The Mutant Who Changed Everything

Source: Fox/Marvel.

With the release of Logan earlier this year, Hugh Jackman, and millions of

fans, bid farewell to the actor’s signature role. The movie marks a fitting swan

song to Jackman’s sixteen year run with the claws, and he leaves behind a

legacy that quite literally changed the world.

When I was a kid, comic book movies could only dream of the sort of numbers

that they are pulling at the box office today. Whilst some films, like

Christopher Reeves’ Superman and Michael Keeton’s Batman, flirted bringing

comics into the mainstream, these examples were a rare thrill to the comic

book nerds of the day.

More often than not, instead of the quality features like Superman and

Batman, we got pictures we’d rather forget like ‘Howard The Duck’ or Dolph

Lundgren’s ‘Punisher’. Joel Schumacher also had a lot to answer for, undoing

a lot of the good work Tim Burton did to gain credibility for comic book

characters on the big screen.


Source: Sony/Marvel.

Actually, that’s a lie. The Spider came later; the Wolverine arrived first. There

are many facets of the X-Men movie that led to it being a success. For one,

Bryan Singer knew his shit. He understood the material, with its allegorical

representations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and treated it with

complete respect. He also had a clear vision of everything that could work in a

comic book movie, and what needed to be cast aside.

Working closely with David Hayter he crafted a film that gave us all the action

and adventure we expected, with a healthy dose of sly humor; I am sure

everyone fondly remembers the ‘Yellow spandex’ moment. More than that

though, he gave us characters with a deep emotional core, that people could

relate to. Ironically, given it’s their inhuman qualities that people are drawn to,

it was the act of making the mutants more human that won us over.

Source: Fox/Marvel.

That was only half of the battle though; the best script in the world can still

become a terrible movie without the acting talent to make it work. Thankfully,

X-Men delivered in spades. With two veterans of the theater circuit being

brought on board to give the films Malcom and Martin the gravitas they

needed, we were already off to a god start.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was Academy Award winning talent in the form

of Anna Paquin’s Rogue. Additionally, Halle Berry went on to win an

academy award herself within a year of the film’s release, for her excellent

performance in Monster’s Ball. This was not your typical comic book movie


Source: Fox/Marvel/the gym.

"Despite all this talent, there are few people who will deny that the real star of

the piece was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine."

Despite all this talent, there are few people who will deny that the real star of

the piece was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. As we all know, he absolutely

nailed it, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say that his portrayal of the character was

a key part of the movies’ success. At the time however, he was more or less a

total unknown.

The impact of that performance, and the movie as a whole, was a

transformative event. Suddenly it was okay to like superheroes. It was no

longer a medium reserved for the nerds. The popular kids started to come out

the closet, no longer afraid to admit to their love of super powered people in


Source: Fox/Marvel.


This was the beginning of a domino effect for the comics industry; American

teenagers, then and now, have the highest disposable income of any social

group on the planet, and the merchandisers knew it. Clothing, fashion

accessories, mugs, even toothbrushes; suddenly everything was fair game for

comic book branding.

Rule 34 is a popular internet meme that states "If it exists, there is porn of it –

no exceptions". I would probably be the least surprised person on the planet

to discover there is now a rule 35, that says something like, “If it exists, there is

superhero branding on it – no exceptions."

All joking aside, this is now the world we line in. Superheroes were suddenly

everywhere, and this increased visibility gave every content producer on the

planet a huge swell of confidence in superhero properties. The first X-Men

didn’t have to wait long for a sequel, and it wasn’t much longer before other

superheroes got in on the act.

Spider-Man hit the big screen only two years after X-Men, and one year

before it’s sequel. X-Men got it’s sequel the following year, and two years after

that Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins finally wiped the stain of Batman

and Robin from our memories. Then in 2008, everything changed with a little

picture known as Iron Man.

Source: DC/WB.

Wikipedia currently lists 315 films that are based on English language comics;

of these 98 were made in 2000 or earlier, while the remaining 217 all

happened since the release of that first X-Men movie. Keeping in mind that

this list goes as far back as 1943, it’s fair to say that production of comic book

movies picked up a little.

Source: Disney/Marvel/childhood dreams.


In light of this, it’s almost impossible to overstate the importance and the

impact that X-Men had on contemporary pop culture, both in terms of the

movie industry and Western sub-culture. Much of that success is down to the

brilliance of the script and the direction. I honestly believe, however, that it

could have easily never been, had the casting of Wolverine been different.

Jackman got it so right, that we now find ourselves in a world where no one

can imagine anybody else in the role. If it had fallen into someone else’s

hands, and they had fumbled the role, X-Men could just have easily been

remembered as "That shitty comic book movie."

Just think about it for a moment. If X-Men had been terrible – and it would

have been SO easy for that to have happened – then there likely would never

have been a Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, or Nolan’s Bat-verse; there would

probably never have been, and this is such a horrifying thought I can barely

type it, there would probably NEVER have been an MCU.

For this, and many other reasons, I personally owe a huge debt of gratitude to

Hugh Jackman. I’m not too proud to deny I shed a tear, for many reasons, as I

watched his last moments as James Howlett, and I believe I’m not alone when

I thank Hugh for leading a change to the nerd side of life that we once only

dreamed of.

Started from the bottom...

Ended here...

Will you miss Hugh Jackman's Wolverine or are you glad to move on? Let us know in the comments below.

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