Aside from playing a part in the superhero movie's resurgence during the early 2000s, another thing the long-running X-Men movie franchise should be thanked for is how it effectively immortalized its stars. Thanks to the X-Men movies, its actors have become inseparable from their mutant roles, like Hugh Jackman as the antihero Logan a.k.a. Wolverine and Patrick Stewart as the X-Men's benevolent leader Professor Charles Xavier.
Together with Ian McKellen as Magneto, the two have appeared in majority of the X-Men movies, but if reports are right, their next onscreen appearance in the tentatively titled Wolverine 3 (2017) may be the last time we see them fight for mutants' rights in a fearful world.
The Professor's Final Lesson
In a recent interview with ITV, Patrick Stewart promised that audiences were going to see a side of Professor X they have never seen before, a role he described as "very different Charles Xavier…nothing like the Charles Xavier you’ve seen in the past."
He also went on to talk about the very likely possibility of Wolverine 3 being the last time he reads peoples' minds in a movie:
"I would imagine this is probably the end of this franchise for me. But the thing about science fiction and fantasy is that you can never, ever say it’s the end, it’s over."
In case you may have forgotten, Professor X died in X-Men III: The Last Stand (2006) when Jean Grey a.k.a. Phoenix (Famke Janssen) unleashed the wrath of her Phoenix capabilities on the wheelchair-bound professor in their psychic duel. Patrick Stewart — aware of Professor X's fate in the franchise's weakest entry and the temporary deaths of superhero characters — had this to say about his character returning after his supposed demise:
"Yes. I have [died before]. Jean Grey vaporized me. From which you would think there would be no return. But watch out in March. I’m going to be back."
Considering that the original Professor X somehow came back to life in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) with the movie handwaving the explanation to his resurrection as the result of an alternate timeline, it should not be a surprise to learn that the writers of Wolverine 3 found a way to bring the X-Men's beloved mentor back to help Wolverine one last time.
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Guessing Prof. X's Role
Currently, Professor X's role in Wolverine 3 is being kept under wraps, but it's not too much of a stretch to guess that the aged mutant rights advocate will play a mentor's role beside Wolverine's aged warrior. Given the Wolverine movies' narrative, it's possible that Professor X will either be a dream or a hallucination.
Author's Note: This theory was written under the assumption that director James Mangold would continue his take on the character - complete with loose ties to the X-Men movies - prior to the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past which as some people kindly brought up, effectively rewrote the timelines of the X-Men movies.
In The Wolverine (2013), Logan was plagued by visions of Jean Grey (with Famke Janssen reprising the role) after killing her in the climax of X-Men III: The Last Stand got the better of him and drove him away from civilization. She may have been been his guilty conscience acting up or it may have been her actual ghost, but she had a presence nonetheless, hindering and helping him develop as a humanized antihero who has to deal with his personal demons on a daily basis.
Since The Wolverine acknowledged the events of X-Men III, it would be safe to assume that Wolverine 3 would do the same, thus taking the death of Professor X at the hands of Phoenix as canon. Unless something as outlandish as cloning is introduced or if time travel is brought up again, the only logical way for the professor to return and play an important role in Wolverine 3 is to appear from beyond the grave, not too different from Jean Grey's purpose in The Wolverine.
Given the third installment's futuristic setting, it's likely that Wolverine is going through a heavy dose of survivor's guilt since his regeneration powers essentially cursed him to outlive his friends and the dementia brought upon by (possibly) being the last living X-Man would finally get to him. The only way Wolverine could overcome this or simply endure the pain is by talking to a friendly voice, and who better than Professor X himself to do that. Remember, this is the man who saw Logan's mind and didn't care about the dark past hidden away in it: all he saw was another fellow mutant who needed a helping hand.
Old Man Logan: The Movie
Obviously, Wolverine 3 may go about this differently, as seen in the set photos that show an aged Logan and Professor X together in the same scene despite the latter supposedly perishing in the movie that chronologically predates the events of The Wolverine. Either that or his body-swap in the post-credit scene of The Last Stand gave him another shot at life:
Given the introduction of multiple co-existing timelines in Days of Future Past, the scene above may be from an alternate future where the professor survived Phoenix's attack or it may be wishful thinking on Logan's part — which would be in line with his Jean Grey dreams in The Wolverine. Whether Professor X is alive or otherwise in Wolverine 3's timeline, his promised role in Logan's final fight all but guarantees the continued use of the personal touches director James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) gave to the titular character.
Considering that the themes seen in The Wolverine are barely acknowledged in most other superhero movies, Wolverine 3 is shaping up to be something different and even more dramatic than what superhero fans are used to, and this is an under-hyped superhero sequel that should be checked out when it hits theaters in March 2017.
Go behind the scenes on the most recent X-Men movie, X-Men: Apocalypse in the Movie Pilot original video below:
What do you think Prof. X will do in Wolverine 3?