WARNING: The following post and official image contains MILD SPOILERS for The Wolverine

You can definitely say this for Wolverine: of all the various mutants who have been introduced to a mainstream audience through the X-Men movies, he’s the only one so far to get a standalone movie, and now he’s about to embark in his second solo outing in The Wolverine, a follow-up that’s all about the surly immortal’s encounters with the Yashida clan in modern day Japan.

The Wolverine will mark the fifth time that Hugh Jackman has played the character on the big screen. He made a brief cameo appearance – in which he uttered a brief but poignant three-word response to Magneto and Xavier’s attempt to recruit him – in X-Men: First Class, and is set to return once more for the time-travelling plot of X-Men: Days of Future Past, but The Wolverine is the next major X-Men movie on the horizon.

As the film enters the final stages of post-production – including recording the score and mixing the sound – director James Mangold has been tweeting set photos from filming, and the latest of these images shows a snapshot of the rehearsals for what looks like one of the film’s major fight scenes. Captioned, “Hiro Sanada and HJ rehearse clash of claws and blades. Hiro is a truly great actor, martial artist and friend,” the image shows Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen Yashida locked in a deadly duel with Jackman’s Wolverine.

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Whatever training Hugh Jackman did for this role clearly paid off – his musculature could have been directly lifted from a Rob Liefeld drawing, and certainly fits with Mangold’s early promise to explore Wolverine’s berserker rage in the film. Let’s hope that Shingen – and primary antagonist Silver Samurai, prove themselves to be worthy foes.

This fight scene has featured heavily in all of the teasers and trailers for The Wolverine, and presumably comes at a point where Wolverine either decides that he doesn’t like Shingen’s “gift” of mortality all that much after all, or else has found himself the target of the Yashida clan, as evidenced by the images of him battling off dozens of ninjas in the street.

A couple of things stand out about this image. First, Shingen Yashida’s blade would have to be made out of adamantium in order to stand a snowball’s chance in hell of effectively locking off against Wolverine’s claws, which means that he must have traded in traditional samurai steel for a weapon specifically designed to do battle with Wolverine (or, of course, it could just be a plot hole). Second, the “pin bed” behind them was seen in the trailer being used to prop up a much older and weaker version of Lord Shingen (played by Hal Yamanouchi – pictured below with Mangold) – does this mean that the crime boss somehow manages to steal some of Logan’s regenerative capabilities for himself?

Though there’s been a lot of positive spin peddled for The Wolverine, many fans of the character learned to temper their expectations after X-Men Origins: Wolverine turned out to be less than impressive. With that in mind, however, the interesting setting and visual style that has been showcased so far in the trailers and promotional stills definitely makes The Wolverine one of this summer’s films to watch out for.

One positive thing that has definitely come out of the Wolverine standalone film’s is the slow-but-steady chug of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s R-rated Deadpool script towards the stage of being greenlit by Fox, with Ryan Reynolds eager to reprise his role as the wise-cracking antihero in a film of his own. Are you excited for Deadpool and The Wolverine, or would you prefer to see another one of the X-Men get a chance at the spotlight?

The Wolverine opens in theaters on July 26th, 2013.

Source: James Mangold