James Mangold and Hugh Jackman are working together on a new Wolverine movie, following this summer's $400m-grossing The Wolverine. Before that hits screens, of course, Jackman will be playing the mutant for the seventh time in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, creating a multi-time-period continuity nightmare for those crafting a new film (sorry, Mr. Mangold). So what issues do they have to deal with before The Wolverine 2 (or whatever) arrives? We discuss the big questions - but beware some spoilers for The Wolverine!
A quick recap: The Wolverine was set shortly after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (so somewhere in the near-ish future), but had a coda at the end two years after the main story, which saw Wolverine accosted by Professor X and Magneto in an airport. There was no immediate explanation as to what he'd been up to in the meantime, so there's a two-year gap there to play with.
We've already seen, in X-Men: Origins Wolverine, a few snippets of what Logan was doing from his birth in the 1840s (or so) until the time of Vietnam, when he walked away from fighting temporarily before being drawn back by the dastardly schemes of Colonel Stryker and Sabertooth.
Then there's a blank spot between that period in the late 1970s (ish) and the near-future of the first X-Men. Hey, that period could see Wolverine in Madripoor, working undercover to right wrongs.
But we will soon also see Wolverine play a key role in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which takes place in the slightly-more-distant future and another period of the 1970s. Now the future-set sections of DOFP see Wolverine alongside Professor X and Magneto, so they must post-date the end of The Wolverine, but judging by how much darker and scarier that Days Of Future Past future looks compared to that coda, it seems like they post-date it by some distance.
What's more, we're going to go ahead and assume that the good guys win in DOFP, and therefore that the dark future becomes something lighter and friendlier to those with the mutant gene. Either way, however, any future time past the Wolverine coda mark presumably involves other X-Men, and takes the wider franchise in a whole new direction.
So there are a lot of options. To summarise, this Wolverine sequel could take place:
Sometime in the past, perhaps between the 1980s and 2000 (if it's before the '70s, he won't be adamantium-ified, and even Hugh Jackman isn't getting any younger).
During the two years before he's reunited with Xavier and Erik.
After he meets them but before the dark future of DOFP really gets going.
Further ahead after (presumably) the Sentinel programme has been stopped and the future for homo superior restored.
We're betting that the two-year gap during The Wolverine itself will be the natural fit for this film. That way, 20th Century Fox doesn't have to pay the (presumably) large fees to get McKellen and Stewart onboard, and has a normal looking world for The Wolverine to work in. It also avoids creating yet more continuity nightmares with a period setting in the late 1980s or 1990s, which would certainly be nice for the more logical fans.
Since many people wondered, after this year's film, what happened to Yukio at the end (more on her in a minute) this would offer a chance to answer that and other questions.
Beware spoilers below if you haven't seen The Wolverine!
At the end of The Wolverine, Logan's claws were sliced off by a super-heated adamantium blade (we're not sure that's theoretically possible in-universe, but let's assume it's OK). His bone claws, long coated in adamantium since that business in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, regrew but the metal was sheared off from about a couple of inches above his knuckles. So in this film, will he have adamantium claws? How will we cope if not?
Well, panic not. First of all, if the film is set after he reunites with Magneto, it's possible that the Master Of Magnetism could resheath his claws. We know, from past films, that adamantium responds to Magneto's powers, and in the comics he once stripped all the adamantium from Wolverine's skeleton, so replacing a little bit should be no problem.
But what if the film takes place in that two year gap? Well, in that case we might see a Wolverine with bone claws that can break and can't necessarily cut through anything. Maybe that will be an interesting challenge, or maybe the filmmakers will find some other way to fix him up: a passing experimental scientist might volunteer, or we could learn that Logan had the presence of mind to find a vat of adamantium and take a dip before he left that Yashida Corporation facility.
Here are our picks of as-yet unseen antagonists for the film. We want someone who's a threat to Wolverine, but someone different from what we've seen before, ideally - and that latter condition makes it harder than you'd think.
(Pictured above, clockwise from top left.)
Wendigo** - **He's an old-school villain - the very first that Wolverine fought, in fact - and a huge physical threat. We saw none of Logan's animal instincts in the hyper-civilised surroundings of Japan in The Wolverine, so this could be a great contrast and see Wolverine in a more feral struggle; you could even play it a little like a horror movie in the Canadian backwoods. Wendigo's a sufficiently fearsome enemy to require a bit of help from old friends (keep reading) but also one that Wolverine could eventually take down mano-a-mano. What's more, the Wendigo operates under a curse, giving the baddie a little bit of pathos to colour the punching.
