You may not have noticed, because it's subtle, but Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart just gave Hollywood and the X-Men franchise a pretty harsh backhand. On the surface, you might think I'm talking about them announcing that they were retiring from the roles of Wolverine and Professor X, but that's not entirely it. It comes from Stewart saying that he'd play the role again for Legion and/or Deadpool. At the same time, Jackman said he'd play Wolverine again if it was for an Avengers movie. You have to do a little reading between the lines, but it won't take much squinting to see the half-hidden "fuck you" in there. Let me explain.
Logan came out, was embraced by audiences and critics alike, was deemed "The Dark Knight of Marvel movies," and made out with the box office using all the tongue that it wanted to. In it, Wolverine, Professor X, and a mysterious little girl massacre their way across America in an attempt to get the child to a place where she can be safe. And no longer shouldering the weight of a PG-13 rating, audiences delighted in watching Wolverine quickly hit BINGO on a card filled with severed body parts.
But seeing Jackman deplete the Midwest's entire supply of nameless henchmen isn't the only thing that drew audiences to X-Men 10. This film was also hyped as the last hurrah of him playing Wolverine, and it was later revealed to also be Patrick Stewart's last outing as Wheels. The story of a sideburned asshole and the teacher he hung out with (which began at the tail end of the Clinton administration) was finally coming to a close.
20th Century Fox
Seventeen years of hijinks, mutant activism, and just constant murder.
Before Logan was unleashed into the hearts of viewers and the innards of bad guys, Jackman talked about the possibility of one day being a part of that other Marvel franchise. The party at Robert Downey Jr.'s place that the X-Men had not been invited to yet. Jackman wanted to see what it would be like to trade quips with Iron Man and trade punches with Hulk, and lamented about the fact that he never got to before he quit being Wolverine. And on the surface, it just sounds like a guy saying that it sucks, but that he's made up his mind. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was just a ship passing by in the distance, or some other equally flowery metaphor.
But what it really means is "If I could've quit this X-Men thing and finally started playing for the Varsity team, I would be signing on for Avengers 7 right now." Their announcements boil down to them looking at X-Men with gentle, head-tilted sympathy and saying, "I'm so sorry. I just don't want to date anyone right now." Then immediately flirting with X-Men's older, hotter, richer brother.
20th Century Fox
When you're not even being considered for a mid-credits sequence in Ant-Man 2.
Don't get me wrong, the X-Men series has had some great moments. X2, Days Of Future Past, and Deadpool were all so much better than I thought movies about a school of laser kids ever could be. But it is a remarkably inconsistent franchise. The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Apocalypse are all either fiercely mediocre or X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is so bad that at points it doesn't feel real. Why would you take Ryan Reynolds and turn him into a shaven, mouthless teleportation demon? Were you literally bullied by the X-Men in high school?
20th Century Fox
Whoever made you like this, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
However, at their worst, the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are still okay. And people love them seemingly unconditionally, whereas the X-Men franchise, in terms of modern superhero box office, kind of struggles to get people to come see its stuff. With the MCU, even if you don't dig one of the movies, you'll probably want to see one of its many spinoffs or sequels. With the X-Men universe, if you don't dig it, that sucks, bro. Sorry about how we basically rendered a decade of your nostalgia ultimately meaningless. Come back next time when a new-esque team fights some dude in a way that's remarkably similar to how they fought some dude a few movies ago. X: Men: It'll Excite You! Sort Of!
Patrick Stewart doesn't make any definitive statements about where Xavier is going to roll next, but the fact that he says "It's not for me to say" says bountiful amounts. He loves being Xavier, and he's totally fine with not doing Xavier anymore. But it would be mighty cool if someone were to call and offer him a spot in Deadpool 2 or any other thing that didn't have "X-Men" in the title. "This relationship has been great, but I really want to work on myself right now. And date other people."
It also shows how omnipresent the superhero genre has become. Usually, when actors make a stance and say "I'm done with [Insert Blockbuster Franchise Here], and I want to work on other things," they mean that standing in front of a green screen for half a year just isn't as fulfilling as working in real locations with actors that weren't added in by a computer anymore. "The big action series was fun, but now I'd like to try to win some gold statues."
20th Century Fox
Time to practice an obscure accent and gather some of these trophies that everyone seems to be so wild about.
But Jackman and Stewart aren't talking about playing a coal miner that leads a revolution (Hugh Jackman in The Canary) or a blind but insightful chess player ("Sometimes, you don't neeeeed sight to see, Emma Stone's character"), respectively. They're talking about going from the B-list of the superhero movie world to the A-list. Hell, on that note, I wouldn't bar them from showing up as totally different super characters in the future. Michael Keaton, Chris Evans, Willem Dafoe, and Ryan Reynolds have already done it. Hugh Jackman would probably be down with cameoing as a friend of a friend of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Anything is possible if Fox and Marvel are able to work things out, which seems less like a question of how and more of a question of when. But if they never show up in another movie about a world in which most major wars are fought by a private academy full of human weapons, Jackman and Stewart ended their X-Men careers by publicly wishing that they were on the VIP list at Tony Stark's club.
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