Film News

A Wolverine Sequel Is in the Works a.k.a. They Weren’t Already Doing That?

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.

x_men_origins_wolverine05
That’s right….this never happened, people. You hear us..never happened!!!

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.

"Let's see if we can maneuver through the spectacle and find the substance. I hope there's some somewhere."
What’s not to relate to for domestic audiences there?  We like to gamble too.

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:

4 comments

  1. It’s too bad ‘The Wolverine’ didn’t have a stronger domestic box-office take, as it was a great take on both Wolverine and on comic-book superheroes!

    It’ll be interesting what the lackluster domestic performance of both of the last X-Men movies will mean for ‘Days of Future Past’. I know several younger viewers who had no knowledge or interest in the earlier X-Men films, who adored ‘First Class’. I wonder if that will translate to its sequel reaching a new, younger audience with what they may see as a (newly) established brand.

    1. What they are doing with Days of Future Past is a colossal gamble. By the time it comes out, it will have been 8 years since we last saw the cast of the original trilogy in X-Men: The Last Stand. The director, Bryan Singer’s, last movie (Jack: The Giant Slayer) was one of the biggest box office bombs in film history that was dogged by rumors of struggles between the director and the studio and spiraling budget. Fox has responded by reportedly giving Singer the same nearly $200 million budget he enjoyed over at WB with The Giant Slayer. The most recent two X-Men Films, First Class and Wolverine, have been the weakest domestic playing films in franchise history. Now, not only are they bringing back so many old mutants to pair with the new in Days of Future Past they are introducing a crapton new ones.

      This has trainwreck written all over it. It would have been a far safer choice to do a straight sequel to First Class, especially since they have the incredibly bankable Jennifer Lawrence in the cast. Beyond fiscal sense, the old characters are done and that trilogy concluded; let’s have some fun with the new characters and new actors playing familiar characters. They revived the franchise with First Class and should have just kept moving forward with those actors, allowing Wolverine to be off on his own ronin journeys. Will those fans who only care about the First Class versions of the characters be cool with having to see them share screentime with the elder statesmen of the franchise? Plus, it will be difficult for them to do a time travel plot with Days of Future Past that doesn’t come off as overly convoluted.

      Those are all the bad things. The good things? The trailer looks fantastic, and many like myself have been dying to see the full movie the moment Wolverine looked up to see that time had been frozen as a pre-cursor to Xavier’s introducion during the Days of Future Past tease at the end of The Wolverine. This has the potential to be the film version of a big continuity re-setting comic book event, like Flashpoint for the New 52, that brings everything together in an incredibly engaging way. Plus, it could introduce First Class-only fans to the original trilogy.

      I don’t think Singer will be able to pull it off completely as their ambition is simply too large with too many characters, but I think it will be amazing. However, both First Class and The Wolverine are pretty good movies that struggled a little bit to match franchise expectations domestically. Although I think Days of Future Past will be a good movie, I really don’t know how well it’s going to do financially. The risk on Fox’s part is big enough that if they let their budget get out of control a lackluster performance could kill the franchise. The good news is that it’s coming out next year without much competition.

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