(Warning: The following contains potential - albeit largely theoretical - SPOILERS for the upcoming third Wolverine movie, as well as some discussion of possible themes and content in future X-Men-themed movies. Proceed with whatever level of caution your red-haired teammate's poorly-defined precognitive abilities suggest is wise...)
Now, we always knew this day would come. We feared the worst in the wake of X-Men: The Last Stand, and rejoiced when The Wolverine proved our dread to be in vain. We cheered when X-Men: Days of Future Past arrived, and gently mourned its passing as the potential end of an era. Now, though, it seems the time has finally come to say goodbye: From the sounds of it, Patrick Stewart is currently making his last X-Men movie.
Yup, that's right...
Wolverine 3 Is "Probably" Going To Be Patrick Stewart's Final Appearance As Professor X
Indeed, as the actor himself recently revealed in an interview with ITV, having been asked about the currently filming third Wolverine movie:
"I would imagine this is probably the end of this franchise for me."
With which all of our hopes and dreams for a Patrick Stewart-filled X-Future came crashing down. Thankfully, though, Stewart soon lifted them back up a little, by adding:
"But the thing about science fiction and fantasy is that you can never, ever say it's the end, it's over."
Which, when you think about it, is pretty much exactly the sort of pleasantly vague statement of open possibility that you want to hear from an iconic character actor just before they 'leave' a beloved franchise. It also, however, begs the question:
Just What Would Patrick Stewart Leaving The X-Men Franchise Actually Mean?
Well, on the face of it, not all that much. After all, Stewart and his equally iconic brother in arms Ian McKellen have long since stepped aside for the younger James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively. With the younger duo having now firmly found their feet in the X-Universe, it always seemed likely that Stewart and McKellen would fade into memory (and perhaps the occasional cameo).
X-Men: Apocalypse DID set up a very different modern X-Men universe, after all...
With Wolverine 3 (scheduled for release in March 2017, yet still technically untitled) looking likely to take Wolvie's branch of the X-Men universe in a very different direction, though - the film is set to adapt the Old Man Logan plot arc from the comic-books, which is both future-set and dark as hell - it's entirely possible that Stewart's final appearance as Professor X could have some pretty substantial consequences for the future of Fox's X-Movies.
Want to know more about Old Man Logan's influence on Wolverine 3? Check out...
- It's Official: Wolverine 3 WILL Be Based on Old Man Logan
- 7 Ways Wolverine 3 WON'T Be as Dark as Old Man Logan
Is Hugh Jackman Growing An 'Old Man Logan' Beard?
Chief among those potential consequences?
The Impact Of A 'Dark' Future Professor X Could Ripple Backwards In Time
Specifically, if Wolverine 3's Professor X turns out to have 'gone bad', or simply to have had his hope destroyed, we may well see that theme cross over into James McAvoy's continuation of the hero's journey too. Which, with Stewart himself teasing that he'll be playing a "very different Charles Xavier... nothing like the Charles Xavier you've seen in the past" in the movie, may well be what we're set to see.
If so, then it's entirely possible that we won't see the cause of such darkness resolved within the span of the movie - with Wolverine 3's future-set dystopia perhaps lingering on, with its avoidance being left to the X-Men in their next film. In other words, we may well be set to see the rise of a 'Dark' Professor in the 'core' X-men movies, too.
In a more immediate sense, though, the apparent end of Stewart's tenure as the good professor means that...
We May Never Get To See The 'Original' X-Men Again
After all, if there are currently no plans to bring the elder Professor X back to the X-Franchise, then we're also extremely unlikely to see much more of the likes of McKellen's Magneto, Halle Berry's Storm or James Marsden's Cyclops. Which, for anyone who grew up with the original X-Movies, is a pretty big shame.
Of course, it's still very much possible to imagine a scenario where some of those heroes could turn up once more in a cameo capacity (Deadpool 2 seems the obvious choice, especially with Cyclops' son Cable set to show up in the movie), but for anyone rooting for a final present day-set adventure, the absence of Stewart would seem to be a body blow.
Unless, of course, it turns out that Stewart's suggestion that "you can never, ever say it's the end" is the part of his comments that we should be paying attention to. Hope, then, still springs X-ternal...
What do you reckon, though?
Will we see Patrick Stewart play Professor X again after Wolverine 3?