“Hey bub…I’m not finished with you yet!”
Let’s face it, Wolverine is a little bit like marmite isn’t he. But love him or hate him there’s no denying he has been one of, if not the most important characters to help raise the bar for superhero movies and establish comic book stories as the number one force of entertainment in popular cinema today. Hugh Jackman’s casting as Logan, as idiotic as it sounds now, was met with muted scepticism and I suppose some fans could be forgiven for considering an unknown Australian becoming their comic book idol as a risky move. In fact Jackman only got the role when Dougray Scott had to pull out due to scheduling issues with Mission: Impossible II. Prior to his take on Logan, Jackman had only previously starred in two minuscule Australian produced feature films and the London revival of Rodgers & Hammersteins’s classic musical Oklahoma. Despite having almost zero fan base outside of his native country, Jackman had garnered much praise for his roles on stage receiving notable award nominations. In a star studded cast Jackman was able to steal each of his scenes with ease. He had the arrogant cockiness. He had the animalistic rage. He did exceptionally well to play with the mysterious element of Logan’s character and by the time the credits rolled on Singer’s groundbreaking movie, we all knew he was made for the part of Wolverine. When X2: X-Men United hit, Jackman had grown into the role and all the initial fuss made about his casting seemed like a lifetime away.
However much of a likeness Jackman shares with his comic book counterpart he simply can’t play Wolverine forever. You see Jackman is human after all and unlike Logan, he’s getting old. Having personified Logan on seven occasions already on the big screen some people – including Jackman himself – have stated that it’s almost time he hung up his claws. With a third solo outing on the cards, it’s looking more and more likely that his days as the brash, cigar smoking Canadian are numbered. Despite some bumps along the way Jackman’s portrayal as Wolverine has been nothing short of brilliant. Looking back now in hindsight the choice to bring him in definitely seems like an inspired one. Was it his destiny? I don’t normally entertain other aspects outside of solid fact but if fate ever intervened in a casting decision then Scott’s omission and Jackman’s inclusion was surely it.
But what’s next for Wolverine?
Of course Jackman recently reprised the role earlier this year in Bryan Singer’s momentous return to the universe. X-Men: Days of Future Past was widely regarded the best of the series so far and Wolverine played a pivotal role. It’s likely – although still not officially confirmed – he’ll make an appearance in the already announced follow up X-Men: Apocalypse but if he does it will be minimal at best. The script for a third Wolverine movie is currently being drafted by David James Kelly – who was originally onboard to scribe the Daredevil reboot – with James Mangold returning to the directors chair. Mangold has stated that production of the threequel won’t begin until after filming wraps on Apocalypse. Jackman has recently opened up about the potential story arc that a third movie might explore – Old Man Logan, which seems to tease the demise of the character.
In terms of the comic books, Marvel’s Death of Wolverine is already underway, to equal measures of much internet appeasement and joy. But let’s not be naive here. The title may be a smoke screen or some subtext for a continuing story arc. Plenty of superheroes have “died” in the past only to be resurrected in future issues. But all this talk of Wolverine “dying” and Jackman wanting to bow out has got me thinking about what’s in store for the future of the character on the big screen, and no matter how many times I think about it I keep coming back to “They can’t recast Wolverine. Jackman IS Wolverine!” I’ll be sad when Jackman says goodbye to the character he’s played for 15 years but I’ll be even sadder if the studios simply recast him just for the sake of squeezing more money out of his adamantium skeleton. That doesn’t mean I’m completely against ever seeing him again, but the studio needs to allow a suitable amount of time to pass before even considering a recast. Firstly they need to be sure they want to tell another Wolverine story and secondly they need to make sure they have the right actor who can both respect the legacy that Hugh Jackman left and also breathe some new life into the character. I wouldn’t be against seeing a new actor portray Wolverine in a future origins type movie of another mutant but only in a small role, perhaps even donning the classic mask? Who knows maybe Marvel will re-acquire the rights and maybe he’ll pop up in a future New Avengers franchise? That seems like years away but as Kevin Feige recently said about universe crossing, “never say never!”
As much as I love Wolverine it does feel like it’s getting to the point where his character has been overexposed. We’re at a crossroads now, the X-Men universe is expanding again and we’re getting to meet new mutants so maybe it’s time we let Logan take a back seat and give the limelight to the new breed. Whatever happens to Wolverine in the years to come one thing is for sure, Hugh Jackman has achieved something incredibly special with this character and deserves all the plaudits he has received and whoever might step in to replace him will undoubtedly have monumental boots to fill.
Will you be happy to see the back of Wolverine? Who can you see stepping into the role if and when Jackman bows out?
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter