The X-Men series has become one of the biggest and longest comic book movie franchises of all time. Launched in 2000 with Bryan Singer’s original, we’ve seen two direct sequels and two prequels since – and this weekend the universe is getting a little bit bigger. James Mangold’s The Wolverine will be making its way into theaters nationwide on Friday, but what do you do if you’re not totally up to date on your comic book and movie history?
Sifting through the history of both the X-Men comics and movies I have come up with a list of seven things to know before you go see Hugh Jackman kick some ninja ass this weekend. Read on!
WARNING:This article contains some minor spoilers for The Wolverine. While the first five entries are safe, I’ve only included the last two for those of you who know absolutely nothing about the X-Men.
Who Is She? Similar to her mentor Professor X, Jean Grey was a mutant with incredibly telepathic abilities and, in the comics, she was one of the original X-Men. As portrayed by Famke Janssen the original trilogy of X-Men, she had a close, long-lasting relationship with her fellow-mutant boyfriend Cyclops (James Marsden), but also had a deep love for Wolverine as well (which was more than reciprocated). The last time we saw her on screen she had lost control of her powers and turned into the murderous Dark Phoenix, which lead to Wolverine having no choice but to kill her.
How Does She Fit? Jean may be dead, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have an important impact on The Wolverine. After all, it’s not easy for someone to get over stabbing the love of their life right in the gut. When we first meet Logan at the start of the new movie he is reeling from the loss and has taken to living in the woods like an animal. The hero’s journey to overcome his grief over Jean is one of the biggest and most important emotional arcs in the film.
Who Is She? Also known as Madame Hydra, Viper in the comics was born in Hungary and was raised within the evil organization HYDRA (a name you may recognize from Captain America: The First Avenger. Viper became an elite warrior with a great tactical mind, and incredible fighting skills. But you don’t really need to know about that to watch the new movie.
How Does She Fit? I usually write these guides to help tie back characters in movies to the comics where they originated, but the truth is that the character of Viper has been totally reinvented in The Wolverine. Played by Svetlana Khodchenkova, Viper is portrayed as a mutant with the ability to generate toxins as well as antidotes. She is immune to all poisons and, like a snake, can shed her skin to repair it.
Who Is She? Unlike most on this list Mariko isn’t a mutant, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t play a vital role in the history of Wolverine. In the comics she is one of the few women in the world that actually captures Logan’s heart, which is an exercise in pain and anguish due to the fact that he is an immortal. Their relationship is full of drama, much of it stemming from the fact that her family is one of the most powerful crime families in Japan.
How Does She Fit? In the new film Mariko is played by Tao Okamoto and meets Wolverine for the first time when he travels to Japan to meet with her grandfather. During his stay Logan learns that there have been threats on Mariko’s life and he becomes her unofficial bodyguard.
Who Is She? Introduced in the first issue of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s “Wolverine,” Yukio was introduced as a Ronin samurai/thief who is hired by the Yakuza boss Lord Shingen to kill Wolverine. Her allegiances change, however, when she develops feelings for him.
How Does She Fit? Yukio remains an incredibly skilled warrior in The Wolverine, played by actress Rila Fukushima, but most other aspects of her character from the comics has changed. Not only is she a friendly with Logan from the very start of the film, she is also a childhood friend of Mariko and was raised in the Yashida home. The character is also made from a normal human into a mutant. She has a very specific psychic ability that allows her to see how people are going to die.
Who Is He? Since the character’s inception, The Silver Samurai has been seen as one of Wolverine’s greatest foes. In the comics he is born Kenuichio Harada and, like Logan, he is a human mutant. His ability, however, allows him to channel a special energy force. This force, which he can transfer into his katana, has the ability to cut through almost anything.
How Does He Fit? As Sean explained in his feature earlier this week, the new film’s version of Silver Samurai is much different from what we’ve seen previously in the comics. In fact, it’s so different that I don’t want to ruin any of the surprise for you, so just pay for your ticket and find out for yourself.
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD.
Who Is He? Simply put, Magneto is one of the most powerful mutants of all time and one of the greatest threats to humanity in the world. He was born Erik Lehnsherr and as a Jewish child during World War II living in Europe he experienced many horrors of the Holocaust first hand. His specific mutation allows him to control magnetic forces, which he can use to do everything from picking up a pin to moving a bridge. At the end of X-Men: The Last Stand it is believed that Magneto’s powers have been stripped away from him by a weaponized “cure,” but the last shot of the movie suggests that the effects of the drug are only temporary.
How Does He Fit? Wolverine and Magneto have long had an interesting relationship due to the fact that the hero’s adamantium skeleton lets the villain throw him around like a ragdoll. That dynamic returns in a big way in the newest film in the franchise, but I won’t be spoiling how here.
Who Is He? Like Magneto, Professor X is also one of the most powerful mutants of all time, but the difference between the characters is that the latter uses his abilities for good and to try and help mankind. The professor, real name Charles Xavier, has remarkable telepathic abilities that allow him to do everything from reading thoughts to controlling minds. In X3, where he is played by Sir Patrick Stewart, it looked like was killed when he was torn apart by Dark Phoenix, but the post-credits sequence suggested that wasn’t the end for Professor X....
How Does He Fit? Professor X shows up in the movie’s post-credits sequence, but I’m only here to answer the “who?,” not the “what?” so go to the theater and be surprised!