Wolverine is undeniably one of the most popular characters in the “X-Men” franchise, whether on the page or on-screen. He is also only one of two character in all eight entries of the “X-Men” movie series and the only character to be played by the same actor, which is a credit both to the character and the man playing him.
The third “Wolverine” movie, titled simply “Logan,” is set to be Hugh Jackman‘s last appearance in the role that made him a star. Wolverine has obviously been involved in some of the best moments in the franchise, whether it was dramatic, comedic or action-orientated, and he always steals the show. As we all salivate over the film’s poster (which was recently released at NYCC 2016) and dream up what could be his ultimate fate, CBR takes a glance back at a handful of Ol’ Cannucklehead’s most memorable movie highlights
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10. That Fastball Special
The Fastball Special, a move where the metal-skinned Colossus throws Wolverine into the path of danger, has always had a presence in the “X-Men” comics. In one of its finer moments, “X-Men: The Last Stand” pays homage to the pair’s infamous finishing move during its early scenes in the Danger Room. During an training exercise, Wolverine asks Colossus to throw him at a sentinel looming high above the mutants, its eyes lighting up the simulated post-apocalyptic sky. The result, as usual, is effective, as Wolvie chops off the evil robot’s head.
While it was a well done action scene and a fun inside reference, it was just a shame that it was only a simulation. Colossus and Wolverine do another Fastball Special near the end of the movie to distract Magneto so Beast can surprise the master of magnetism from behind, but as the first moment the two take part in the fan favorite maneuver, this will always be remembered fondly… even if the film as a whole is not.
9. Killing Dark Phoenix
Sticking with “X-Men: The Last Stand,” perhaps Wolverine’s most heart-rending moment is in the film’s final scene, where Wolverine has to kill Jean Grey, the woman he loves. At that point, The Dark Phoenix psyche had completely consumed her and she was in the midst of destroying everyone and everything in sight. Wolverine is the only person able to stop the Dark Phoenix because his healing factor can resist her psychic blasts (although his pants miraculously stay unaffected). When he reaches her, still holding back from delivering the killing blow, what is left of Jean Grey begs Logan to kill her. With great pain, he finally complies.
It’s generally agreed that “The Last Stand” botched The Dark Phoenix storyline, making it little more than a side story distraction until the film’s climax. But Wolverine’s fatal decision was an emotional moment; arguably the most piquant he has had to make throughout his entire cinematic career. This action has a huge impact on Logan, with lasting effects that would be referenced in both “The Wolverine” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
8. Wolverine vs. Lady Deathstrike
Wolverine has had many great fights throughout his cinematic tenure, but one of the absolute best was when he fought Lady Deathstrike in “X2: X-Men United.” In this version, Lady Deathstrike was Colonel Stryker’s brainwashed bodyguard, who has the same powers as Wolverine, as well as an adamantium skeleton, with sharp thin claws that could pop from her fingertips. She is also faster and more agile then Wolverine, making her a deadly opponent in a brutal fight for a PG-13 movie. Throughout the incredible brawl, Deathstrike flips, stabs and throws Wolverine around, oftentimes making it look like he’s just standing still. It took Wolverine filling Lady Deathstrike with molten adamantium to bring her down, giving us the horrific image of metal streaming out of her mouth and eyes before her head hits with a heavy “thunk” in one of Stryker’s laboratory tanks.
Lady Deathstrike was unfortunately under-utilized in the film, relegated mostly to a silent background character and killed off before she could be given sufficient backstory. Still, as a foil for Wolverine’s physicality and as an opponent for him to battle, there are few that could adequately fill the role; but Lady Deathstrike pulled it off nicely. If nothing else, this was a fun, brutal scene that stood out in a movie filled with memorable moments.
7. The Wars of Wolverine
“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is easily the worst movie in the “X-Men” franchise — it took away all the drama and character development that made the franchise so great and instead injected some of the worst special effects and action into the series. It was so bad that it was retconned out of existence before “X-Men: Days of Future Past” rewrote the series’ history.
As bad as it was, it does have one of the best moments in the franchise: a three-minute montage showing James Howlett (Logan’s birth name) and his brother Victor Creed before they become bitter rivals as Wolverine and Sabretooth. They fight in four major conflicts: the American Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War, using their powers to survive the conflicts and brutally kill their opponents.
This montage says more about the characters and their relationship than the actual film did, with Creed showing concern for his brother getting shot in the Civil War, to the two working as a team in the trenches of the Western Front (before Creed’s savagery takes over). The montage is also one of the most visually distinct moments in the franchise, giving each time period a different tone and having fantastic transitions from locations and time periods. It truly established the long-lasting legacy of a nigh-ageless character like Wolverine, arguably more than any other film before it had.
6. The Mountain Town Battle
The Mountain Town Battle was used prominently in the marketing for “The Wolverine,” being one of the big moments in the trailer. That’s why it was such a shame that it was cut from the theatrical release; one in a long line of odd moves made in and around the movie. The battle was restored for the unrated Blu-ray cut and it gave fans what they wanted: Wolverine battling ninjas!
The extended battle was one of the most noticeable changes in the movie, and was a lot more satisfying for the audience. The most brutal part of the scene came as Wolverine tried to fight his way to his nemesis’ pagoda, only to be defeated by ninjas firing arrows with chains into logan; not to kill him, but to pin him down. Wolverine being Wolverine, he has taken part in many gruesome scenes — the character does lend itself to that kind of shot, obviously — but this was one of the most hardcore.
