After ‘Prisoners,’ Should Hugh Jackman Retire from Wolverine?

Hugh Jackman Prisoners

The' X-Men' star should hang up his claws

Prisoners,” the new Warner Bros. thriller starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, is a movie that Alfred Hitchcock would have made if he were channeling David Fincher. Director Denis Villeneueve casts Jackman as a dad overcome with grief when his daughter vanishes one Thanksgiving afternoon. “Prisoners” is full of surprises, which shouldn’t be spoiled, other to say that it earned raves when it debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in August. As Variety’s chief film critic Scott Foundas wrote at the time: “Jackman has never been better.” (The full review is available here.)

You could argue that Jackman, at the age of 44, is in the midst of a career resurgence. On the first day of filming “Prisoners” last December, he clinched his first Oscar nomination ever—for playing Jean Valjean in the Universal Studios adaptation of “Les Miserables,” which grossed $442 million globally. There’s just one problem: the two performances were interrupted by Wolverine, Jackman’s alter-ego on the big screen with treacherous claws.

In July, Fox’s “The Wolverine,” the sequel to 2009’s “X-Men Origins Wolverine,” which itself was the spinoff from 2000’s “X-Men,” opened to a disappointing $55 million. This was the sixth time Jackman had played Wolverine, and the latest film only grossed $130 million domestically, down 28 percent from the 2009 pic that made $180 million at the U.S. box office. Despite audience fatigue, the studio later announced that Jackman will be reprising Wolverine in the time-travelling “X-Men Days of Future Past” directed by Bryan Singer and scheduled for 2014. All of which leads to a bigger question: Is Wolverine now a liability for Hugh Jackman’s career?

VIDEO: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal Talk “Prisoners”

Many actors (see Robert Downey Jr. or Natalie Portman) transition seamlessly from serious fare to summer blockbusters. But Wolverine has been both a blessing and curse for Jackman. The Marvel comic book character was the role that put the unknown Australian actor on the map in the first Singer “X-Men” pic, but it also typecast him.

Jackman has worked assiduously to break out of the mold. He dabbled in romantic comedy (2001’s “Someone Like You” and “Kate & Leopold”), more action (2004’s “Van Helsing”), a Woody Allen film (2006’s “Scoop”) and an epic romance that tried to be “Gone With The Wind” but failed (2008’s “Australia”). None of these movies really worked. Audiences didn’t pay much attention to his good turns in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” or Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige” either, although younger boys rightfully embraced 2011’s “Real Steel” about fighting robots. Now that he’s regained new career momentum, returning to Wolverine is only going to make us forget his range.

To give a sense of how much time Jackman has spent under all that hair, when the upcoming “X-Men” movie opens next year, it will be his seventh appearance as Wolverine (including a cameo in 2011’s “X-Men: First Class”) over 15 years. That’s longer than the decade Daniel Radcliffe spent playing Harry Potter. Christian Bale committed to three “Batman” movies for Warner Bros., and Tobey Maguire only donned “Spider-Man’s” tights three times for Sony. Both these actors were entities in Hollywood before they started playing comic book heroes. Unlike Batman or Superman, Wolverine just isn’t that deep. Jackman has already explored all the various depths — and more — with the character.

Ironically, the one role that allowed Jackman to escape the most from the X-Men world was his 2004 Broadway turn as the gay crooner Peter Allen in “The Boy From Oz.” It’s the only performance that earned him a fervent fan base that rivaled his Comic-Con groupies. The self-described “Ozalots,” mostly women between the ages of 30 and 60, practically took out second mortgages on their homes to binge-purchase orchestra seats, returning to the theater dozens of times to be near Hugh. That’s the kind of excitement Jackman can generate with the right character, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to do that often enough at the movies.

It also doesn’t help that every time Jackman promotes a different film, interviewers ask the same questions about Wolverine. That happened this week on “The View,” when the gabbers showcased his ripped torso and Sherri Shepherd fondled his pecs. Half the headlines generated by the “Prisoners” press tour are somehow related to Wolverine, which must be annoying for Warner Bros. Even Jackman has said he’s not sure how much longer he can keep up the act. It’s time to retire those claws.

