Last Jackman Hero
By now Hugh Jackman’s cryptic tweet, implying that he will be playing Wolverine one last time, has made its way across the comic and movie world. Fans of the popular character lament the end of an era, while speculation begins as to who could possibly replace him. Or whether Jackman’s portrayal is so iconic that he can’t be replaced at all.
For many fans of comic book movies, Wolverine was the start of this new post Marvel Golden Age we are currently experiencing. Hard as it is to remember back in 2000, big screen adaptations of mainstream comic properties were still tricky business. Live action superhero movies that were both financially successful for the studio, and faithful enough to the source material to please ardent fans were unheard of. Concessions had to be made. It was understood that many elements of the characters in print couldn’t be translated to the silver screen.
Looking back, the X-Men seem like a great place to start. As one of Marvel Comics most popular and enduring franchises, there was a ready interest with a built in audience. But visually, there was more freedom to interpret as the costumes have never been as iconic as say, a Spiderman.
With expectations appropriately set, I was pleasantly surprised by the film and impressed with newcomer Hugh Jackman as fan favorite Wolverine. Minor gripes aside I thought it a serviceable portrayal of what I assumed would be a one and done X-Men flick.
Now fast forward 15 years and more than a half dozen times in the role, and I am amazed at how popular Hugh Jackman’s take on the character has become, and how little it resembles Wolverine. Somehow Hugh Jackman as Wolverine has become something sacred. An act no actor can follow. But at the risk of sacrilege I believe that no other character needs it more.
As much as I love Hugh Jackman, and I do, I’ve come to realize that for me, he has never been Wolverine. Logan is more than claws and a hairdo. And despite enduring popularity this version is largely inaccurate and remarkably dated. Is it Jackman’s skills as an actor, or the general movie going public’s unfamiliarity with the source material that has made his portrayal so defining that he can’t be replaced? Or is it a combination of both that has created, more than simply a version of Wolverine, but an entirely new character? One that could best be said to be based on the character from the X-Men comics.
By today’s standards there is no excuse for Wolverine’s claws to look like foam rubber. There was a time when I could accept that they looked as if he were holding them inside a closed fist, like I do with three drinking straws when I’m playing Wolverine, but that time is gone. Now I have to admit that Hugh Jackman is too tall, too handsome, and has ridiculously cheesy claws. His personality, characterization, and dialogue are unrecognizable save for the occasional “bub”. His fighting style is inconsistent, his powers are poorly communicated, and why has he never had animal senses? This is probably my biggest complaint, and one I had hoped would be addressed in The Wolverine. The scene in the village when Mariko is kidnapped, and Logan runs back and forth desperately trying to see which way they went, the Wolverine I knew could have tracked her across Japan by her scent like a wolf. And stop teasing us with the mask and costume!
I suppose, with one film left it is possible to address these issues and finally make the perfect Wolverine a big screen reality, but I am not optimistic. For whatever reason this is the People’s Wolverine, and the undeniably successful formula is not likely to change. But given time and in the right hands I believe the Wolverine from the comics is possible. The real Logan, the one we haven’t seen. The Wolverine.
All Hollywood has to do is break from tradition and think shorter, uglier, and animalistic. Or they could just cast someone like Jai Courtney and give us eight more of the same thing. The ball’s in your court FOX.
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