine.
After the overwhelming disappointment of the first attempt at a solo film for the X-Men leader, many were skeptical about Mangold’s efforts to revitalize the character. After all, we’d seen Hugh Jackman as Logan enough times to know that despite the fact he’s awesome as the hero, there’s just no way that Wolvie can succeed under the restraints of studio control and a PG-13 rating. Then, The Wolverine hit theaters, and all skepticism was slashed to pieces.
Part of the reason why the film was so successful is, like Logan, it doesn’t try to be an X-Men movie. In fact, it doesn’t try to be a comic book movie, either, though it clearly is one. It’s a story about internal turmoil caused by the pressures of living forever. There’s also the fact that Jackman gets better as Wolvie every time he takes on the character. In The Wolverine he’s more jacked, more furious and more in-tune with the legendary mutant than he ever had been.
Not only that, but Mangold’s film is also shockingly intimate, opening (after an introductory flashback) with a long, delicately paced sequence that could stand on its own as a tremendous Wolverine short. Years have passed since the end of The Last Stand, and Logan’s haunted by memories of the deceased Jean Grey (reprised here, as a recurring vision in his mind, by Famke Janssen, doing her best work in the series to date). He lives in a cave in the woods and has given up on the world, and what amazes me about this opening – a simple yet profound little story about how Logan deals with a group of unruly hunters – is how much we glean about the core of his character by observing the way he reacts to this single situation.
The writing is beautifully understated, and before the actual plot of the movie even gets underway, more is said about the sad, angry, and emotionally confused Wolverine than the entire Origins movie – or much of the original trilogy, for that matter – ever hinted at.
This was also one of the first X-Men films with a lazer-sharp, truly meaningful focus, a remarkably strong character-specific spine that extends on down to every single positive attribute the movie has to offer. As the title suggests, this is not just a character study for one of the world’s most popular superheroes, but the character study (well, until Logan came along, at least), a film intent on cutting straight to the heart of who and what the Wolverine is, and one that does so with absolutely remarkable insight and precision.