Omega Red - He was a murderer even before the Soviets used him as a subject for experiments with their version of the super-soldier serum (think Captain America) and then added 'carbonadium' tentacles to his arms (the more malleable, more Soviet version of adamantium). He's a formidable match for Wolverine's powers - but might he be too reminiscent of both the previous film's Silver Samurai and/or Iron Man 2's Whiplash?
Cyber - He was Logan's World War I drill instructor, before being super-soldiered (sort of) and covered in adamantium armour. He's big, he's mean and he can take a fastball special like you wouldn't believe. The only drawback with this guy is that he's visually and conceptually a little similar to The Wolverine's version of Silver Samurai, and his poison-tipped claws might give everyone flashbacks to Viper in the last film.
Romulus - Trust us when we tell you that you do not want to delve too deeply into this guy's backstory, which is wacky on a whole other level, even by comic-book standards. But he's basically a vastly older, vastly more evil version of Wolverine, bigger and tougher than our guy and leader of a tribe called the Lupines (they're people who evolved from dogs instead of primates and... look, it's really silly). Strip out the crazier elements of his past, however, and you might be on to something here.
Hulk - OK, so we're dreaming. But he was Wolverine's very first opponent (they then teamed up to take down the Wendigo) and he remains the most formidable.
As he flew off into the sunset at the end of The Wolverine, Logan was accompanied by sometime-assassin Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who had decided to be his bodyguard. After all, if there's one thing a nearly-indestructible mutant needs, it's a bodyguard. In any case, that seemed like a promising set-up to us. Wolverine has often mentored a young female sidekick like Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, Hisako and now Yukio, and somehow these relationships have miraculously managed to seem un-creepy. The only time we've seen that dynamic developed to any degree was with Rogue in the first X-films, so it would be a fairly fresh direction for the solo films. It might also explain why she's not around by the time of that coda. Hopefully, she just decided to settle down and open a Cinnabon in Omaha, and wasn't horribly killed or anything.
If we were in charge of selecting other mutants to make an appearance, we'd go for Gambit or Nightcrawler. Both vanished from the films far too soon; both have good chemistry with Wolverine, both have interesting powers that contrast well with his, and both aren't too tangled up with the Back To The Future fun of DOFP. Bring back Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, and for Gambit you could stick with Taylor Kitsch, who could use a break, or throw money at Timothy Olyphant until he agrees to take time away from Justified.
Some of the best Wolverine stories - Weapon X, Origins, Wolverine - have already been mined for the solo outings, and others - like Old Man Logan - are probably too much of a continuity nightmare. But there are five possible options.
Wolverine takes on human traffickers on either side of the Mexican-US border. It doesn't end well for his opponents, and is a really good example of Wolverine's nobler side, which it's nice to trot out now and again.
Wolverine and Mystique have had the odd dalliance in the comics, and as opponents they're well-matched because Wolverine can usually smell through Mystique's disguises. So this stripped back chase, with Wolverine hunting down the shapeshifter, is a good match. Sadly, given that Mystique's a big part of the First Class generation, we don't see this happening onscreen.
This is a relatively simple tale: his young neighbour is killed and Wolverine's left riddled with bullets, so he uses her diary to find out who's responsible and extract revenge. Since the words "gritty" and "stripped back" have been used about both Wolvie's solo outings to date, this might be a way to deliver that.
**Enemy Of The State**
The comic book version of this story sees Wolverine get brainwashed and the rest of the X-Men struggle to take him down. Perhaps you could twist that somehow so that Wolverine becomes the film's antagonist and Yukio (or whoever) has to stop him. Hey, in most superhero franchises the third film sees somebody turn evil, and this is his third solo outing...
**Not Dead Yet**
McLeish was an old drinking buddy of Wolverine's, but after he turned out to be a terrorist (wouldn't you know it!) Wolverine killed him. But there are signs that McLeish may not be so dead after all in this noir-style mystery, and considering even in The Wolverine we haven't seen Logan do much puzzle-solving - which he does a lot in the comics - this could work.