With X-Men: Days of Future Past reportedly heading for the theaters with its time-travel themes intact, many fans have speculated to what extent The Wolverine would be used to bridge the gap between the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and any of the various other X-Men films in which star Hugh Jackman has appeared.
The answer, apparently, is none at all. Jackman told Total Film in a new interview currently on newsstands that the film will stand on its own--essentially like a little mini Christopher Nolan trilogy, that just happens to have the same star as the previously-existing films.
"We've deliberately not called it 'Wolverine 2' because we want it to be placed and feel like a standalone picture," he said. "With an all-new cast and setting it in Japan, it's going to give us a whole new visual aesthetic."
This wouldn't be particularly noteworthy if it were a comic book, of course--but in the movies, it's generally assumed that any movie starring the same actor is all part of the same overall continuity and X-fans have gotten pretty worked up already about the ways in which X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class didn't seem to fit with the first three X-Men films. To discover that Fox may intentionally be developing films that have only a tenuous link to existing continuity is an intriguing prospect--and one that's likely to be controversial.
Jackman added, "The approach to character means we won't be overloaded with mutants and teams and the like, so it'll be more character-based. I think in many ways it will feel like a completely different X-Men film."
This is probably the most common-sense approach to The Wolverine. It's based on fan- and critic-favorite comic books that nevertheless don't really tie in easily to the larger X-Men story, and so to set it up as a film that stands on its own merits and has to succeed or fail without really being considered as part of the larger X-tapestry is probably the best way to keep it true to its source material.