Watching “The Wolverine,” you get a sense of the film Mangold wanted to make. Its story is all about death and mortality. Logan (Jackman) spends the majority of the film tortured by the memory of the late Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). When he returns to Japan, it’s at the behest of Ichirō Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), a now-elderly man he saved during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki back when Logan was imprisoned at a Japanese POW camp during WWII. Upon revisiting the country, Logan is flooded with memories of the pain and suffering he witnessed there. Even with some extraneous “X-Men” characters thrown into the mix, the first two-thirds of the film unfolds as a neo-noir drama set in a world of mutants. Only during the third act does “The Wolverine” become more of a typical superhero film, complete with a giant CGI opponent for Logan to punch.
When interviewed by Den of Geek, Mangold didn’t deny the third act tonal shift was 20th Century Fox’s doing. “I think I wasn’t quite as sharp-elbowed in a couple of cases as I should’ve been, so yes is the answer,” he said. The problem was that PG-13, CGI-heavy superhero films were all the rage when “The Wolverine” came out in 2013 (recall that “The Avengers” had opened just one year prior), so that’s exactly what Fox wanted him to make. The irony, of course, is that it was the leftover elements from Mangold’s original vision that allowed the film to better stand out from the rest of the crowd. “The thing the studio was most worried about — which was this kind of Hong Kong crime movie, this kind of Japanese noir I was making, was almost our best asset,” he noted.