Eleven years ago David Benioff (Game of Thrones), a self-admitted fanboy of Wolverine and the X-Men from Marvel Comics, began writing the script for the first X-Men franchise spinoff. He was writing an R-rated script for X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
That version of the screenplay never saw the light of day and every X-Men movie in the decade remained with the standard and common PG-13 rating, until Deadpool broke the mold this weekend - smashing box office records while doing it. The revelation that a quality film, with an R rating, can make big bucks (without forcing 3D on viewers) is an especially interesting one given all the interviews we've conducted over the years in regards to the Wolverine character being one of the "darkest" of the X-Men.
So when it came time for the second standalone Logan adventure for star Hugh Jackman, embracing the title The Wolverine in an effort to define it as the definitive and most raw adaptation of the character, the James Mangold directed film also went with a PG-13 rating. Perhaps we have Deadpool to thank for today's news then that the still-untitled Wolverine 3 may be rated R as well. The following document was reportedly handed out during the Twentieth Century Fox presentation at New York Toy Fair 2016 - image courtesy of Reddit User RayChaos, who posted the following photo to imgur:
We've reached out to Fox for an official comment, but in the meantime, all signs point towards the studio planning for Wolverine 3 to be the most adult take on the character yet. That's quite a way to go out if this is indeed the final time Hugh Jackman plays the character.
Interestingly, back in 2012 when I visited the set of The Wolverine, I asked the Aussie star if that one would try for an R rating and he said there were quite a few discussions about it, but such a rating may prevent teenagers and kids from seeing it.
"We talked about it. Darren and I talked about it. Jim and I talked about it. The studio and I talked about it. By the way, they were open to that idea because if you’re ever going to make a real character R-rated, Wolverine’s the one, and I can… part of me would just love to indulge in the freedom that that gives you. On the same point, and I worked with him, but I’m forever grateful to Chris Nolan because I think what he’s shown is actually the R-rating is not necessary to give you a satisfying, smart, dark, emotionally complex story.
All I said to Darren and I said to Jim, I said, ‘It’s tempting , could be great.’ Obviously, the samurai elements, and you think of the history of blood spattering and all of that, the visuals, all of that, which is so tempting, I can’t tell you in the last 10 years how many 11, 13, 15 year olds, 17 year-olds that I’ve met that it’s not just ‘cool movie, man,’ what it means to them. And so, I say, we’ve gotta have an incredible reason to deliberately exclude them, because that’s what we’re saying. We’re saying, ‘This is not for you,’ or ‘you can watch it in six years’ time. I mean, of course, they’ll all watch it anyway. But the message is, ‘This is not for you.’ And I just said, ‘In the end, actually, everything we wanted to do with an R-rated version, we are doing in terms of who the character is.’ So, yeah. One more?"
Perhaps they've grown up, since anyone old enough to have seen the first three X-Men movies in theater is probably old enough for an R-rated Wolverine movie now, or can at least go with an adult. Deadpool made $132 million with an R rating and no 3D, so there is a market for this type of movie so long as it's excellent and - like Deadpool did - embraces the comics. It's not about being edgy. It's about taking advantage of losing the limits of a PG-13 rating to tell the best story possible.
Clearly this was bit of a hot topic inside the studio a few years ago since I also asked The Wolverine director James Mangold (who's returning for Wolverine 3) about the R rating as well.
“Well, I want to be careful about the words I’m using only because it has a lot of power one way or another, influencing all sorts of people. I want to make a more gripping, intense film. I feel like that—and I think you know what I mean, and I think the reality is that this character is built – he’s not Superman. He has limits, but one thing he has built into him that’s a part of his character is anger, and the anger of being forever, the anger of being misunderstood, the anger of being a mutant, the anger of being damaged, the anger of the losses he’s suffered in this incredibly long life he’s already lived, the anger of the fuck-ups of humanity that he gets to watch us do over and over again. Those things I want living and breathing in his character, in his action, in his interactions with other people, and also in the way we depict action in the movie, which is that less fanciful, more gritty, more urgent, and more real in the sense that you want it to feel like it’s not straining the bounds of credulity every moment that action is happening.”
Out of the main X-Men, Wolverine has by far killed the most people, so an R rating fits. His powers involve healing from gory wounds and... slicing people open. And if Ryan Reynolds and producer Simon Kinberg are serious about an R-rated X-Force movie - that we at Screen Rant believe would be a great new team-based series to run concurrently with the mainline X-Men movies - then it makes sense to tell at least one R-rated Wolverine story on the big screen. Embracing a more adult tone, when DC Entertainment and Marvel Studios have so far been afraid to on the big screen, is another way to help differentiate the X-Men cinematic universe.
At this point, by not having Wolverine 3 rated R - especially after today's news - the film will earn some negative buzz. Fans have always clamored for an R-rated take for this character especially and with Deadpool erasing any excuses over the pool of available moviegoers for that type of movie, why not do something different? And while we're asking questions, what's the title of this movie? It can't possibly be called "The Wolverine" again, right?
As for the current status of the final Wolverine adventure, one that may embrace certain elements from the Old Man Logan story of Marvel Comics and feature Patrick Stewart's Professor X in a major role, Hugh Jackman got the script just a few weeks ago and production begins in April. Wolverine 3, like Deadpool and the upcoming Gambit, takes place in the new timeline established by the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past and this summer's X-Men: Apocalypse. There's no word yet on whether or not Wolverine will appear in Apocalypse.
Deadpool is now in theaters; X-Men: Apocalypse opens on May 27, 2016; Gambit sometime in 2017; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; and an unannounced X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants and Deadpool 2 are also in development.
Old Man Logan logo art by Joe Steiner.