As you probably heard, Hugh Jackman returned to the role of Wolverine over the weekend, marking his sixth stint in the adamantium claws. Next summer, he’ll actually play Logan for a seventh time in Bryan Singer’s Days of Future Past, due in theaters on May 23, 2014. And my overwhelming opinion stumbling out of James Mangold’s The Wolverine was, "Enough is enough."
I like Jackman. He’s a dedicated, passionate actor whose deeply committed to the Wolverine role. And I like what he has done with the complicated mutant over the past 13 years. But it’s time to give a different X-Man the spotlight. Remember back when X-Men Origins: Wolverine suggested that Fox would tell other origin stories? As bad as Origins was, I still believe in the idea. So here are five classic X-Men characters – heroes and villains – who deserve a little of this one-on-one treatment that Jackman and Wolverine have been receiving for more than a decade. Which of these would you like to see?
And don’t let that Taylor Kitsch kid anywhere near the role!
Kitsch (Battleship) took a crack at the Cajun wisecracker Remy LeBeau in 2009’s Origins, and the actor’s lack of personality sucked everything fun about Gambit into a cinematic black hole. The mutant hero deserves a better shot. His ability to energize any object can translate well on screen. The fact that Gambit uses a deck of energized paying cards to distract and subdue opponents – long enough for him to smash their heads in with a Bo stick – makes him a formidable threat. And if Fox really wanted to create a memorable Gambit movie, they’d make the story center on Remy’s complicated relationship with Rogue … then coax Anna Paquin into the movie so she finally can explore the difficulties associated with a mutant character who isn’t able to actually touch the people whom she loves.
Cyclops is another classic X-Men hero – a team leader and a founding father – who seems to have received the short end of the stick in the X-Men movies to date. Which is a shame because his story can be quite compelling. Possibly because the franchise became so enamored with Jackman as Wolverine, Scott Summers (James Marsden) has been relegated to one leg in a love triangle. So boring.
The actual character often comes off as a tormented leader, a hero so sworn to his ethics that he struggles to make the difficult decisions in the heat of battle. (This, by the way, is what often puts him at odds with the rule-breaking Wolverine … though their mutual affection for Jean Grey does lead to plenty of melodrama in the various X-Men storylines). Pulling Cyclops out of the ensemble and giving him a standalone adventure would be, I think, quite exciting. His mutant power, also, is one that translates beautifully on screen – it always has been one of the coolest "outbursts" in Singer’s X-Men films. There are a lot of great Cyclops stories worth telling, and one of them should make it on screen, soon.
Yet another amazingly popular comic-book character laid to waste by Origins: Wolverine. Seriously, did that movie do anything right? While we’re on the subject of Deadpool, can we lay off the concept that Ryan Reynolds HAS to play the mercenary just because he had one shot at him already? Some fans have suggested Joel McHale for the part. Now that’s a campaign I can get behind.
Wade Winston Wilson appears to be THE fan favorite when it comes to wondering which X-Men character makes it on screen next, and don’t be surprised if the "Merc with a Mouth" lands a deal for a standalone movie in time. Script treatments for a Deadpool movie have been floating around for years, and it will only take Fox (or a rival studio) stepping up to put money and creative force behind the project to pull it off. Certain components make Deadpool an easy choice, from his wicked sense of humor to his tendency to break the fourth wall and address the reader/audience. Will that work in a movie? We may find out soon.
Are you sensing a trend to this piece? Without really planning ahead, I seem to be circling excellent X-Men characters who were introduced into the Cinematic Universe, but in a poor fashion.
To that list, add Warren Worthington III, son of an industrious billionaire who – like many mutants – is ashamed of his gift and wrestles with the societal issues caused by his hard-to-disguise physical attribute: His massive angel wings. Ben Foster tapped briefly into Angel’s crisis in Brett Ratner’s The Last Stand, but it was a throwaway moment that didn’t do the character justice. The ability to explore this complicated hero – and amaze audiences with thrilling aerial sequences – means there’s an Angel movie worth advancing, if a studio believes in him as a character. Bonus: Angel eventually succumbs to a dark side and becomes Archangel, which could signify a brooding arc for an Angel trilogy, if planned out properly.
I almost went with Nightcrawler. But for the "Last but not least" slot, I’m plugging in my all-time favorite X-Foe -- the unstoppable force who is Cain Marko, aka The Juggernaut. And no, not Vinnie Jones’ "I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!" That might be the X-Men’s film-franchise nadir.
Marvel writers always had so much fun with Juggernaut because whatever powers the X-Men possessed with virtually useless against Marko. His helmet blocked out Charles Xavier’s psychic abilities, while his invincibility (powered by the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak) made him a near-impossible antagonist to bring down. A Juggernaut Origins story would rock, touching on the troubles he experienced with young Xavier – his step-brother – and following through his creation through the Gem.
Or, even better, adapt the two-issue arc "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut," where Spider-Man must prevent the evil villain from decimating downtown New York. Make it the basis for Spider-Man 4. Let Andrew Garfield duke it out with an unstoppable foe … and maybe let an X-Man or two cameo for a team up. It’s a bold new world out here for studios making superhero movies. Let’s think outside the box.
Which of the X-Men deserves the next standalone movie?