No, he wasn’t short or stocky, he never tussled with The Hulk, he never wore yellow and blue, but Hugh Jackman was, undoubtedly, Wolverine. Indeed, for an entire generation, from folks who never touched a comic book to the guy Hugh called out at the Alamo Logan Noir screening in the claws and muttonchops, Jackman was and is the definitive Wolverine. And there’s no mistaking why. The otherwise dapper, chipper chap from down under immersed himself so deeply into the role as to be unrecognizable. Even when the films were at their worst, Jackman’s performance as Wolverine has never been less than stellar.
But that doesn’t mean the movies always gave him the most nuanced or logical material to work with. Now, with the final entry into the saga of Wolverine on home video, we take a look back at the growth of the character himself, his most profound epiphanies and his least logical choices. Sure, there’s a lot to criticize about, say, X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s characters, script, changes to a certain merc with a mouth, etc, but for this piece we’re focused solely on the titular hero, and how he went from a cage fighter to a post-apocalyptic savior.
16 X-MEN WORST: LOGAN FIGHTS MYSTIQUE
No doubt, the first X-Men is a game changer, and watching it now, in the wake of an unabashed R-rated superhero art-film like Logan, it’s remarkable to see how far the series and the genre have come in 17 years. Particularly how often the first one feels trepidatious, both with its comic book elements and its action scenes, as though the film is routinely poking its head out cautiously to say “Can…can we do this?”
Which is what leads to a moment that’s aged terribly since the film’s debut: Logan’s fight with Mystique in the museum. It would be one thing if the fighting was so stilted, slow and bland because, say, this was Logan’s first ever fight. But factoring in what we know about his past from Origins, his ingrained instincts have clearly allowed him to tackle far more imposing foes with ease. What happened to the brawler from the cage fight?
15 X-MEN BEST: “DOES IT HURT?”
After a first glimpse at the iconic character in a cage match, our introduction to Logan comes at the bar, when a disgruntled fighter assaults him and gets an up close and personal look at the claws we’ve come to love. Particularly interesting is the close up of the clenched fist as the middle blade pierces the flesh.
The runaway Rogue, seeing a kindred spirit, chases after Logan as he leaves a bar he’s “not welcome” in. He takes in the stray, our first signal of his compassion for lost souls, and after she explains the danger of her powers, she asks a question some long-time fans had never even stopped to consider: “When they come out, does it hurt?” to which Logan solemnly replies “Every time.” It sets the stage for the entire Logan saga, a man who must wound himself to help others, his claws a crown of thorns, his punishment for a power he never asked for.
14 X2: X-MEN UNITED WORST: LOGAN ALMOST KILLS A CAT
Let’s be clear: Logan can be funny. From his “You’re a dick” in the original film to his relationship with Laura in his final outing, the character can be both tortured soul and comic relief. But making the character look foolish for the sake of a quick gag that doesn’t hold up to logic is, in retrospect, downright insulting.
We know Logan has incredible senses. His sense of smell, his instincts, helped him weed out the unrecognizable Mystique in X-Men. Yet, X2 wants us to believe that this natural predator, with 10 lifetimes of combat experience and muscle memory, would be alarmed by, and almost kill, a house cat? A man who spend his whole life hiding his powers wouldn’t whip out his claws at the slightest noise in a suburban kitchen, and the “cat licks the claws” visual isn’t worth the asinine egg on the iconic character’s face.
13 X2: X-MEN UNITED BEST: DEFENDING THE MANSION
You know what scene we’re talking about. It’s the scene everyone thinks of when they hear “X2”. While the official “X-Men” are off interrogating Magneto or tracking down Nightcrawler, Logan is left alone to “babysit” the kids, only to find out Stryker sent a strike team to raid the mansion.
Sending students off to escape, Logan valiantly fends off the hoard in our first showing of the famous “berserker rage” in the franchise. It’s clear Logan has yet to learn to work with a team, shunning the offers of assistance from the students and resenting Iceman’s attempt to “save” him just as he’s about to confront his “creator.” Still, his valiant and gloriously badass “You wanna shoot me, shoot me!” is only surpassed by the barbaric roar he howls out as he first unleashes his claws and charges at the intruders.
12 X-MEN: THE LAST STAND WORST: ABANDONING ROGUE
It’s pretty easy to guess why this happened from a “behind the scenes” perspective: Director Brett Ratner clearly had a preference in the “Logan and Rogue” or “Logan and Jean” debate as to who is the one who grounds him. Therefore, he likely decided that Rogue was just gonna, you know, peace out, then not show up again until the very end, totally cured and happy.
