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Wednesday July 17, 2013 23:01

“The Wolverine” in a maze of powerful foes and allies

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rila fukushima in THE WOLVERINE_500x333

The most iconic character in the X-Men universe embarks upon on an epic journey in modern-day Japan in “The Wolverine.” Inspired by the celebrated Marvel comic book arc, Logan (Hugh Jackman), the century-old mutant known to the world as Wolverine, is lured to a Japan he hasn’t seen since World War II – and into a shadowy realm of Yakuza and Samurai.

Director James Mangold embraced the opportunity to take Logan directly into the heart of present-day Japan, which is as full of sleek, high-tech modernity as it is rife with deep traditions and hidden codes of honor. “This story takes Logan into a kind of fever dream of today’s Japan, full of Yakuza, Ninja, Samurai, Industrialist crime, mystery and mysticism,” the director explains.

The Japanese setting allowed director Mangold and Jackman to re-imagine Logan in a fresh guise: as a R?nin. “In feudal Japan, the Samurai belonged to a master, and a R?nin is a Samurai who no longer has a master to serve. So, he is a kind of a warrior without a purpose, without a cause,” Mangold explains. “Many of the people who made Logan feel part of a cause are now gone. So, he’s essentially a lost man, capable of doing anything, with no mandate. That’s an iconography that American Westerns and Samurai films share and now we’re bringing a comic book character into it.”

First-time actor Rila Fukushima, plays Yukio – the fiery, sword-wielding bodyguard of Logan. A native of Tokyo, Rila Fukushima says it was Yukio’s colorful intensity that intrigued her. “What interested me were her physicality and her ruthless nature,” she muses.“I was really excited to have the chance to do such strong action sequences– but I also saw great potential for humor with her.”

Fukushima threw herself into the high spirit and trials of the role. “It was an amazing, challenging journey for me,” she says. “I trained with our terrific stunt team, learned all the physical stuff, including sword work, kick-boxing and fighting, and also did lots of weight training. I’d never done anything like this before, but it was great fun.”

Tao Okamoto plays out Mariko’s complicated love story with Logan. Okamoto was drawn to the background of her character as the daughter of a powerful industrialist who was never there for her, and has arranged a marriage for her to a man she does not love. “Mariko could never be a normal woman,” Okamoto observes. “At the start of the story, she is someone very desperate. Then she meets Logan, and she starts to realize what she wants in life, and she begins to change. That transformation was very interesting to me.”

Another powerful and complex woman is brought to life by Svetlana Khodchenkova, who takes on the green-eyed Viper, a cunning and treacherous mutant. Khodchenkova, who hails from Russia, is best known in the West for her recent breakout role in the acclaimed spy story Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as the Soviet operative Irina.

“The Wolverine” in 3D opens July 25 in more than 200 screens nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

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