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  1. Dean Wilson says:

    This review is completely uncalled for. The domestic box office was not disappointing. In fact it at least made the same amount as the production budget, when most big budget movies did not even make it to that amount this past year. The international revenue from this movie along with the eventual movie rights, etc. will turn a modest, if not more than adequate, amount of earnings with such a low production budget for a big event movie. The international revenue will clearly make up for whatever lack of domestic revenue was not made. I’m not sure who wrote this review, but it was badly researched. Did you notice that this movie really tried to bring out the emotional feelings of the wolverine or Logan character? It did not just focus on the action but clearly made a point of what the character was going through. The acting was different from the other movies. Does anyone remember the very first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve? In that first movie, you felt the anguish and frustration of Superman not being able to save the one he loved. You felt the character interaction with Lois Lane. That is what you remember from the movie, along with the action and adventure, and story line. That is what this movie brought forward. In fact, in another Variety review of this particular movie from another person, it mentioned this very fact. That person also mentioned how this movie stood out from the other action adventures that were basically mindless entertainment. More focused on character than the main point of action. Why must Hugh Jackman only appear in movies that are also focused on what a particular group of people want, rather than what appeals to most people? If they want to see him in a more serious role, than fine. I think it would not be bad to find him in other roles however that appeals to a more general audience. He also was in Movie 43 that was not even mentioned in this article. If you’re going to compare. Compare that movie to The Wolverine and then let me know what you think was high quality and hard film making to portray.

  2. Ray says:

    There is much more depth in Wolverine’s character than in Superman. Unfortunately, the writers of the movie failed to capture that in their attempt to make the character more ” Hollywood-friendly”.

  3. Ah, No. This article in crap. He can do both.

  4. Hugh Jackman by now has the chops & contacts to take a stab at directing, best one that he would also star in. Biggest problem right now is the overall thrust of multiplex cinemas doesn’t allow for worthy product to stay on screen long enough for a working public to see, since many work up to 12 hours/day. Multiplex operators must adjust to new workplace paradigms and make it easier for their audiences to access better films.

  5. Xmasevebaby says:

    Hackman is at the perfect age to star in a great Western. He has the clout to bring in A-list talent on both sides of the camera.

  6. You guys cant get mad at Joe Smart. He’s right the average movie goer may interpret Wolverine as kind of boring based on the 2 solo movies he’s been in. Granted he is MUCH more layered in the comics than in the movies and The Wolverine almost captured that until it totally blew it in the 3rd act and it ended up being studio movie. If any character deserves a quiet November-like movie instead of a summer blockbuster its Wolverine. We’ve never been given a chance to see that side of him. But alas Fox see him as move of a cash cow than an actual layered character so we’ll probably never get that

  7. I agree with everyone. I nerver saw James Bond Killing Sean Connery’s carrer. He did many,many other different roles and was never typecasted. I recall and I put Hugh Jackman in this catagory. Someone wrote that Connery could out a cat food can and they woud pay to see or hear it!!!
    Nuff said I think. Your review sucks.

    • Joe Smart says:

      Sean Connery is a horrible example to use. First of all, he stopped making James Bond movies specifically because he didn’t want to be typecast as James Bond. Second, during the 1960’s and 70’s he only appeared in one hit movie that wasn’t a Bond film–The Man Who Would Be King. His 20 years of flops included two for Alfred Hitchcock, who was about as much of a sure thing Hollywood had before Marnie and the movie that bankrupted American International Pictures, Meteor. Sean Connery’s non-Bond career didn’t take off until the mid to late 1980’s when he made Highlander and The Untouchables. Before Highlander Sean Connery in a non-James Bond film was pretty much box office poison.

  8. Dead Man Dann says:

    Besides the overall ridiculousness of this article, this part really just annoys me: “Unlike Batman or Superman, Wolverine just isn’t that deep.” What kind of BS is that? Have you actually read Wolverine comics? Logan is very layered, complex, and magnetic. He’s barely even a superhero. He’s a violent man who’s done too much bad sh^^ and has a lot to make up for. Some of the best stories highlight the fact that he’s an animal– he could just snap and kill everyone around if he’s pushed hard enough, and that weighs on him. He hates that part of himself, and he’s worried that, on some dark and twisted level, he might actually even like killing. If you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, just say nothing.

