What Hugh Jackman's Wolverine Run Ending Means for the 'X-Men' Universe

The actor has been teasing his upcoming goodbye in next year's third Wolverine film.

It's been the best of times (X2: X-Men United) and the worst of times (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), but through it all, it's been Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Over the past week, the actor has been sharing photos signifying the end of his run as the character, which began with his casting in 1999 and is set to conclude with one last movie, next year's third Wolverine film. In a video posted to Instagram on Monday, Jackman shaved off his trademark Wolverine facial hair. Last week, he shared a photo of him surveying the landscape of New Mexico, where he recently wrapped shooting.

Jackman's exit leaves a lot of questions for the future of Fox's X-Men movieverse. 

CAN THE ROLE BE RECAST?

The notion that some roles can't be recast has been disproved time and time again. However … this one genuinely feels different than the others. Heath Ledger, whose Joker is the finest comic book movie performance of all time, played the role for one movie. Batman, like James Bond, is constantly passing the torch. But Jackman is the only big-screen version of Wolverine — and has been since the dawn of the modern age of superhero movies with 2000's X-Men. The only corollary might be if one day the Marvel Cinematic Universe recasts Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man.

It's hard to imagine Fox will sideline Wolverine for too long. It's possible X-23, the female Wolverine of the comics, could come into play. Fans have also offered up Tom Hardy as a possible replacement, and Jackman has even given his blessing to this notion. Hardy has comic book cred, having played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and he was signed on for Suicide Squad before dropping out. It will take someone fans can embrace — whether a favorite like Hardy or an unknown with potential — to make a recasting work.

CAN DEADPOOL TAKE OVER?

Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool hysteria swept the world in 2016, and it seemed that perhaps Fox had found the answer to its "shared universe" problem by finding someone who could replace Jackman as the guy to connect it all. Ironically, Deadpool is the only X-Men movie not to feature Jackman's Wolverine (though Jackman's People magazine cover was used). As crowd-pleasing as Deadpool is, there are some major challenges to making him the connective tissue to the universe — namely that he exists to mock said universe and comic book cliches. ("These timelines are so confusing," he remarks after asking if his version of Professor X was James McAvoy or Patrick Stewart.) There's also the possibility that Channing Tatum and his long-gestating debut as Gambit could fill the void (but that's a whole other can of worms). 

WHAT ABOUT THOSE NEW X-MEN?

X-Men: Apocalypse attempted to lay the groundwork for a post-Jackman world by introducing a young team of mutants, including Jean (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Meanwhile, director Josh Boone is prepping a New Mutants, which producer Simon Kinberg has said will take place in the '90s. The X-Men: First Class cast has indicated a willingness to reprise their roles. So perhaps there are enough irons in the fire where something will stick and Fox can feel confident marketing a new movie without a Wolverine presence

BUT COME ON … IS JACKMAN REALLY DONE?

In comic books and blockbusters, never say never. Patrick Stewart (Professor X) already has had multiple goodbyes, first in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) then in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and again in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Now he's back for the third Wolverine film. Perhaps Jackman could pop up again. It'd likely make the role more appealing if he could skip the shirtless scenes along with all that working out and eating of chickens.

Then again, Jackman really does sound like he's done. He began his farewell tour at last year's San Diego Comic-Con, where a surprisingly emotional video debuted showing footage of director Bryan Singer offering a shocked-looking Jackman the part of Wolverine back in 1999. It would go on to be the actor's U.S. film debut and would also define his career, with him donning the trademark mutton chops for nine movies (counting cameos and the upcoming third Wolverine film.)

"I never knew more in my life I had not got a job than in that audition," Jackman told the Hall H crowd, noting that Singer seemed incredibly uninterested during the reading. Fortunately for all of us, Jackman was wrong. 

In October, Singer shared a gift Jackman commissioned for him following the completion of Wolverine 3. (Warning: it may make you tear up.) 

 

Thank you so much @thehughjackman for commissioning the brilliant comic artist #joequesada to make these fantastic and very personal covers for me. I will cherish them and our long friendship and collaboration always! #xmen #wolverine #professorx #comics

A photo posted by Bryan Singer (@bryanjaysinger) on

Jackman's final Wolverine is set for March 3, 2017. 

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