And the award for “wait, they weren’t already officially doing that?” goes to 20th Century Fox based upon multiple reports yesterday that what had already been assumed is official: they are moving forward with a sequel to The Wolverine. According to The Hollywood Reporter:
“The studio is in talks with [The Wolverine director] Mangold to write a treatment for the film, which would see Hugh Jackman return to play the title role, according to insiders. The storyline is being kept under wraps. Lauren Shuler Donner will produce [as she has done for all prior X-Men films].”
Actually, this isn’t really official. It’s an insider report with no corresponding confirmation from the studio. Also, this might be a little more surprising than I’m letting on.
In 2011, when Hugh Jackman showed up in a comic cameo in X-Men: First Class audiences reacted with a mixture of groans and laughter. Unfortunately, there seemed to be far more of the former than the latter, such was the bad taste left behind by 2009′s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The awesome loner mutant with a short temper and adamantium claws which he used when singe-handedly decimating a paramilitary unit in thrilling fashion in X2 was now reduced to being an unintentional laughable screen presence. As a result, 20th Century Fox went all out in making it very apparent to audiences that The Wolverine is the Wolverine movie they’ve been waiting for. Not many sequels are sold on marketing campaigns that basically apologize for the previous film in the franchise.
However, it appears as if some fans just lost their patience for the X-Men brand and/or the character of Wolverine. The Wolverine’s $53.1 million domestic opening was the lowest in franchise history (although just barely behind the opening for X-Men: First Class), and it was gone from the box office top 10 after just four weeks. Its final total domestic gross of $132.3 million is the worst in X-Men film franchise history, well behind First Class’ $146 million.
Beyond impatience with the character or brand, part of the issue for domestic audiences might have been superhero film fatigue (The Wolverine coming out after Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel). Plus, The Wolverine was the rare summer movie blockbuster that actually had a comparatively moderate budget ($120 million), was relatively light on action sequences, and did not at all cater to a domestic audience. Instead, it was tailor made for the Asian market since it’s set almost entirely in Japan and features nearly 1/3 of all dialogue in Japanese delivered by Japanese actors. As a result, The Wolverine has the odd distinction of being the lowest domestic grossing X-Men film ever but the highest foreign grossing ($281.2 million), and by a pretty wide margin on that last part. It is now the second highest worldwide grossing film in franchise history ($413.5 million), trailing X-Men: The Last Stand‘s nearly $460 million total. This has been greatly helped by a strong showing in China where it opened recently and has grossed $37.5 million to date over there. It cannot be a coincidence that the news of a sequel breaks after the film opened so big in China.
So, like Pacific Rim before it The Wolverine was somewhat saved by the international market, particularly China, but The Wolverine‘s budget was much lower meaning it didn’t need saving nearly as much. However, after the film’s release there were multiple reports that Fox had locked star Hugh Jackman up to a $100 million deal to star in 4 more X-Men films, presumably beyond the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Futures Past. As it turns out, such reports were complete nonsense, but those rumors combined with the incredible foreign box office for The Wolverine equated to an assumption that a sequel was an inevitability.
That’s still not true. If the new reports are to be believed, all Fox has committed to is for director James Mangold to pen a story treatment for a potential sequel. It’s basically like they’re trying to pay Mangold to pitch an idea for a sequel to them. However, keeping Mangold involved is an encouraging sign. While The Wolverine appeared to lose its nerve in its last act, Mangold’s attempt at a more grounded approach to the character which depicted Wolverine as an aimless ronin or western outlaw was the perfect angle to take. Until its last act, The Wolverine was more like an interesting action movie with a stranger in a strange land narrative as opposed to high-octane, summer comic book movie. It also arguably has Jackman’s best performance as the character to date. X-Men: Days of Future Past, in which Wolverine will be the central character bridging the gap between past and future, appears to be more of a traditional comic book movie with villains and heroes aplenty. A Wolverine sequel with a minimal budget and modest but effective action sequences in service to an interesting story, hopefully focusing on Wolverine’s new partnership with Yukio, sounds intriguing. Whatever they do, though, please … continue pretending like X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t happen and we’ll all be good.
Check out the trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is due out 5/23/14:
- ‘Wolverine’ Sequel in Works, With James Mangold in Talks to Write Treatment (thewrap.com)
- Fox Attacking a Third Solo ‘Wolverine’ Movie (livingthegeeklife.com)