The Wolverine 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.''
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.