A few days ago, Hugh Jackman posted something on facebook that set the internet on fire with speculation. This photo, along with the caption "Wolverine.... one last time."
The message here is clear; that Jackman will be leaving the X-Men franchise, where he has starred for the past fifteen years as Logan/Wolverine, appearing in every movie in the franchise (albeit only having a cameo in First Class) including two spin-off solo films (Origins and The Wolverine). For many viewers, Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, and at this point (get ready to feel old) he has been playing the role since before some fans were born.
He has previously made some conflicting statements about his commitment to the franchise, some suggesting that he plans to stick around as long as he can, while at others times he has said that he is ready to take off the claws. This could simply be another mood swing about the role, so there's no need to start mourning just yet, but if it is true, what does this mean for the franchise?
1. Wolverine Could Be Re-Cast
This seems the most obvious choice, given the rebooted timeline and the recent announcements of new actors to play Storm, Jean Grey, Cyclops and Jubilee. We already have the younger versions of Professor X, Magneto, Beast and more, so it seems logical to assume that Fox is wiping the slate clean and will introduce a new Logan to the films.
The issue with this is that unlike the other mutants, Wolverine's healing factor means that he doesn't age, so a re-cast makes a little less sense. In fact, keeping Jackman on while changing the rest of the cast is the most logical option. There is, however, a problem within that problem. Wolverine may not age, but Hugh Jackman isn't so lucky. After fifteen years, he's starting to look a little older, and after another fifteen (assuming the movies continue that long), it's going to be very obvious that Logan is ageing. Casting paradox, right there, and I'm glad I don't have to hurt my brain making it work!
I am, however, still pretty keen on this option. Re-casting means that we could get a Wolverine who is kinda stumpy and hairy and mean looking, just like the comic books, and that would be a great change! As much as I love Jackman's Wolverine, there is no denying that he is a lot taller and more attractive than the source material, something that angered a lot of fans when the first movie was cast. Fox seems to be trying to fix all the other deviations from the comics that they were criticized for in the past, so why not this one?
2. Wolverine May Not Appear For Some Time
Hard as it may be for fans of the gruff Canadian, we could just see a Wolverine-free X-men for a few years. Despite his key role in [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](movie:203942) & Apocalypse could find us back in a timeline where Wolverine is not working with Professor X. He's still got to find his way to Project X in order to gain his adamantium, he has been taken by Mystique for who knows what reason, and it would be simple enough just to leave him out for a few decades.
There are so many new characters being introduced in [X-Men: Apocalypse](movie:1194267), and I would be happy to see the focus shift to someone else for a while. Let's face it, he's basically been the star of the show since it's inception, and his last solo outing was far from a blockbuster.
Given the success of Marvel's [The Avengers](movie:9040) franchise, I would love to see a core team built up who each have their own solo movies. It's a proven formula, and it gives us enough space to see each member of this huge team get some quality development. [Deadpool](movie:38663) has a solo movie in the works, as does Gambit (who I am so thrilled to finally see joining the team!), so why not expand the franchise away from the previous "Wolverine and Company" formula?
3. Wolverine Could Die
Definitely the more extreme end of the spectrum, we could see Wolverine killed off entirely. Much has been made of the fact that Jackman's appearance in Apocalypse will be a cameo, rather than a starring role; could he appear to fight (and die) in the final battle?
There are actually some decent reasons to kill him off, not least of which is that it solves the ageless character/ageing actor conundrum. It's a huge heart-string-tugger, it would create another level of buzz around the film (and probably boost the box office takings), and it would let Jackman bow out with a bang. It's also not required to be permanent. How many times has Wolverine died and come back in the comics, after all?
That said, it's not my personal favorite. While I'm not opposed to seeing Wolverine killed off, I would rather he get more than just a cameo death. I feel that as the star of the show for so long, he deserves better. Like many fans, I would love to see the Old Man Logan storyline, but even without it I would rather see a final spin-off film or a starring role before his death.
Which Will It Be?
If it were up to me, I would choose to leave him out of the picture for a while, before bringing back a re-cast version of the character. It may seem like an impossibility now, but I can see it working. In a few more films time, we'll have come full circle, and the younger cast won't have magically morphed into the original one. At that point, bringing back Wolverine with a slightly different look should be very forgivable.
All of which would mean that finally, finally, twenty-ish years since the first live-action X-Men movie, we could have the characters, the writing, and the team that we really deserve. We would have a team that is perfectly placed to stick with the franchise for a long time, and to me, that's worth more than hanging on to original cast members. Even cast members as awesome as Hugh Jackman.
X-Men: Apocalypse comes to theaters May 27th, 2016