Remember when Darren Aronofsky was supposed to direct "The Wolverine"? Yeah, that was a pretty exciting time in my life, too. The idea of the Oscar-nominated auteur slapping a heady, cerebral take on Wolverine seemed implausible from the moment it was rumored, but everything was seemingly a go until he quit for what could’ve been a number of secret reasons behind the announced one of wanting to spend more time with his family.
Whatever the reason, Aronofsky's departure was enough to torpedo the movie’s momentum and make it seem like it would always be a rumored production, floating around the blogosphere like a lazy, unwanted balloon. That we’re still here, many years and directors later, is a testament to the fact that someone apparently wants this thing to get made, because it’s not like we’re still in the franchise’s peak marketable years.
So this is where we are. Sometimes I think everyone forgets, and because the stakes are so low, no one would fault those who forget because it’s not like we’re talking about the fiscal cliff or the war in Syria or glacial drift -- no, we’re just talking about another comic book movie, as always. But to prioritize "The Wolverine" as the fourth-most important movie of 2013, dear readers, seems like a clear sign that few of you are invested in whether this thing will be worthwhile, or just a detour for Hugh Jackman before filming "Les Miserables 2." (Joking, I think.)
What we’ve seen so far -- a promo photo here, a rumored cameo there -- isn’t too substantive, but there haven’t been any red flags that the direction has been derailed. Before a trailer hits, it isn’t worth getting too hyped up. (That would be a nice start, given the rumored July release date.) But a good Wolverine solo movie would be a nice reintroduction to the greater X-verse, insofar as it’ll provide an easy link between the old and new franchises as they begin to move toward one cohesive vision under Bryan Singer’s instruction. It’ll be visually exciting, hopefully, and give Jackman enough meat to once again dig into the first exemplary role of his career. The story will be dark, but not too dark; aware of its past but not too aware; and please, no Ryan Reynolds, or any reference to any Ryan Reynolds. It’ll basically be as perfect as I want it to be in my brain, of course, because it’s nice to think it can hit all ideal expectations until proven otherwise. (Though I’ll understand if it won’t end up like that.)
Why does this matter? Mostly it’s because the success of "The Avengers" reminds me what the "X-Men" franchise could’ve been, had the people in charge been on the ball regarding what direction to take everything in. There could’ve been tight, smart solo movies made about the more interesting characters -- pour a 40 for the missed opportunities of the "Magneto" movie -- while still feeding back to the overarching universe. There could’ve been a platform for big-name directors to work out their childhood itches of making a challenging superhero movie, with so many characters at hand to be plucked out of the mix and given their spotlight. There could’ve been so many classic storylines woven together into something fresh -- what we’re seeing in "Days of Future Past" sounds great, but it’s coming later than it should have. Mostly, it just would’ve been a nice chance to see more X-Men on screen, for when we’re tired of spinning through the Oscar carousel.
So, yeah. It doesn’t really matter if "The Wolverine" is any good. But it sure would be nice.
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: