When Hugh Jackman first took on the role of Wolverine in 2000's X-Men, I don't think anyone could have anticipated how successful he'd be. Now Jackman is coming close to the end of his era, with a third solo Wolverine film that's based in the future. For the last week, rumors have been circulating that the film is titled Wolverine: Weapon X; but until today, those had just been rumors.
Until today, when @X-MenFilms published this on their Twitter feed:
For the record, this is one of the most trustworthy Twitter accounts to follow for X-Men news. If @X-MenFilms says Fox has registered those titles, then I'm happy to consider this rumor confirmed.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM WOLVERINE: WEAPON X?
Surprisingly, even though Fox has yet to make any real announcement about the film, we know a lot about it. Here are three key things:
1) WE KNOW THAT WOLVERINE: WEAPON X TAKES PLACE IN THE FUTURE
Wolverine: Weapon X takes us further into the future of the X-Men franchise than we've ever been before. That's why set photos are showing Hugh Jackman sporting a salt-and-pepper beard; it's the cinematic version of Old Man Logan.
But which timeline is it set in? The previous two Wolverine films were part of the classic timeline, launched with 2000's X-Men, but X-Men: Days of Future Past initiated a franchise-wide reboot. It looks extremely likely that Wolverine: Weapon X is in the new timeline - the end-credit sequence for X-Men: Apocalypse is a pretty convincing tie-in to this film.
The film also features Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier, suggesting Wolverine and Xavier stayed friends after Wolverine returned to the rebooted future in X-Men: Days of Future Past. But will we learn the fates of any of the other X-Men? Only time will tell.
2. THE VILLAIN OF WOLVERINE: WEAPON X IS SOMEWHAT... SINISTER!
Wolverine: Weapon X will pit Hugh Jackman's Wolverine against a dangerous company, and the end-credits scene of X-Men: Apocalypse gave us its name - "Essex Corp".
In the comics, Nathaniel Essex is the real name of a gifted geneticist who goes under the ludicrous codename of "Mister Sinister". A contemporary of Charles Darwin, Essex was transformed after an encounter with Apocalypse, and his own latent mutation was unlocked. He's an ageless being with tremendous power, and he's obsessed with controlling evolution.
Naturally, the character will need to be heavily adapted for the films. After all, the Apocalypse of the X-Men films was never active in the time of Charles Darwin! What's more, I'll be very surprised if we get the character calling himself "Mister Sinister" - the codename seems more than a little too corny for the more grounded X-Men films.
3. IT LOOKS LIKE WE'RE MEETING FOX'S VERSION OF X-23!
The Weapon X project was the top-secret project that created Wolverine, implanting an adamantium skeleton into the clawed and feral mutant. Given that this story is based in Wolverine's future, either this is a redesigned Weapon X project - or it's the project's continuation.
The evidence points to the latter. In the films, Essex Corp were evidently involved in the original Weapon X project - after all, the end-credits scene of X-Men: Apocalypse shows them clearing genetic samples out of Alkali Lake. Both comics and animated series have shown just what can be done with a genetic sample from Wolverine; namely, you can clone him. The only successful clone is a young girl called X-23, who over in the comics has actually taken on the mantle of Wolverine.
With an ever-growing mountain of evidence that X-23 is in this film, it seems pretty clear we know what direction the Weapon X project has been taking in the years since X-Men: Apocalypse!
Personally, though, I'm hoping we'll get more than just this. In the 2000s, Marvel launched a series called Weapon X, written by Jason Aaron. It was superb, and - among other things - introduced another 'legacy' of the Weapon X project, a group of deadly assassins known as the Adamantium Men. I'm kind of hoping we'll also see them in action.
In all honesty, the title of Wolverine: Weapon X makes sense. The film explores Wolverine's legacy, albeit a far darker one than Wolverine himself would like. It also looks set to introduce a character who, over in the comics, has proved to be Logan's successor - just at a time when Hugh Jackman is thinking of stepping down. I confess to being surprised at how few elements of the much-teased "Old Man Logan" plot remain (I think we're officially at the point where the only similarity is that Logan's, well, older), but Fox's decisions are making perfect sense.
This looks to be a fascinating film, one that explores the future of the X-Men timeline, sets up some cool new concepts, and features a classic X-Men villain. Only one question remains: will this be a send-off for Hugh Jackman's Wolverine?