Breaking news coming from Fox – the final (maybe?) film featuring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine will be Rated R. Is this good news? Will this make Wolverine a better movie? Is it a knee-jerk reaction to the success of Deadpool? The short answer, bub: Yes, yes, and yes.
Folks, we all knew this was coming. We didn’t necessarily know who or when, but the minute the Merc-with-a-mouth cursed, shot and fornicated his way to 761 million smackers and counting, we all conjured images of studio execs researching curse words and demanding decapitations. Generally speaking, that is not a good thing. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but imitations usually suck. Every time something like this happens (cough….3D …cough… thanks Avatar), studios green-light a wave of pale imitations at ludicrous speed just to be the first to seize upon the momentum. I think we can all agree that this way of thinking is, by and large, not a good thing. It’s been said time and time again since February, but what made Deadpool great wasn’t necessarily the cursing, nudity and gore (though they were all great), but that it was both unique and true to the spirit of the character Rob Liefeld created. It was Deadpool.
Great. We’ve got that out of the way. The lesson: don’t do something just because someone else did it really well. Do it because it makes sense. Should Spider-Man: Homecoming be rated R because Deadpool was and they’re both smart-asses? No. That’s not who Spider-Man is. And that brings us to the topic at hand. Hugh Jackman is snikt-ing for what he claims is the last time (NOOOOO!) in an as-yet untitled Wolverine solo film, that may or not be based on the popular “Old Man Logan” storyline (please let this be fact). Whatever form the film takes, it’s going to be rated R. Fact: this is 100% because of the success of Deadpool. Like I said, 99% of the time, a knee-jerk reaction is a bad thing. But, there are exceptions to pretty much every rule. This is that exception. We’ll file this one in the “it doesn’t matter how they got there, but they got there” category. And it’s a good thing, hell, a great thing even – because, all together now – it makes sense. In fact, it’s always made sense. Wolverine should have been rated R from Jump Street. If any character in the Marvel Universe deserves an R rating, its Logan. I’ll give them a pass on the larger X-Men ensemble movies because of their nature – but the ol’ canucklehead should have been rated R in his solo outings from the beginning.
So yes, yes, sweet mother of mercy, yes – this makes sense if they do it right. And as Han Solo once said – that’s the real trick isn’t it? Wolverine’s rated R has to be – has to be – distinctly different than Deadpool’s rated R. Or anyone else’s rated R for that matter. It should be its own unique brand of “intended for mature audiences”. I think even the most comic book-uneducated studio exec at Fox is capable of realizing that Wolverine should not be making outlandishly dirty jokes and killing people in cartoonishly violent ways. If they don’t know that – I’m telling them: don’t do that! If people at Fox are pointing to any other movie and saying “that’s how we should do it” – then they’re doing it wrong. Take what makes Wolverine, and put in on the screen.
As Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige is fond of saying – look to the source material. It has endured for a reason. Wolverine is no different. He’s become one of Marvel’s most recognizable and popular characters for half a century for a reason. Is he a hero? Yes. Is everything he does heroic? Not necessarily. He’s feral. He’s violent. He loses his temper. He doesn’t think his way out of situations, he slashes and stabs his way out. He doesn’t try to reduce collateral damage, he’s invites it, as long as it helps him accomplish his objective, even if that objective is killing someone. His violent nature is what makes him who he is. His Rated R will be a more realistic brand of violence than someone like Deadpool. When he curses – it will be in anger, not as the punchline to a dirty joke. And that’s fine, because it will be in line with what the character has always been on the page – and always should’ve been on screen.
If I have anything negative to say about this news, it’s that it’s a damn shame it took them so long to make the change. Unless he changes his mind, this is the last time Jackman is going to be popping his claws. He’s played Wolverine for almost two decades. By all accounts, he’s done it very well. Even when the movies have been sub-par (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) or flat out unwatchable (X-Men: The Last Stand), critics and audiences alike don’t have many negative to say about Hugh Jackman’s portrayal, despite the PG nature of the movies. He’s in that rarified air with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans as people who have become their characters so seamlessly, that it’s tough to imagine anyone else playing them. The difference is: RDJ and Evans have been afforded the chance to play their characters as they were written and drawn in comic books. Hugh Jackman has not. He’s played a softened Logan for 16 years. He knows it. He’s even lobbied for an R rating in the past. It makes me sad that he’s only going to get to do it once. Ok, he’ll probably be in Deadpool 2, so twice. So yes, it makes sense, it just took them a freakin’ long time to realize it.
Let’s wrap this up. Will the R rating mean a better movie? The answer: It should. Does it guarantee the satisfying Wolverine movie we’ve all been waiting for? No, but it’s a step in the right direction. It still needs a really good script. The rating needs to work for the film and not just be there for the sake of being there. I’ve been disappointed/perplexed/angry/befuddled by studio decision-making enough times not to say anything for certain, but this R Rating should help to pave the way for the most satisfying Wolverine installment yet, and allow its dedicated lead actor to ride off into the sunset on a well-deserved high note. Let’s just hope no one gets cold feet. You hearing me, Fox?