Believe it or not, X-Men is currently the longest-running superhero series.
While Superman and Batman had film adaptations first, they had been rebooted multiple times over the years with new directors, actors and storylines, retracing old ground. Meanwhile, X-Men has still continued with many of the same cast members and even some of the same directors, like Bryan Singer and James Mangold.
It’s surprising that, of all superhero franchises, X-Men has not suffered the dreaded “reboot,” as the series, while popular, wasn’t on the same level of recognition and popularity as “Spider-Man” or “The Dark Knight.” But frankly, I can’t really complain. Through the good films, the bad films, the old cast members and the new cast members, X-Men has given audiences plenty of fun characters and solid commentary to chew on for 17 years and counting.
The most recent movie to come from the series was the 2017 film “Logan,” which was a pretty significant feature for the series. Not only did the movie take a far grittier and intense approach than prior X-Men films, almost acting like a modern-day Western, as well as become only the second X-Men film to garner an R-rating after the smash hit “Deadpool,” but “Logan” was the final time Hugh Jackman played the most popular member of the team, Wolverine.
It seems expected, as Jackman has been playing the character since day one in almost every single movie, but, as X-Men seems to be making some changes behind the scenes, it feels poetic to have a movie where Jackman puts on the claws one last time and passes the torch to a new generation of superheroes.
First, a bit of an explanation about what makes X-Men so great to begin with, and why Wolverine is such a phenomenal character.
Throughout all of the twists and turns the series has undergone, the one thing X-Men has always been focused on was the idea of prejudice and a band of misfits saving the world. The franchise is about a team of super-powered humans, or “mutants” as the Marvel Universe calls them, and how they’re stigmatized by normal humans for their abilities, yet still fight for peace and equality.
On paper, the story of the team can be traced back to many human rights and activist movements. It is also important to note that the comics began in the 1960s, right around the same time as the Civil Rights Movement, and the peaceful Professor X and the aggressive Magneto, both of whom fighting for the same path toward mutant-human equality parallel important figures at the time, like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X respectively. The movies were no different. There were constant battles and disagreements between both sides, as both the protagonists and antagonists were fighting for their voices to be heard, but each had their own course of action.
Logan, or Wolverine, was the neutral perspective in the world of mutants. When he’s introduced, not only is he portrayed as the brooding loner with a penchant for rage fans know and love, but as a complete blank slate into the mutant rights battles found between the X-Men and Magneto’s team, The Brotherhood.
Logan was more or less the audience, as he was introduced into the unique world of the X-Men Universe. The neutrality of Logan is shown throughout all of the films, as he is never fully good or bad. He can be caring and is willing to fight for people because he wishes to do the right thing, much like Professor X, but he’s also quick to anger, very aggressive and, despite being an X-Man, prefers to be alone, as he still has a distrust for the majority of people, much like Magneto. Logan represents a conflicted man who wants to do the right thing, emulating the ideologies found in almost every X-Men story.
When looking at “Logan,” the storyline and character arc of the famous antihero feels complete. Here is a man past his prime, after years upon years of hardship, forced into battle one last time, while also protecting the new generation of mutants after the previous generation seems to be on the brink of extinction. And, without going into spoilers, the film ends with a powerful farewell to the iconic hero, as he completes his 17-year long arc and pushes for a better future for the new mutants as they continue the legacy.
In many ways, Jackman leaving the X-Men franchise makes sense when looking at the new direction in which the series seems to be traveling. True, there’s a planned sequel to “Apocalypse” down the road, but everything else seems to be going more the “Deadpool” route, combining superheroes with other genres, focusing on more obscure characters and likely ending up with an R rating.
“Deadpool” was an interesting experiment for 20th Century Fox, as the character was well-known among avid comic book readers and a few casual fans, but a general audience which likely has never read a comic book in their life saw the character as a complete nobody. But the movie miraculously paid off and became one of the biggest phenomenons of last year, thanks to its lampooning and odd remixing of the classic superhero genre, successfully blending both action and comedy.
While the sequel to “Apocalypse,” currently titled “X-Men: Supernova,” will likely follow the previous X-Men narrative in terms of a giant ensemble, an end-of-the-world plot and allegories for activism and human rights, the rest of the superhero-remix genre seems to be going in a new direction. Right now, “Deadpool 2” is currently in production, a third film is already in the works and audiences should expect the same raunchy and self-referential tone found in the original film.
There’s also “New Mutants,” a spin-off from the original X-Men comics, featuring teenage and young adult characters. The film is reportedly going to be “a Stephen-King-meets-John-Hughes horror movie,” emphasizing both the young adult characters, which features “Game of Thrones” actress Maisie Williams and “Split” star Anya Taylor-Joy, with the more intense direction the series seems to be going for.
There are also plans to create a spin-off based on the character of Gambit, with Channing Tatum playing the card-throwing mutant. Little is known about the movie, and the on-again off-again production history makes the film’s fate a little up in the air. But there’s a distinct possibility the movie could be something special, especially if the filmmakers dive into the character’s backstory as a thief. Perhaps it’ll be a superhero-slash-heist film?
But, the most interesting film in the upcoming slate would have to be “X-Force.” The movie will focus on an offshoot of the X-Men, which focuses more on aggression and black ops tactics than its parent team. With the team being led by Cable, a potentially interesting character with powers like telepathy and telekinesis, the film is currently expected to also crossover with “Deadpool,” meaning audiences will likely experience the intense R-rated action of “Logan” and the fun R-rated comedy of “Deadpool” wrapped up into one exciting and outrageous action movie.
Regardless of whatever direction the series goes next, “Logan” is a phenomenal tribute to Jackman and his work in the series and the superhero genre as a whole. I can’t think of any other way such an iconic character can finish his long and powerful legacy. And so, I shall end by giving a farewell to Wolverine, and a hello to the new chapter of “X-Men.”