The Wolverine (out July 26) rejoins Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine, in Japan. He's now serving as a protector for Mariko (Tao Okamoto), the target of the Yakuza. ''At the time this movie opens, there's a kind of gangland war going on between law enforcement and the Yakuza, and there's been a lot of kidnappings and extortion,'' explains director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma). ''So she's someone who's under threat.''
Viper (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's Svetlana Khodchenkova), a villainess straight from the comic books, is brought in to help another one of the film's baddies. Teases Mangold, ''As her name would imply, she's kind of snakelike. She likes to play with toxins. She's immune to toxins. She's kind of formidable.''
Says Mangold, ''Viper views Logan like a great hunter might view hunting a lion in his quarry. There's kind of an admiration, a desire to destroy and a desire to consume and to have and to hold.''
While in Japan, Wolverine is befriended by Yukio (newcomer Rila Fukushima). Says Mangold, ''I would say they have a unique relationship. She's lethal herself."
Death, or Wolverine's inability to die, is a theme that echoes throughout the film. ''He realizes everyone he loves dies, and his whole life is full of pain,'' says Jackman. ''So it's better that he just escapes. He can't die really. He just wants to get away from everything.''
A funeral at a Japanese temple is interrupted by an attack by the Yakuza which naturally brings out Wolverine's claws. ''There's an urgency and a kind of intensity and hand to hand physicality to the fighting that I hope is a little different than everything else out there,'' says Mangold.
Mangold stresses that Yukio can more than hold her own in this world of ninjas and mutants. ''She's a tremendous fighter.''
Besides her butt-kicking skills, Yukio also has style. Says Mangold, ''I think she's both sexy and almost kind of sprung from the anime world. It's a real badass character.''
Based on the popular comic book arc, The Wolverine finds Logan, the eternal warrior and outsider, in Japan. There, samurai steel will clash with adamantium claw as Logan confronts a mysterious figure from his past in an epic battle that will leave him forever changed.