Hugh Jackman swears that Wolverine 3 is the last time he’ll play the adamantium-clawed mutant. No more punishing fitness regimes. No more protein-heavy diets. Nope, this time, hand on heart, scouts honor, Jackman really means it.
Actors go back on their word all the time though. Same goes for directors. Oh, I’d never, EVER return to that world I created from the depths of my soul all those years ago. Then some time later a sequel or spinoff is announced, and those comments mean zilch. Exiled from existence because of money.
Jackman though? He just doesn’t seem the sort to toy with fans. He comes across as being a fun, down-to-earth, regular joe. His Twitter is littered with heart-warming family snaps and general goofiness. He’s the type of guy you’d want to have a beer with. Which is what makes it difficult to throw doubt on his repeated affirmation that Wolverine 3 is the last hurrah for his X-Man. Because Fox will inevitably recast the role at the close of Jackman’s tenure.
Having played Wolverine in eight movies to date — with a potential bit in Apocalypse — the character is so ingrained in public perception as Jackman that the possibility of anyone else playing him might fall flat. Add in the harem of fans who simply won’t stop fighting for Jackman to carry on the role, and we’ve reached the crux of the issue: Err, weren’t the Wolverine spinoffs a bit lacking?
Within the ensemble X-Men movies, Wolverine is in his element. Bouncing off his fellow mutants, taking command when need be, and falling back to allow other stars their chance to shine. When the entire weight of a flick rests on him, the results are uneven. X-Men Origins: Wolverine flopped; critics tore into it for a myriad of reasons, and Jackman himself ‘fessed up to being dissatisfied with the final product.
For all its faults, I enjoyed it. Walking into a multiplex halfway through a three-month backpacking trip, blissfully unaware of any pre-release jabber or critical opinion, it delivered on its titular promise. Perhaps my enjoyment was relief at having somewhere warm to nest for 90 minutes, or perhaps it was the relentless collage of muscled bravado.
Skip ahead several years, and The Wolverine promised a strong standalone with the potential for a touch of bleak realism from Director James Mangold. It had a much warmer critical reception. Again, just to be contrary, I thought its 136-minute running time dawdled for 20 minutes too long, and that’s just the tip of the lettuce. Still, everyone loved it and now we’re getting a third.
Jackman opened Fox’s Comic-Con panel this year to much applause, taking the time to release the first image from Wolvie 3 and tease fans about its source material. “I’ve got three words for you guys,” he told the salivating hordes who were hanging on his next word with baited breath, “Old Man Logan.” If that title holds, it’ll likely take inspiration from Mark Millar’s comic of the same name, set in the future of an alternate America where superheroes are no more and supervillains commandeer the world, which is now split into territories. It’s a fan favorite. As soon as he uttered those three words, the response made that fact abundantly clear.
And it’s that response from a select few Hall H die-hards that drives forward development on stuff like Wolverine 3. Think about it, The Wolverine made the studio less money than Origins: Wolverine, but fans preferred it. Their collective voice on social media (moreso than fanboy forums) is the perfect platform for viral marketing that won’t cost the studio a cent. It’s that stuff that reaches the ears of The Regular Moviegoer. Someone who isn’t obsessed with learning every tiny spoiler about a movie years in advance and doesn’t care about whether or not so-and-so was spotted on-set for a potential cameo. They’ll go see it ‘cause they enjoyed the last one and aren’t concerned with debating the finer points of non-canonical adjustments to the final shooting script. For them, it’s entertainment.
It’s those dedicated followers to whom Jackman turned for inspiration on the third movie:
… And then reported back on all the responses with a return of Sabretooth and another full-blown ‘berserker rage’ for Wolvie — both high on wishlists. Heck, even Patrick Stewart’s got in on the Wolvie 3 action. It’s cool, I get it. Jackman’s letting fans into the process (even though the script’s probably already final), all in the name of being a good X-Men steward.
So, with the beginning of Fox’s marketing mojo orienting itself around Jackman’s departure - the #onelastttime hashtag - it looks as though this truly is it. Time to wave goodbye, Bub. But if the X-Men franchise has taught us anything, it’s that using an adjective to describe the finality of something doesn’t always sustain. Remember The Last Stand? Wasn’t so much the last, as it was a brief pause until something better came along.
Like, maybe, a TV series?