In the biggest non-surprise of the year, it's now official that the X-Men are heading to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The transition will be managed by Marvel President Kevin Feige, who will come full circle after flexing his producing muscles for the first time on 2000's X-Men. Additionally, this means that there will be a new Wolverine in the MCU.
As we all know, Hugh Jackman hung up the claws after James Mangold's Oscar-nominated Logan. Even though Jackman admitted he never thought he'd see the day that the X-Men would exist in the MCU, he said, "I think, unfortunately, the ship has sailed for me, but for someone else I would like to see Wolverine in there."
Longtime X-Men producer Lauren Donner also confirmed that Jackman is out. "I think he was wise to say, 'I'm at that point. I can't do it,'" she said. "Now, that doesn't mean he can’t come back as older Wolverine. You never know. Future Wolverine, you never know."
It's best to subscribe to the "never say never" mantra in the entertainment industry, but it's a good bet that Jackman is truly done portraying the Ol' Canucklehead. It was an impressive and unprecedented 17-year run that cemented the actor as the definitive Wolverine for generations. It's for this very reason that Marvel Studios should leave this superhero alone for as long as possible.
Recasting is part and parcel for superhero films. However, this one will prove to be one of the trickiest undertakings yet. How do you replace someone who's universally beloved as a character so shortly after their last performance? While it's unlikely that we'll see any X-Men movie before 2022 in the MCU, it's still too soon after 2017's Logan. He's appeared in nine movies across nearly two decades, so it isn't like we've been starved of the hero on the big screen (in fact, that's the X-Men franchise's biggest criticism). The mutant should be given some time to breathe and stay out of the public eye before he's thrown into another movie.
Moreover, nearly every important facet of Wolvie's history has been covered in previous films, and Logan provided the best possible conclusion for the character's arc. The MCU has shown us that it doesn't like to regurgitate origin stories (see: Spider-Man), so what's left for the berserker to do here? It'll take a remarkable script to generate any interest since the most popular storylines from the comic books have already been explored.
Another major question is, where does this leave Laura Kinney, played by Dafne Keen in Logan? That film was a passing of the torch for a new mutant to carry on the legacy. Obviously, no one working on the film could've predicted Disney purchasing Fox back then, but it feels as if the setup was all in vain now.
Unless, of course, X-23 will be the Wolverine of the MCU. In recent years, we've seen Marvel focus more and more on X-23 in the comic books, even considering her to be the only Wolverine for a while. Marvel Studios has shown that it's willing to skip ahead in timelines before, as it chose to focus on Scott Lang as Ant-Man rather than Hank Pym, so perhaps the same holds true here.
While it would be welcome addition to see X-23 as Wolverine in the MCU, it's highly unlikely. As one of the most popular comic book characters around, Logan transcends the genre and is in the same category of pop culture icons as Spider-Man, Batman and Superman. In other words, he's money. There's no way that Disney and Marvel will ignore the potential financial rewards of putting him up on the big screen. It's like printing money, and no studio will ever turn that down.
There's no doubt that Feige understands the character since he played an initial part in Jackman's journey as Wolverine. It's also possible that he might have a fantastic idea about how to include him in the MCU. The thing is, he should give him a break before putting him in another movie. Heck, Channing Tatum has been salivating to play Gambit for years, and previous X-Men directors have been apprehensive about including the Ragin' Cajun and Wolvie in the same team because of their similarities, so maybe he could take Logan's place for now.