Trailer number one for The Wolverine starring Hugh Jackman. He is joining the Yakuza, fighting the Yakuza; dressed head to toe in black, basically he is trying to fit in.
Wolverine, or more accurately Logan, appears to be adopting the paradoxically traditional yet modern uniform of crime organisation the Yakuza, aka the Japanese Mafia. This is black on black shirt, tie, suit and lightweight (slip on) coat with black leather shoes. Despite a past that reaches all the way back to the sixteenth century, the Yakuza of today made most of their money during the 1980s financial boom. Their unofficial uniform is sourced from the French interpretation of classic era gangster films, which was then re-interpreted by Hollywood in 1980s/90s. It is a look that costume designer Betsy Heimann and director Quentin Tarantino embraced and also parodied to some extent in Reservoir Dogs (1993). What makes this style of dress so interesting in Japan is that black is usually reserved exclusively for funerals. In context however, with the Yakuza’s tendency toward brutal and often fatal violence, it makes sense.
The Yakuza are steeped in history and obviously Wolverine is a character steeped in comic book mythology. It is quite fascinating to see the two inspirations collide, but without any of the trailer footage holding still for longer than three seconds it is difficult to decipher how costume designer Isis Mussenden has melded these together. Another character we get a brief glimpse of is antagonist Viper (played by Svetlana Khodchenkova), formally known as Madame Hydra. Goodness only knows what Viper is wearing; it looks as though Wolverine has already had a go at the rear with his claws. It’s apparently made of Lycra and mixed fabrics treated with latex.
Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida in punky anime costume incorporating choker, mesh and lots of layering. She also wears a kimono based outfit in black and white with decorative rose detail.
Back with the man himself and it is reassuring to see that ribbed singlet vest making an appearance, which is now almost as known on Logan as it was/is John McClane in Die Hard. For the snowy scenes, Logan chooses a sheepskin coat that echoes Mariko Yashida’s (Tao Okamoto). Mariko is young, hip and most likely Logan’s love interest. She wears anime fetish clothing comprising short skirt, stripy knee socks, unbuttoned midi-length coat and wedge sole boots – in other words, highly sexualised.
Costume designer Isis Mussenden has a respected CV spanning four decades, but this will probably be her most scrutinised project yet. If the film’s early publicity was to be believed, Hugh Jackman spends most of his time looking for a shirt, though the trailer adopts a mildly more covered up vibe. This is the Wolverine turning Japanese.
The Wolverine directed by James Mangold is released on 26th July.
© 2013, Christopher Laverty.