Only six months ago, X-Men fans said goodbye to a figure who'd become a living legend in the mutant community. Hugh Jackman finally bowed out as Wolverine, popping his claws for the last time in a brooding, atmospheric Western that was like no other superhero film we've seen before. Fox is justifiably proud of the film, even pushing it for an Oscar nomination.
But what's next for the Wolverine? In a recent interview with Variety, Stacey Snider (chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox) was asked whether or not Fox would reboot the character with another actor. She gave a classic politician's answer:
Fans reacted with excitement, taking this as a hint that we may not have long to wait until a new actor suited up and popped his claws as Logan. Meanwhile, you don't have to look far to find articles begging for Fox to recast the role. For example, ComicBookResources published a piece bearing the commanding headline: "Fox Needs To Recast Wolverine ASAP." But would this be a good idea?
It's Time To Admit It: Fox Has A Wolverine Problem
As little as fans of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine will like to admit it, the character's popularity has actually damaged the franchise. For example, take X-Men: The Last Stand, a film generally viewed as the weakest of the tentpole X-Men movies to date. It's a retelling of the classic X-Men 'Dark Phoenix Saga,' but the popularity of Jackman's Wolverine meant a dearly-loved comic plot was drastically rewritten. James Marsden's Cyclops was hastily killed, and the romance was instead reoriented around Wolverine and Famke Janssen's Jean Grey. Most of the other key characters were killed off or de-powered, and it predictably fell to Wolverine to save the day.
Or take a look at last year's X-Men: Apocalypse. Fox insisted Wolverine wouldn't appear in the film, but faced relentless pressure for Jackman to cameo. The marketing was falling pretty flat until the final trailer, which closed with a glimpse of those trademark claws. Unfortunately, the Jackman cameo distorted the plot, forcing a weak second act that had nothing at all to do with the overall narrative. Fox hadn't been confident that a tentpole X-Men film could survive without Wolverine, and as a result, they sabotaged their own plot.
X-Men fans know all too well that the franchise has a lot more to offer than just Wolverine. Some of the most dearly-loved comic book arcs have been those that centered around other X-Men, and second-tier characters have often build up as much of a fan-following as the front-line heroes. Hugh Jackman has finally left the X-Men franchise, so it's time for these movies to grow beyond a rinse-and-repeat approach.
Dafne Keen's X-23 Is The Future
We first had a hint that Logan would introduce the character of X-23 back in May 2016. Then, Bryan Singer admitted that he'd pitched the idea to Fox (along with an X-Force movie). At the time, there were rumors that X-23 wasn't just being introduced as a secondary character. Instead, she was viewed as the new Wolverine.
It's exactly the approach we've seen in the comics. #Marvel Comics killed off Wolverine back in 2014, and spent the next year or so teasing that a new character would take up the mantle. No surprise, the eventual winner was X-23, a female clone of 'Ol Canuckle Head. She's currently sporting a fun version of the beloved yellow-and-blue-spandex costume, and her book's tremendously enjoyable.
Fox's version of X-23, played so skillfully by #DafneKeen, is very different to the character we know and love from the comics though. Ironically, she's a lot more true to the original concept, back when Craig Kyle first created the character. Kyle deliberately broke the superhero mold, explaining:
"I wanted to avoid the standard trap, which has been done successfully elsewhere, of that very attractive 19 year old actress in a hot uniform. We’ve seen that. I wanted something more interesting."
Much to Kyle's irritation, when X-23 made the leap into the comics "she was 22 and had a boob job." Fox's version is far more true to the hero Kyle envisioned, and as a result, she could represent a very different version of Wolverine onscreen.
What's more, just because Fox's X-23 is different, it doesn't mean that a similar concept wouldn't work. Keen's portrayal revealed a child who was ferocious and feral, and yet who still captured our hearts. With an R-rated #XForce movie on the cards, Fox would be wise to bring in Dafne Keen's X-23 as a major character. She easily has the potential to become an important player in the future of the X-Men franchise.
We Don't Need To See The Same Dynamic
In her interview with Variety, Snider stressed that there's a real need for every X-Men film to be unique and distinctive. It's an approach that's really working for the studio; it's already led to the success of Deadpool and Logan, while New Mutants promises to be a thrilling haunted house horror movie. After three solo Wolverine films, and several tentpole X-Men movies that essentially starred the Canucklehead, there's a real danger of too much repetition. We've been there, done that. As Snider rightly observed:
"If we’re going to make a superhero movie, we have to ask ourselves: “What’s our version? What’s a Fox Marvel film? When you look at films like “Deadpool” or “Logan” or the upcoming “New Mutants,” you’ll see they have their own personality. Great effort has been put into making sure they’re differentiated."
For Fox, the worst-case scenario is that they devise a plot that not only reboots Wolverine, but sees him team up with X-23. As tremendous as that character dynamic may have been in Logan, it's one we've already seen. We don't need another Logan; we need Dafne Keen's character to move on and grow, to mature into a hero in her own right. X-23 has the potential to give us Wolverine stories like nothing we've ever seen before.
Fox doesn't need to recast #Wolverine as the job's already been done; we met the new Wolverine in Logan, and she was tremendous. The lesson of the last two years is that Fox can use the X-Men franchise to push the boundaries of the superhero genre. In that light, recasting Wolverine would be an epic fail. Instead, Fox need to continue taking the creative, innovative approach that's proving to be such a success. And Dafne Keen is the way to go.