The recent release of Logan, the final film in the Wolverine trilogy, marks the end of Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the popular Marvel character. The Australian actor has assumed the role of the claw-fisted, foul-mouthed anti-hero for 17 years throughout nine films. Arguably the X-Men franchise’s most popular entity, Wolverine helped carry the Marvel cinema banner for years paving the way for the likes of Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, and so forth. Before we bid farewell to Logan, let’s get into his backstory on-screen:
Now the X-Men pictures have been discussed to death as we all know. We’re all aware of their immense financial success so I won’t go into too much detail here.
A relative unknown to American audiences, Hugh Jackman first took the reigns of the character in 2000 in the inaugural Marvel film about a school of gifted students with supernatural abilities caught in a battle with one of their own while facing shame from the rest of the world. Our first glimpse of our hero is that of a cage fighter making short work of his opponents. Little is known about him at first other than his name. Though known as Logan to his peers, the burly brawler is also later referred to by his more famous moniker, Wolverine. He connects with the young vagrant, Rogue, who leaves home after accidentally sending her boyfriend into a coma after discovering her ability of power absorption and the two soon find themselves in one of the many rage wars with longtime comic book nemesis, Sabretooth. From the very beginning, following this high octane action sequence, it was pretty apparent that Wolverine was the standout of all the mutants and the number one draw for moviegoers. Even though it was Cyclops who usually led the X-Men, Wolverine became the defacto leader on the big screen. This wasn’t shocking as he was always among the most popular characters throughout the decades from the pages of the comics books to the ‘90s animated series. The trash talking coupled with the cool garb and sharp weaponry made him a sight to behold. This was undoubtedly Hugh Jackman’s breakout role and to this day, the one he’s most associated with.
The first thing you’ll immediately notice is Wolverine’s physical appearance. While he bears his adamantium claws, signature hairstyle and muttonchops, most fans will see that he’s missing his trademark mask and yellow and blue spandex. While it was a drastic change, I myself enjoyed the modern update to his attire. I never really had any interest in seeing Wolverine on the big screen in bright yellow tights (or brown and orange, whichever era you prefer) wearing a pointy mask. Jackman was able to convey the character’s intimidation and personally well just through his facial expressions and on-screen toughness. That’s what really mattered to me and most audiences. Don’t worry comic book fans, a few callbacks to his earlier get-up have been made throughout the series.
Now let’s get into the movies that focus on Logan’s character solely:
With each passing film, Wolverine just got more and more popular and in demand. Like most comic book protagonists, it was time to try to explain his beginnings. In 2009, three years after X-Men: The Last Stand, which wrapped up the original trilogy, X-Men Origins: Wolverine hit theaters. Now the former film wasn’t met with much praise so it was up to Jackman and the team at Fox to redeem the intellectual property in everyone’s mind. In Origins, we explore quite a bit of Logan’s history from his upbringing in Canada, to his time in the Vietnam War to his first meeting with Col. Stryker. We view a really…um..odd scene where he tests his new adamantium skeleton and he later confronts his old rival, Victor, whom most of you know as Sabretooth. It was also here that we got our first glimpse of Deadpool…well, sorta. Ryan Reynolds briefly appears in the beginning of the film as a mercenary named Wade Wilson, the real name of the wisecracking skull basher, who later becomes the film’s main villain. Reynolds’ altered appearance in the final act alienated audiences and was clearly not the Deadpool everyone knew and loved. It’s all good guys, he made it up to us seven years later.
That wasn’t the only debut this film had to offer. The popular Gambit, whose lack of presence in the earlier X-Men films being one of the bigger head scratchers in their history, was finally unveiled to the world on the silver screen…and was a huge letdown. Seriously, who wrote this garbage?
The film was written by Skip Woods, who also penned the script for Swordfish, the abysmal crime flick that also featured Jackman, and the unwatchable Hitman films. So that explains the mediocre script. Wait, there was another writer? Some guy named David Benioff? Oh, he’s just the creator of a little-known HBO show called GAME OF THRONES! Man, he sure did a 180 on his career.
Anyway, while the film was a hit at the box office, reviews were overwhelmingly negative. It seemed to kill off any interest of any other X-Men characters of receiving their own films. I remember a Magneto standalone picture being mentioned online around the time there was talk of a solo Wolverine picture that I was guess was killed by the studio. I personally hated the film. The story was a mess, the CGI was surprisingly bad, you couldn’t invest into the characters, why was Gambit so bland? where was Deadpool?, and WILL. I. AM? WHY??
Its success was able to warrant a sequel, an announcement I sure wasn’t happy hearing. Was the general public finally sick of our claw-wielding friend? I certainly didn’t want anymore X-Men at this point. Shockingly, Mr. Jackman seemed to agree with me as he also expressed disdain for his first solo venture as the character. I even remember when I first saw the trailer to 2011’s X-Men: First Class and refusing to want to give it a chance because of the stench leering from Origins.
In 2013, The Wolverine was released and focuses on Logan’s time in Japan. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, Jackman and the studio buckled down and got serious. An acclaimed director was on board in James Mangold. I myself avoided the movie during its theatrical run and stayed away for years after, even after I heard from friends on how so much better it was than its predecessor. It wasn’t until less than a year ago than I gave it a shot and liked what I saw. THIS was The Wolverine we should have gotten from the start.
The movie wound up raking in more dough than the first and the general impression from audiences was positive. Fans and critics agreed that this was a gigantic improvement from the first flick and finally did Wolverine some justice.
A notable tidbit here is that there’s an alternate ending where Wolverine is given his classic yellow bodysuit complete with mask. Nothing ever came of it though and was done more as a fan service for those following the mutant since the golden age of comics.
So there we have it, go out and see Logan as it very well may be the last chance we get to see Jackman don the razor-sharp claws. Let me know what you thought!