X-Men film fans had better cherish every minute of screen time Hugh Jackman has in this month's X-Men: Days of Future Past, because they could be among the actor's final moments as Wolverine. According to Jackman, he's pretty sure the next Wolverine solo film will be his last.
"I still am very ambitious for the character," Jackman explained to SFX. "And tonally I feel like we corrected the ship with the last one. But I feel we can still go further, in a way. If I did another one I’m 99.9 percent sure it would be the last, so that will inform what it is for me." Those words most likely sent shivers up the spines of every exec over at Fox, as Wolverine's been the glue holding nearly every X-Men film together. Seriously, Jackman's appeared in every single X-Men film to date, an accomplishment that no other X-actor can claim. Without Wolverine, what can the franchise do?
Recasting seems like the most obvious choice, and bigger name heroes have been able to pull off the switch before. Batman, Superman and Spider-Man have all gone through at least one change, and almost none of those changes have been met with box office disaster (critical and fan reactions have been mixed, though). Fox could pull off a similar feat with Wolverine, but one could argue that recasting Logan's a bit harder than recasting Batman. The character himself has a much more unified and iconic look, one that's much more distinguished than those other "dudes with dark brown or black hair" that lurk under the masks. They really hit a home run with Jackman – but then again, Jackman didn’t look the part until he grew out his sideburns and paid a visit to the comic book barbershop.
Fans might be able to handle Wolverine's recasting if it goes hand-in-hand with every other character getting recast. This might be an even better option, as the X-Men film franchise becomes more and more burdened with heavy time-traveling continuity. The jury's still out as to whether or not the time twisting X-Men: Days of Future Past will clear matters up or just leave audiences scratching their heads, but if the latter turns out to be true, Fox might be wise to punch the reset button. A new Wolverine alongside a new Storm, Cyclops, Rogue and the rest would easily deflect attention away from Jackman's lack of involvement.
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Believe it or not, the X-Men are more than just Wolverine. There are plenty of other characters that can sustain solo films, and deserve the chance to do so. The Wolverine proved that a small, character-driven story with a comparatively modest budget can still entertain and bring in the big bucks worldwide. This filmmaking method could easily be applied to characters like Deadpool, Gambit and Storm – characters that possess either rabid fanbases or valuable name recognition. A Gambit film starring Channing Tatum and made for under $100 million would definitely make its money back, as long as the movie's good. And if Fox wants to keep tapping into Wolverine's fanbase and possibly target the powerful Hunger Games audience, they should consider turning X-23 into a movie star.
With an X-Force film possibly on the way, Fox might be smart to just take a hard right into Spinoffsville. The Marvel Studios films have had wild success placing their comic book super heroes into different film genres, and Fox could mimic that successful formula; they already did it once with the '60s spy movie flavored First Class. They could tackle teen angst with an Academy X film, they could make a dark comedy like X-Factor, they could go all Fast and Furious with X-Force. The options are endless, and the X-Men movies don't have to stick with the same bleak tone.
Make X-Men movies
This might be a radical idea for Fox, but it is possible to make X-Men team movies without Hugh Jackman and Wolverine on board. There are plenty of great characters that have been shoved to the sidelines in order to make room for Jackman's star-making turn as the clawed Canadian, and it's time for those heroes to get off the bench. Gambit, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, Storm, Jubilee, Longshot, Archangel, Colossus and Cable all have potential that has yet to be realized – or even attempted – on film. It would take a great script – one that pays attention to character details – and a competent director, but the X-Men can survive without Wolverine. Fox just needs to try.