James Mangold is, according to reports, in final negotiations to direct “The Wolverine” for 20th Century Fox from the screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie.
This is the same script that Darren Aronofsky was attached to for a while, and it will take Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman, to Japan. Fox has been looking at possible directors for a while now, since Aronofsky left the project, and with Mangold aboard, they can start to get serious about when they’re going to make this.
There are some complications ahead, though. Tom Hooper is finally bringing the musical version of “Les Miserables” to the bigscreen, and it appears that Jackman may end up playing Jean Valjean for him. Great role, and Jackman’s been itching to do a major movie musical for a while now.
More importantly, with “X-Men: First Class” in the loop and with the film getting better critical and fan response than either of the last two films in the “X-Men” franchise, Fox has a choice to make. Do they really want to make another Wolverine-only movie, starring the single most expensive cast member in the franchise, or do they want to move forward and build on something that people seem to be enjoying tremendously?
Jackman became a movie star in the “X-Men” series, and I have always said that I think he’s one of the best things about the films. But “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is one of the worst modern superhero movies, and it really put me off the idea of seeing more stand-alone adventures with the character.
The one thing that excited me about this as a proposed movie was the notion of Aronofsky and Jackman working together again, and Aronofsky finally scratching that comic-book movie itch that he’s had for a while. And now that it’s Mangold, the electric charge just isn’t there.
I think Mangold is a perfectly fine filmmaker. I don’t love everything he’s done, but I like a lot of his work, and I think he’s smart and good with actors and he’s got pretty solid taste in terms of the choices he makes. This isn’t a film he’s made before, though, and at this point, I might be more inclined to try to find someone who has films under their belt that are close to what he’d be making. After all, the last Wolverine movie was directed by someone who made one of my favorite films in recent memory, the beautiful, small-scale South African drama “Tsotsi,” and as much as I like that film, I’m happy to admit that Gavin Hood totally wasn’t right for “Wolverine,” and he was one of the film’s big problems.
There are some big genre movies right now in development that use Japan as a backdrop and I’m wondering how studio executives feel about Japan in general. I want to see Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim.” I am curious about adapting the “Wolverine-in-Japan” storyline. But I also think the recent horrors in Japan are still very fresh and unresolved, and it’s risky to assume that audiences are going to be ready for popcorn movies set in Japan in the very near future. I’d probably take a wait and see attitude. But hiring a director indicates to me that Fox isn’t waiting for anything.
Right now, there’s no date for “The Wolverine,” and there’s no start-date for production. But if Mangold is indeed the man for the job, things will probably start moving more quickly in the very near future, and I’m sure we’ll cover it as they do. For now, congrats to Mangold, and I hope he brings his A-game to this film, and that it works as well as “First Class” or better. The bar’s been set in this franchise, and I sincerely hope they never make movies that are weaker than “First Class” again. Onward and upward… please.