So while that could kinda sorta work for the film, it definitely doesn’t for the character of Wolverine. Look, we get it, he’s bummed Jean is dead, but Rogue is the character he has the real connection with. She’s the kindred spirit, the fellow runaway, the reason he found Xavier’s school. He’s her protector, her guardian angel. To watch this girl he cares so much about walk off to make some life changing, reckless decision and simply go “Cool, see ya?” It just doesn't make sense.
11 X-MEN THE LAST STAND BEST: FASTBALL SPECIAL
The Fastball Special, wherein Wolverine is launched into the air by Colossus and pounces on a distant target, is one of the most famous moves in X-Men history. But its inclusion here is for more than it simply being a tip of the hat during the “Danger Room” sequence of the much maligned Last Stand.
Look back at the mansion raid from X2, where Logan rejects all help, brushing aside Colossus and the other mutants in order to charge into battle alone. Here we see he’s learned to trust the others, to work with them and respect them. He’s become, if not a teacher, at least a peer, working in tandem with a mutant he once dismissed as only potentially getting in his way, to defeat the simulated sentinel.
10 X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE WORST: ANTAGONIZING THE BLOB
So let’s set the scene, since most of you have probably expunged this film from your minds: Wolverine is pissed. The woman he loves has been killed by Sabretooth, and the family who has taken him in after he fled the Weapon X program have been murdered by a sharpshooter determined to kill, with bullets, Logan, whom he only met because Logan had survived death by firing squad. Cause…sure.
Anyway, Logan is furious, and wants to track down Sabretooth, so he finds his old army buddy will.i.am and…has a friendly chat? Then, knowing he needs to get the info from Fred Dukes, now the Blob, he starts by…insulting his weight, then engaging in a sporting boxing match, all with a smile on his face? Dude…three people are dead. You were so pissed you set a dude on fire five minutes ago, what’s the deal?
9 X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE BEST: WOLVERINE GOES TO WAR
Also known as the only scene anyone brings up in defense of the film. After kicking things off with a faithful but very condensed retelling of the controversial Wolverine Origins, we launch into an epic montage that gave fans a momentary hope that the film would knock it out of the park. That may not have panned out, but this intro is still one of the finest Wolverine moments in the franchise’s history.
What we see is not just a “Logan throughout history” that hits all the military landmarks from the Civil War to Vietnam, but also James Howlett’s moral evolution and the sense of right that sets him apart from his half-brother. He may be the best at what he does, and what he does may not be pretty, but he takes no pleasure in killing, and that’s what makes him more than the monster they tried to create.
8 X-MEN: APOCALYPSE WORST: THE ESCAPE
We’re trying to focus on character decisions within the X-universe, choices made by Wolverine that either worked or didn’t. However, his appearance in the dismally received X-Men: Apocalypse is so brief, gratuitous and narratively stagnant that the decision that needs critiquing here isn’t on the part of Wolverine, but rather the producers who shoe-horned him into the finished product.
It’s clear the folks behind Apocalypse didn’t think their new line-up, and lackluster performances from some returning players dragged back, could pull in the viewers, so they hauled out Jackman for two minutes of screen time and teased it mercilessly in the marketing. In the end, we got a scene that not only serves no purpose in the film, but holds the distinction of being the only film in the franchise to add absolutely nothing to their most iconic character.
7 X-MEN: FIRST CLASS BEST: “GO F*** YOURSELVES”
“But didn’t you just complain about Wolverine shoehorned into Apocalypse?” Sure, but somehow X-Men: First Class managed to use the character more memorably, more enjoyably and, most importantly, more honestly than Apocalypse, and in just 10% of the screen time.
It’s more than just a joke, but damned if it doesn’t get a laugh every time. It’s more than just the first piece of connective tissue that proved First Class wasn’t a “reboot,” but rather a new entry into the iconic series, setting up the events of the insanely ambitious Days of Future Past. It’s a window into a very specific time in Logan’s timeline, a man who has both accepted his lot in life as a mutant, but has learned to distrust any who offer to “help” him.
6 THE WOLVERINE WORST: STAYING IN JAPAN
By the time we get to The Wolverine, the man we’ve come to know is broken. He’s hiding out in the woods, more connected to the animals of the wilderness than to the world of man. He’s had to kill the woman he loved, watched the only family he’s ever truly known die around him. He had already been burned too many times when Charles Xavier first recruited him, but now he’s even less trusting than ever before.
