X-Men: First Class was a pleasantly surprising success for Twentieth Century Fox and most fans of the franchise. Not only is it performing well at the box office worldwide, but it's critical response has been overwhelmingly positive as well, currently sitting at more than double the fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an 87% vs. X-Men Origins: Wolverine and its 37%. Hugh Jackman as the adamantium-laced, hot tempered mutant is still an easy sell for the studio and they are continuing work on preparing for another solo feature for the franchise star with The Wolverine.
Things were on the right track when news broke that the sequel to Wolverine's first solo outing wouldn't be a direct sequel, but rather another story about the character. Pairing star Hugh Jackman with director Darren Aronofsky again for the film gave moviegoers a legitimate reason to get excited. But then Aronofsky dropped out...
The official reason for Aronofsky exiting the project was that the film's international shooting schedule would keep him away from his family for a year, but some speculate on more unfavorable reasons such as creative differences (an instant red flag for an X-Men film). Regardless of Aronofsky's reasoning, he is not part of the picture and so Fox and producer/star Jackman began their search for a replacement, one the Aussie actor described as being "just as good" as Aronofsky.
Those are certainly tough shoes to fill and for fans, some mighty words to live up to. Then came the list of 8 directorial candidates to helm The Wolverine, including Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Doug Liman (Jumper), Gary Shore (commercials director), Gavin O’Connor (Pride and Glory), James Mangold (Knight and Day), Jose Padilha (Elite Squad), Justin Lin (Fast Five) and Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go).
When the reports came out of these 8 directors being in the running, I listed James Mangold as one of the better choices of the bunch. As it turns out, Jackman and Twentieth Century Fox took my advice (not really) and after narrowing down the list to him, Gavin O'Connor and Antoine Fuqua, have chosen Mangold as the new director of Wolverine 2 (officially titled The Wolverine). They're entering negotiations but the report indicates that he will accept.
To the average moviegoer, Mangold may not be a familiar name, but it will be. He directed the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line, which earned 5 Oscar nominations, including a win for Reese Witherspoon, and followed that up with the western, 3:10 to Yuma which also earned a pair of nods from the Academy. Since then, he directed the action-comedy Knight and Day with Tom Cruise, but he has a pile of projects in development.
James Mangold arguably may not be of Darren Aronofsky's caliber, but let's wait and see what he does with the next installment in the X-Men franchise. If 3:10 to Yuma is any indication, Mangold can bring the character moments and suspenseful action needed to make a true-to-form Wolverine movie.
The Wolverine was aiming for a summer 2012 release, but without an official release date and post-tsunami conditions in Japan, it could be further delayed. There's also that Tim Miller-directed Deadpool film to look forward to.
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