It looks like the sixth time is the charm for the world's most famous Canadian superhero.
Hugh Jackman was an unknown actor when Bryan Singer cast him as Wolverine at the eleventh hour. Comic movies were in a sorry state after the debacle that was 1997's "Batman & Robin" but Jackman was the breakout star of the well-received "X-Men" film in 2000, leading the Australian actor to starring roles in huge pictures like "Swordfish," "Real Steel" and "Les Misérables."
But Wolverine remains the one role identifies Jackman. As "The Wolverine" director James Mangold told the Hall H crowd at last week's San Diego Comic-Con, Jackman and Wolverine go together like Sean Connery and James Bond. Riding a wave built on twice as many positive reviews as "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" as well as a killer cameo in "X-Men: First Class," the new flick based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's early-'80s miniseries is set to easily take the top spot at this weekend's box office.
Industry estimates put the "Wolverine" debut between $60 to $75 million, which will provide a welcome shot (of adamantium?) in the arm of the summer blockbuster season, particularly in light of big-budget bombs like "The Lone Ranger."
3-D screenings and a Thursday-evening opening will help, as well as the promise of a higher-caliber and more-character-driven Wolverine tale. Mangold has worked on "Girl, Interrupted," the remake of "3:10 to Yuma" and the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line." He first worked with Jackman on "Kate & Leopold," Jackman's third post-"X-Men" film in America.
Though Fox let the rights to "Daredevil" lapse and return to Marvel, the studio doesn't seem likely to let go of the "X-Men" franchise anytime soon. Fox's estimate for the weekend is between $60 and $65 million. Entertainment Weekly put the number at $70 million; BoxOfficeMojo.com projected $75 million. Fandango reported that "The Wolverine" accounted for 51 percent of Friday's advance ticket sales.
Jackman is already filming next year's "X-Men: Days of Future Past," marking his seventh turn as the character, which is more than any actor has played any superhero onscreen. That's even cooler considering the star wasn't familiar with actual wolverine animals when he first accepted the role, as Jackman recently confessed to MTV News' Josh Horowitz.
While "Wolverine" is certainly the biggest film opening this weekend, it isn't the only one. "The To Do List," featuring Aubrey Plaza from "Parks and Recreation" and Bill Hader from "SNL," will open in almost 600 locations. Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" will open in just six theaters, arriving with much better reviews than 2012's "To Rome with Love."
Last weekend's #1 film, horror flick "The Conjuring," should drop to #2. "Despicable Me 2" will add more coin to its already impressive $287 million domestic haul, likely landing at #3 ahead of last weekend's animated flop, "Turbo."