Therefore, asking us to believe he’d travel all the way to Japan solely to say goodbye to a man he saved a lifetime ago is a stretch enough already. But asking us to believe that our hero, at his most jaded, would hear this man he barely knew, one of the countless lives he’s saved over the years, lay out the most blatantly villainous-sounding plot in any X-Men film and not immediately high tail it out of there is asking too much.
5 THE WOLVERINE BEST: NAGASAKI
The coolest thing about having a hero who is, for all intents and purposes immortal, is getting to see them through various points in history. This idea was hinted at in X-Men Origins: Wolverine’s opening montage, but this fantastic intro to The Wolverine both sets up the story to come and reminds us of the little acts of heroism our hero has likely engaged in over the last century.
Held in a P.O.W. camp in WWII, Logan is kept underground in a solitary confinement pit. As the impending drop of the infamous “Fat Man” atomic bomb draws closer, Ichiro Yashida tries to evacuate the prisoners, including Logan, who refuses to leave. Instead, he tries to convince Yashida to join him, and once he does, Logan shields him from the blast, taking the full brunt of a nuclear explosion, charring his flesh. The film may hinge on some leaps of logic later on, but his actions here make perfect sense.
4 X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST WORST: THE SENTINEL
It’s no secret that the timeline of the X-Men films is wonky at best, and while Days of Future Past attempted to correct it, in some cases it perhaps muddled it further. The biggest issue that arises is Logan, the only character to appear in every single installment thus far.
No more obvious is this the case than during his brief showdown with the prototype sentinels built by Bolivar Trask in the 70’s segment of DOFP. These early, and therefor certainly weaker versions should be no trouble for a man who previously defeated their future incarnations in the Danger Room with relative ease in The Last Stand. However, he spectacularly fails, never even attempting the “fastball special” with Beast he’d so successfully used with Colossus in Last Stand. Sure, he’s only got bone claws now, but he didn’t lose his sense of strategy with them.
3 X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST BEST: THE PEP TALK
For the lead character in the film, Logan actually lacks any semblance of an arc throughout DOFP, serving more as a narrative conduit, carrying the viewer through the story. Indeed, if there’s a single moment in the film that shows how much he’s grown since his first installment, it’s his role as a literal conduit between the old and young Xaviers.
When a panicked, emotionally shattered young Charles fails to handle Cerebro, Wolverine steps in to encourage him, assuring him that while he was once one of the most difficult students at the Academy, the valiant leader Charles would eventually become the man who guided him to be the hero he is today. When Logan realizes not even he can get through to the distraught professor, he allows Xavier to astral project through his own consciousness to contact the Xavier of the future.
2 LOGAN WORST: LETTING CALIBAN GO
Hey now, before you bite any heads off in the comments or shout “Nitpicking!”, let’s be clear: Logan is a beautiful, virtually perfect movie. That said, there is one head-scratching Wolverine moment you start to notice upon repeat viewings.
Logan doesn’t trust anyone, especially not now, and most definitely not Donald Pierce, the agent on the hunt for X-23. Yet despite this, when Pierce returns to the compound, Logan asks where Caliban is, and Pierce tells him he’s dead. And the ever-skeptical, ever-distrusting Logan just…believes him. The Logan we meet here is the type of guy who wouldn’t believe you if you said the sky was blue, yet he has no problem believing that Pierce would kill the mutant previously used by the “good guys” to track mutants when they could really use someone with those exact powers. Seems an odd time to get trusting.
1 LOGAN BEST: HIS FINAL HOUR
Hate on X-Men Origins: Wolverine all you want, but it actually makes Logan better, and its finest moment, his death, all the more poignant. Origins introduces the idea of the adamantium bullet, not as a murder weapon, but as a mind-wipe. Indeed, it’s an adamantium bullet to James Howlett’s brain that causes his initial amnesia, thus "birthing" Logan.
So while he carries that bullet through the whole movie, unbeknownst to him, shooting himself wouldn’t mean release, but would again begin the cycle of forgetting and rediscovery. It would just be one more time he abandoned his old life and ran away. Instead, for and because of Laura, for and because of Charles, and because of and in spite of who he was, in his final moments, he breaks the cycle. He accepts that “a man has to be who he is,” and give his life so that his child might live a better one.
Thoughts on our picks? Let us know in the comments which scenes from the franchise you feel are the best (or worse)!