5. Wolverine & Stryker
Ever since his appearance in “X2: X-Men United,” Colonel William Stryker has played a pivotal role in Wolverine’s character development. Of course, as the man responsible for Wolverine having an adamantium skeleton, claws and no memory of his past, that kind of relationship is to be expected. Their first interaction in the “X-Men” movies was during Stryker’s assault on the X-Mansion. Stryker — played by actor Brian Cox — introduces himself to Wolverine and offers to answer questions about his past; that is, until Bobby Drake makes an ice wall to separate them. In what is truly another landmark emotional moment, Wolverine pleads with Iceman to drop the barrier, as he loses hope in discovering more about his past.
They meet again near the end of “X2,” when Wolverine beats up Stryker and chains him to a helicopter, presumably leaving him there to die. Stryker also plays a big part as the main antagonist in “X-Men origins: Wolverine” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” with a more minor role in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” thus cementing his important position as a key figure in shaping the past, present and future of the Wolverine character.
4. Wolverine & Rogue
In all media, Wolverine has always been protective of younger characters, playing a more savage father/big brother type role to his youthful charges. In the early comics, it was Kitty Pryde, while both the ’90s books and animated series focused on Wolverine and Jubilee. In the movie, however, Logan shared a special bond with Rogue. When the first “X-Men” movie was conceived, Bryan Singer and his writers thought the best way to approach the universe was through the admittedly odd couple: two outsiders in a world that fears and hates them, each with dangerous powers at their disposal. Both having been living on the road for some time, they meet at a backwater bar in rural Canada and strike up a prickly relationship that blossoms quickly.
Their friendship was the central hook in the first movie, from the moment she thinks she is saving his life in the bar to her probing questions about the past that he is so unwilling to confront. For his part, Wolverine is the one that convinces Rogue to return to Xavier’s school, at the time uncharacteristically putting his life in jeopardy to save hers. Wolverine grieves over Rogue when he thinks she has been killed at the hands of Magneto, and without hesitation offers his powers of regeneration to save her life. Their relationship is everything comic book fans have come to expect (and want) from the otherwise stoic Logan — a softer side to complement his otherwise savage nature — both of which have become intrinsic to his character, in the comics and the movies.
3. The Alkali Lake Massacre
Hugh Jackman has appeared in all of the “X-Men” movies in some form or another, but his appearance in “X-Men: Apocalypse” was certainly the bloodiest to date (although that could change if rumors are to be believed about “Logan”). His cameo in the eighth “X-Men” movie showed Wolverine at his most animalistic, a chained creature who is conditioned to kill. His look in the film — a hairy, savage brute bound and pierced by strange wires — was of course popularized in the comics by writer/artist Barry Windsor-Smith during his “Weapon X” story arc, a distinct fan favorite in Logan lore.
The violent sequence in the film also borrowed heavily from the “slasher film” aesthetic and tone of the comics, and pushed what a PG-13 movie could get away with to an impressive degree. The scene ends with Jean Grey reading Wolverine’s mind to see if she can retrieve any humanity before he goes out of the wilderness, free from Stryker’s experiments. What makes this moment doubly important for both Wolverine and the X-Men is that it acted as extra fuel to retconning “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” from the series, ensuring that the Singer origins of the character are the true ones.
2. Protecting the X-Mansion
One of Wolverine’s most well-known features is his famous berserker rage, which really first appeared in the movie universe during Colonel Stryker’s Special Forces raid on the X-Mansion. Wolverine had been tasked with protecting the students when the rest of the X-Men were away (Professor Xavier and Cyclops went to see Magneto, Jean and Storm were looking for Nightcrawler), but his night of quiet beers and TV was ruined when his past came a-callin’. For the first time on film, he got to truly let fly the full brunt of his savage ire.
Wolverine was the first mutant to fight back against Styker’s soldiers, and he spared no expense in unleashing the beast. But as cathartic as it was to see on-screen, it’s only one reason this moment was so important. As he so often is, both in the comics and elsewhere, Wolverine is thrust into the protector role, which he always finds an uneasy fit… but not more so than his past. By the scene’s end, he had to come to terms with the gravity of both. As such, this was perhaps the most holistic picture of Wolverine that audiences had seen to date: savage yet heroic, unbreakable yet completely broken. In many ways, it was a great second introduction to the character, though it may not have eclipsed his first.
1. Enter: The Wolverine
The old adage that first impressions count certainly was the case when Wolverine made his on-screen debut in the first “X-Men” movie. Hugh Jackman’s casting was controversial back in 2000; after all, he was only known for performing in musical theater before getting the role. But Jackman was able prove the doubters wrong with his first scenes in the 2000 hit.
The setup was perfect: Wolverine, his back to us, stands restless in a cage with a bawdy audience of drunken fight-fans calling for his blood. A man from the crowd steps up to answer the circus barker’s challenge to beat the dark, brooding figure in the cage, only to be quite “handily” bested, when his fist meets Logan’s adamantium-knuckled own. Is there a better metaphor for Wolverine than an animal in a cage? Not that we can immediately think of; and it was a fantastic introduction of him to the franchise. Not long after, we get to see Wolverine pop his claws for the first time during a bar fight. These were the moments X-Men and Wolverine fans had been waiting for, and they didn’t disappoint on the big screen.
What are your favorite Wolverine moments on-screen? Go berzerk in our comments section!
“Logan,” Hugh Jackman’s final Wolverine movie, comes out March 3, 2017.
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