    • Joe Smart says:

      I guess he’s making that comment based on the movies Wolverine has appeared in. I haven’t read the comics but based on the two standalone Wolverine films I don’t think the character is interesting enough to carry a movie. He was probably the least interesting character in the last Wolverine movie–and it was his movie. He can’t be hurt (normally); his only emotions seem to be stoicism and anger–after two Wolverine movies plus the three original X-men movies I’m not even sure why we’re supposed to be rooting for him. And you can say what you want about me not knowing what I’m talking about, but if you have to be a comic book geek to enjoy a movie then the movie is a failure (Hello…Watchmen).

      • Dead Man Dann says:

        My point is that the source material provides enough material to do many different things with the character. The first solo film was terrible and in NO way reflective of the actual character. The Wolverine was closer, but there’s still much more that can be done. You can’t just say the character isn’t deep when you haven’t read the original version. It’s sloppy– even slightly offensive to the fans and various creative teams who’ve worked on the character. The main complaint that fans make is that there IS so much they can do with the film version, so to complain that there’s nothing left is beyond misinformed.

  9. GLGale says:

    Your lack of research doesn’t make sense, Ramin. Statistically speaking this is the worst review of yours I have ever read. See we can juggle the numbers to suit our purpose just as well as you can.

    When Hugh is ready to retire from Wolverine he will but probably more due to age than your insistence. That said, there’s no reason he couldn’t play Wolverine for another 15 years and allow the character to age as some of the original story lines have. When an actor or actress is perfectly cast I see no reason to recast them just because some critic feels they should be or convinces them that it’s hurting their career. Have you considered that maybe he likes the character?

    Of course I still feel Sean Connery should be playing Bond, despite some fine actors in the role. I’m sure you’ll be first in line for the Harry Potter reboot with totally new actors, and yet you’ll decide to bully Ben Affleck when he dons the batsuit. Sometimes there’s a reason to recast a role . . . the actor’s grown tired of the character, or the director can’t work with them, or they’ve just gotten too old. I couldn’t see William Shatner playing young Kirk in the reboot, but you notice they didn’t need to recast Spock.

    I still miss the first Darren.

  10. AButterfly says:

    I love Hugh Jackman, including him as Wolverine. Note: I didn’t bother with Les Mis… but i’ve seen him in practically everything else, and loved him in all of them, except for the dreadful The Fountain (so wish i could get those hours back!). I love seeing him as Wolverine – albeit we don’t need another Wolverine movie, but Jackman in another ensemble X-Men flick will be fun! Wolverine adds raw strength and snide levity to those films – FUN!

  11. Kel Kendrick says:

    How about Googling “Days of Future Past” before saying a title doesn’t make sense. How ever much you got paid to write this doesn’t make sense.

  12. Hwood says:

    I agree with Jake. All of this is non-sensical.

  13. Dumb guy says:

    Cherry picking with those box office numbers a little, aren’t we? Why not report the number that matters – 366 million world wide – which is about to surpass the box office of the first wolverine movie in a few days here given it just recently opened in the major territories of china and Japan. Ignore the positive reviews of the film as well (69 percent on rotten tomatoes, which is high for a tentpole movie).

  14. Scott says:

    Not to knock on Superman (the flying Boy Scout) or Batman (the angry orphan), but Wolverine is almost 200 years old. I think he’s a bit more “deep” than you’re giving him credit for.

    • Joe Smart says:

      Age doesn’t make someone deep. After two underwhelming Wolverine films it might be time to admit that the character can’t carry a movie on his own. The latest Wolverine movie didn’t flop but it performed way below expectations.

  15. enviisbetter says:

    the “Days of Future Past” title makes sense. You should just say you have not read the comic book story and the title does not make sense to you because of that. You don’t sound a dumb that way.

    • Joe Smart says:

      If you need to read a comic book to understand or appreciate a movie then the movie is crap. Movies have to stand on their own–not as an extension of some comic geek fandom. When you make movies for comic book geeks and nobody else you end up with Watchmen and Sucker Punch–and you lose a lot of money.

  16. Jake says:

    I find it incredibly frustrating that the once great and iconic variety has resorted to ridiculous articles such as this and others like–breaking bad is not that great. It’s becoming a complete turnoff that you are striving to enrage or incite ridiculous talk.

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