Despite mixed reviews to the first X-Men spinoff all about Hugh Jackman's adamantium-laced mutant superhero (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), its standalone followup The Wolverine fared much better among critics last year, and especially better at the box office. The Wolverine was the first 3D film in the X-Men franchise and the ticket premium boost helped the Japan-set adventure become the second highest grossing installment in the series. As a result of that success, and overall renewed interested in all things X-Men from studio Twentieth Century Fox, director James Mangold was tapped to return and begin working on the story for another installment - to which we'll refer to as Wolverine 3.
Although not officially signed, star Hugh Jackman is keen on returning as well - assuming Mangold and writer David James Kelly put together a good script - and is taking part in the early development process. Since then, Fox planted their feet for their upcoming Marvel-licensed adaptations and scheduled Wolverine 3 for March 3rd, 2017. According to Jackman, while doing press for this month's X-Men: Days of Future Past, he's "99.9% sure" that if he does another Wolverine, it will be his last. But before that, expect to see him return for X-Men: Apocalypse as well.
It's no surprise that Jackman, the star of the franchise and its biggest film yet in Days of Future Past, might (read: will) be back for the 2016 followup. We know that Apocalypse is at least partially set up through the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past and takes place a few years later, in the '80s - not too far off from the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine where Logan was part of a mutant special ops team lead by William Stryker and where he went through the Weapon X process to have his skeleton laced with adamantium metal. In Days of Future Past, we actually meet a younger Stryker played by Josh Helman and we're excited to see how that potential earlier confrontation plays out.
In X-Men: Days of Future Past, fans get two versions of Wolverine, one from the future, and a younger version with bone claws. We can assume that since X-Men: Apocalypse is a continuation of the younger core cast from X-Men: First Class, rounding out the prequel trilogy (sort of), that we'll see this bone claw version of Wolverine continue with them into the '80s, when we see the formation of the X-Men heroes we met years ago in director Bryan Singer's original film that started it all. Singer has already hinted as much interviews, teasing possible introductions of a younger Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm, alongside Gambit and Nightcrawler.
And what's an X-Men team without Wolverine, right? In chatting with Collider, Jackman carried on a conversation about his physically demanding workout regiment to keep in superhero shape (he's currently 45 years old) and said it'd help him a lot of X-Men: Apocalypse and Wolverine 3 shot back-to-back, practically running under the assumption that he's in both. And he probably is. With Singer, producer/writer Simon Kinberg (who has a three-year deal with Fox to develop Marvel movie stories that span multiple movies) and writers Dan Harris and Mike Dougherty already developing the story and the film already having a release date, the cast members returning know who they are.
Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Hutch Parker added that X-Men: Apocalypse will shoot next summer and that Wolverine 3 will shoot before or after, depending on the script. Based on release dates, it'd have to be after, and that would allow Jackman to shoot the two films back-to-back. And that might be the end of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine if he's referring to the "last" being the last of his time as Wolverine and not specifically his last Wolverine solo film. At that point, he will have been the star of potentially three X-Men movies in four years, and that's a lot.
This raises some interesting questions about what Wolverine story will be told in the third solo film. Jackman told me personally that I was "onto something" when I brought up the Old Man Logan comics while on the set of The Wolverine in late 2012 and he namedropped that comic recently as something he and James Mangold were definitely looking at. Would that film continue from the events of last year's The Wolverine, would it involve future Wolverine we meet in X-Men: Days of Future Past or could it involve new timeline Wolverine who we meet again in the '70s and who might only have bone claws?
Marvel Comics just announced that for the first time they will be killing off Wolverine this summer, and they're teasing a Marvel world where there is no Wolverine. Is that in line with the live-action film plans to potentially "kill" off the character in 2017? Jackman's expressed confidence in Fox recasting the character though, so it remains to be seen.
We'll have a clearer idea come May 23rd when X-Men: Days of Future Past hits theaters. Early reactions claim the film might be the best in the series and it's forecasted to have the strongest opening of the series at $125 million domestically over the Memorial Day long weekend, even bigger than Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Are you excited to see Jackman continuing to carry the Wolverine torch and should he be recast after Wolverine 3? Could Jackman stick around and play Wolverine in a lesser support capacity afterwards? What is the unannounced 2018 X-Men movie Fox has planned?
Bryan Singer directs X-Men: Days of Future Past with newcomers Peter Dinklage, Omar Sy, Boo Boo Stewart, Fan Bingbing, Evan Peters, Adan Canto, Josh Helman, Evan Jonigkeit along with returning stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, Lucas Till, and Daniel Cudmore.
X-Men: Days of Future Past arrives in U.S. theaters on May 23rd, 2014, followed by Fantastic Four on June 19th, 2015, X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27th, 2016, The Wolverine 3 (not the official title) on March 3rd, 2017, Fantastic Four 2 on July 14th, 2017, and an unspecified Marvel film on July 13th, 2018.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your X-Men comics and movie news!