With the second [X-Men: Apocalypse](tag:1194267) trailer now out, some parts of social media are mirroring the reaction to the first - and, yet again, I'm surprised. For me, the trailers are advertising the most promising X-Men movie to date; but as I celebrate, I keep seeing others write two words:
Given the prominence of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine in most of the X-Men movies to date (the sole exception being X-Men: First Class, where he had a hilarious cameo), the fact that the trailers put no focus on him is perhaps surprising. But it's something Fox needed to do…
1. Hugh Jackman's Time Is Coming To An End
Hugh Jackman has made no secret of it; he’s been playing Wolverine since 2000's X-Men, and he's soon to move on. The third Wolverine film, rumored to be based on the Old Man Logan arc, will be his final outing as the character. As he told the Dr. Oz show:
“It just felt like it was the right time to do it. And let’s be honest, 17 years. I never thought in a million years it would last, so I’m grateful to the fans for the opportunity of playing it.”
In fact, although it's rumored that he'll make a cameo (akin to the one he made in X-Men: First Class), Hugh Jackman doesn't even appear on the cast list for X-Men: Apocalypse. If there is a cameo, there's no way Fox would post that in the trailer!
This is a smart play on Fox's part. They've focused in so much on this one character that Jackman's leaving will already weaken the franchise, so keeping him in strong focus would only make things worse for when he finally does go.
2. The X-Men Have Never Been About Any One Mutant Anyway
Comic book fans have long fumed that the X-Men movies should really be titled Wolverine and the X-Men. The popular reaction to Jackman's character after X-Men took Fox by surprise, and they moved him to the centre of their film franchise. X2 was largely Wolverine-focused, while X-Men: The Last Stand really had Wolverine as the main hero (and killed most of the others). He's had two solo films (one great, the other... not so great), and X-Men: Days of Future Past rewrote the original comic book story to make Wolverine the outright star.
If Marvel Studios had taken the same approach, all but a couple of their films would star Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, and he'd make a cameo in every film he didn't star in.
Although Fox are keeping other major figures front-and-centre: James McAvoy's Professor X and Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique — the trailer suggests that they've changed their approach. They're now willing to share the focus across different characters, allowing all of the different X-Men time to shine.
That's much more true to the comics. It's also smarter from a marketing viewpoint — a franchise centered upon one or two major roles is far, far weaker.
3. Wolverine Wouldn't Be Much Help Here Anyway
In the build-up to this year's 'Secret Wars' comic event, Marvel were also running a Wolverines book in which various background characters in Wolverine's universe — and a few new characters — teamed together to explore the impact of Wolverine's comic book death. It was finally revealed that the seer, Destiny, had tried to rig events to resurrect Wolverine, in the belief that were he still alive, all of reality wouldn't end, and 'Secret Wars' would never have kicked off.
Two words: Yeah, right.
Over in his Avengers and New Avengers range, Jonathan Hickman had been building towards this event by showing the multiverse collapsing: beings of godlike enough power to slay Thor attacking in wrath, and cosmic beings destroying alternate versions of Earth. You're telling me a short, hairy man with adamantium bones and claws and a healing factor can prevent all of that?
The same is true of X-Men: Apocalypse. I'm sorry, Wolverine fans, but this isn't the kind of threat where Wolverine will dramatically change things. Sure, I have no doubt that he'd be useful — if Jackman does have a cameo, it'll be great — but even if he'd had a role in this film, it wouldn't have been as the one who turns the tide.