Hugh Jackman has played Wolverine nine times, if you include Logan. The most passable films have included the X-Men, with each stand-alone film being uniquely disappointing for different reasons.
This is Hugh Jackman’s last chance with the character, and if it doesn’t work out the actor will have spent a significant portion of his career on a series of films that can, at best, be considered OK. The stakes are as high for him as they are for us. Everyone involved, including the audience, deserves a good Wolverine film before Jackman bows out of the franchise.
They weren’t all bad, right?
The first X-Men film came out in 2000, which makes it 16 years old. If it were a person, it would be driving.
This was before the era of mainstream superhero films and cinematic universes, which means that seeing these characters given a large budget and treated seriously was still a treat and not a basic expectation. The film stands up in some ways, especially the earlier scenes, while other aspects of the movie look horribly dated. Wolverine was treated pretty well, all things considered.
But he was never really taken off the chain. This was a Wolverine who was learning the ropes of working with a team, combined with a production team that didn’t have a firm idea of what these movies should look like. That changed with 2003’s X2, when Wolverine was finally given the chance to show off why he’s the best at what he does.
It’s one of the best scenes in the entire series, because it gives Wolverine a situation in which his anger and violence is righteous. He’s not surviving; he’s fighting for other people. He cares about something.
X-Men: The Last Stand was certainly a film that took place, and then Wolverine was given his own movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That film is perhaps best remembered for its horrible introduction of The Blob, and for completely ruining Deadpool by sewing his mouth shut and giving him lasers and an arm sword.
Everything from this point on quickly fades even further in terms of quality and coherency, with multiple timelines being introduced and the past films seemingly abandoned. First Class wasn’t bad, and Days of Future Past once again featured Wolverine in a lead role, which helped to make up for his tepid stand-alone films. X-Men: Apocalypse was anchored by a Jennifer Lawrence whose body language indicated that she was contractually obligated to be there, and featured an extended Wolverine cameo that traded character for violence.
So here we are.
Why Logan matters
God help us all, the new trailer for Logan looks great.
The film is also rated R, which feels a bit like a gimmick in our new post-Deadpool world, but should give the character the ability to wreck people in a bloodier fashion while also cursing. Which seems like a step in the right direction, as long as there’s a good story that frames the violence.
Wolverine in film began as an audience stand-in character so Professor X had an excuse to explain mutants and the school, but he peaked in a movie that came out 13 years ago. It has to be frustrating for Hugh Jackman to be so well known for a character that so many writers and directors can’t seem to do justice. It’s likewise hard to sympathize with the writers and directors of these movies when they have so many great ideas from the comics from which to draw in terms of stories and possible villains.
I don’t want a Wolverine film that’s merely passable, or that features a few moments of fan service. We’ve been drowning in those for the past decade. The bar has been set so low that seemingly anyone should be able to step over it, and the films still stumble.
This is the last chance to do it right.