This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Logan
From the moment Logan was announced, star Hugh Jackman was billing the third solo Wolverine film as #OneLastTime, implying that he meant to hang up the adamantium claws for good afterwards. Seeing a superhero movie legend step away from the role that’s defined his career for 17 years was a key selling point for Logan and a main reason why it broke box office records upon its debut. For many, the story’s powerful conclusion was a poignant ending for the character, as Wolverine – once the indestructible killing machine – met a noble end defending X-23 and her fellow young mutants from the Reavers.
The death of Wolverine was a very emotional moment, and some felt it was the perfect way to close the book on Jackman’s legacy. As acclaimed as Logan is, however, there still are those who would rather the weary hero got to live another day. Fan art has depicted Wolverine and Charles Xavier enjoying happier times with Laura, and originally, Jackman himself wasn’t too keen on ending the mutant’s life once and for all.
In an interview with Yahoo, Jackman explained why he initially thought it’d be better if Logan lived, before realizing director James Mangold’s vision left a stronger impact:
“It was always floated that Logan would possibly die. I said, ‘Let’s be open, because it may be more powerful for him not to die… James was always certain of that ending, and he was right. Unlike a human character, what’s most poignant for someone who is thought to be indestructible is him dying while saying, ‘This is what it feels like.’”
There was probably a point in time when Fox executives shared the same mindset as Jackman, since Wolverine has long been one of their most bankable characters. The actor appeared in the role nine times and was the face of the franchise, and now his departure means the creative team can no longer lean on Logan as a crutch. There is always the possibility of a recast (which Jackman would help oversee), but odds are that will not happen for a while. The X-Men franchise is entering a transitional period, where Ryan Reynolds looks to be the star of the show. The success of Deadpool probably made the decision to kill Wolverine all the more easier, from a studio perspective.
In an age where creative control on Hollywood tentpoles is a struggle between art and business, Fox deserves a lot of credit for not forcing the more “upbeat” ending on Mangold and Jackman. Throughout the process, the studio was very hands off and allowed the filmmaker to craft the story he wanted, paving the way for Logan to become one of the most praised comic book adaptations ever made. If there’s a lesson to be learned from its reception, it’s that sometimes, it helps to trust the director and give him or her the leeway to alter the plot as they see fit. Ideally, Deadpool 2, X-Force, and whatever else comes next will be granted the same freedoms.