THIS MUTANT LIFE #17: ‘The Wolverine’ Claws Into ‘Days Of Future Past’

For a while, I’ve been jokingly speculating in these pages about the inevitability of a crossover between X-Men past and present in some massive, budget-clearing event movie destined to make a disgusting amount of money. The producers of the “X-Men” movies, having clearly read each and every one of my carefully chosen words over the last few months, seem to have taken such jokes to heart.

I’d originally prepared a column about what the recently announced Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen could do in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” when a bigger bombshell dropped on Wednesday evening: Hugh Jackman, who’s currently getting in shape for “The Wolverine,” is supposedly in talks to make an appearance in the 2014 film, both cementing the possibility for the film to be a superhero classic as well as opening up the story for all kinds of intriguing, fanboy-activating possibilities.

It wouldn’t be Jackman’s first time in the new universe. Memorably, he made a cameo in “X-Men: First Class” to tell Professor Xavier and Magneto to go stuff themselves (in less pleasant terms) when they came a-calling to recruit him for their nascent team. He could be signing up for a similar, satisfying role sure to draw plenty of cheers at the midnight openings. But as covered again and again, the original “Days of Future Past” comic actually features a pretty big role for Wolverine, as he’s one of the few surviving mutants in the dystopian future where the story begins. Throughout the story, he helps the mutant resistance fight the Sentinels and make sure a time-traveling Kitty Pryde successfully goes back to present day to make sure the apocalyptic present never comes to be. However, Kitty Pryde doesn’t exist in the current timeline, and it’s unlikely she could show up in the past where “Days of Future Past” takes place (remember, “First Class” was set in the ‘60s.); there’s already a Kitty Pryde in the timeline, played by Ellen Page in the modern day “X-Men: The Last Stand.” To replace her, the producers could use another young, female character like Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, a natural option given her emerging stardom and existing role in the universe.

Or, as I speculated on, they could use Wolverine as the time traveler who comes to fix everything. It wouldn’t do the new franchise any favors in trying to build its own identity, but that aside, there’s little box office downside to having the widely-beloved Jackman reprise a widely-loved role. What’s more, his inclusion could be the final hurrah for the departed-but-not-forgotten original “X-Men” continuity, especially after next year’s “The Wolverine” drops. The future Logan would come back to amend the timeline, and open up opportunities for the new franchise to set its own terms and rules and characters moving forward, without the burden of the previous movies to account for. (Such as: Could Patrick Stewart play Professor Xavier in the future even though his body was eradicated at the end of “X-Men: The Last Stand”? What a stupid thing to have to worry about.)

Not saying that there should be a billion more X-movies, which is up for debate and could probably inspire a think piece or two about the dearth of creativity in Hollywood. But should they choose to do more, it would be nice if they have the entire palette of X-characters and storylines to play with, rather than having to keep a decade-old trilogy in mind. It would be sort of like what the “Star Trek” reboot did, which was a nicer approach than the history-ignoring “The Amazing Spider-Man” — it acknowledges and keeps the old stories alive, but allows a new path to branch off the main road.

This could happen with or without Jackman — he could just be one of the resistance fighters in the future, and get in a few good fight scenes with a Sentinel before… well, I’m not going to spoil what happens, because the producers would be out of their minds if they let such an indelible moment go to waste. But while there may be such a thing as too much Wolverine in the comic books, Jackman’s rendition is a treat that comes around once in a while — and if he’s eventually going to retire the role, it would be nice to get as much as we can now.

This Mutant Life explores all corners of the cinematic X-verse, from the kids of “First Class” to the berserker rage of “The Wolverine.” Suggest topics for future columns in the comments or on Twitter!

Previously on This Mutant Life:
» Bringing “All-New X-Men” Together For “Days Of Future Past”
» The Return Of Bryan Singer
» Sentinels? Yes Please!
» “Wolverine” Gets Modern
» Mark Millar Rights the Ship
» Can Mutants and Marvel Heroes Coexist?
» Is Phoenix Rising?
» Wolverine’s Film History In Photos
» Should Patrick Stewart Return as Charles Xavier?
» How Much Does Continuity Matter?
» The Value of Bryan Singer
» Talking “Wolverine” With Chris Claremont
» Claremont Looks Back on “Days of Future Past”
» Why “Wolverine” Should Stick To His Own World
» Hopes For A “First Class” Sequel
» The Status Of “X-Men” On Film