Old Man Logan: a comic that should be a movie

Is Old Man Logan the cinematic future for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine? Rob hopes so…

Despite playing a character that has lived for centuries in Marvel comics, Hugh Jackman is in the unfortunate position of gradually becoming too old to play Wolverine. Whilst it’s generally accepted that Wolverine does in fact age, it’s at a far more reduced rate than Hugh Jackman, who has no mutant powers (that we know of).

In X-Men: Days Of Future Past, this issue was faced (sort-of) head-on by making future Wolverine slightly grey-haired, like a cross between his younger self and Reed Richards, thereby suggesting that Wolverine’s anti-aging gene (which he could surely sell for amazing money to the cosmetics industry) was beginning to let up in the X-Men movie universe’s future timeline. A decent effort was made to hide the age of Hugh Jackman’s 1970s Wolverine, and, to be honest, they got away with it.

But can they get away with pretending that 45-year-old Hugh Jackman is still the fresh-faced spring chicken of 2000’s X-Men forever? Maybe. This is Hollywood after all – if Ian McKellen can play a younger Gandalf in The Hobbit over a decade after his original performance in the role, anything is fair game. McKellen has been de-aged in the X-Men universe too, of course. Who could forget the scene in X-Men: The Last Stand where he and Patrick Stewart were seemingly smeared with tub-loads of cream for the purpose of an establishing flashback-esque sequence? Certainly not this writer.

But is regularly smearing Hugh Jackman in cream a good idea? It sounds hugely arousing and great fun, but there is in fact an older Wolverine adventure in the comics that could make for a hugely entertaining motion picture, if handled correctly. You may have guessed, not least from the title of this article, that we’re talking about Old Man Logan. To get, all of a sudden, to the point, here’s why we think it should be a movie…

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Why it would work

Arguably, the superhero films that fare best at the moment (critically, at least) are those that mix up the formula a bit, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s political thriller tone and the space opera stylings of Guardians Of The Galaxy being the two main examples. Offering the same genre-transcending opportunity to Fox’s X-Men universe, Old Man Logan could be the perfect choice for the next standalone Wolvie movie.

The western-inspired style of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s eight issue 2008 Wolverine arc created a hugely engaging read – by taking a much-loved character and pushing him into new territory, but with familiar genre touchstones for the readers to enjoy, Millar created a series with heaps of cinematic potential. At the very least, shots of a grey-and-old Hugh Jackman skulking around in a barren wasteland would be an absolute visual treat. The book even contains an overt reference to Clint Eastwood’s brilliant Unforgiven, the influence of which could only aid the cinematic X-Men universe.

The basic premise of the narrative could be a really interesting shift for the comic book movie sub-genre, too – recycling a similar premise to his Wanted series, Millar tactically placed the grouchy slasher-upper in a dystopian future – a world where the villains had already won. They teamed up and wiped out the majority of the superheroes, with Logan doing plenty of things he regrets in the process of trying to stop them. This could make the odds, for a change, seem insurmountably difficult in a superhero movie, which would undoubtedly feel refreshing.

With Wolverine desperately trying to live a normal life with a wife, kids and a new-found desire to never pop his claws again (thanks to the aforementioned regrets), some character development for the on-screen Wolvie beyond discovering his identity, falling in love with Jean and then mourning her death would be welcome at this stage.

It feels like he’s become a bit one-note in recent years, with the curse-of-immortality stuff in The Wolverine arguably falling a little flat in all the shoe-horned blockbuster action, so giving Jackman some juicier material could only be a good thing. This would certainly be gained by an Old Man Logan-inspired script which could delve into Logan’s psyche a bit more, without the pressure of constant action.

Towards the end, when the miserable state of the future landscape becomes too much for Logan to bear, the action is solid, too. If they could avoid trying to ham it up for the cinema, an understated one-on-one battle like the one which closes the comic could become a legendary superhero cinema moment.

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Potential problems

Similarly to the first comic we thought should be a movie (Marvel’s Civil War crossover arc, which we analysed here) many moons ago, there would be a huge amount of rights wrangles which would stop Old Man Logan from making it to the screen in a 100 percent faithful adaptation.

For starters, an elderly and blind version of Hawkeye is Wolverine’s main companion throughout the narrative of Old Man Logan. Played on-screen by Jeremy Renner, Hawkeye is of course a Marvel Studios property, so couldn’t appear in this film without some hefty (and hugely unlikely) negotiations going on. Despite his vocal unhappiness with his character’s brainwashing in Avengers Assemble, Marvel offloading the property to Fox is almost definitely never going to happen.

Similarly, there are nods and references to other Avengers members throughout. The ginormous corpse of Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man (at the point of his death he was using his powers to be massive instead of miniscule) has become a geographical landmark, while Captain America and Iron Man also make similar fleeting appearances.  

Spider-Man – a character which Sony now seems less likely to share with Fox than it did years ago, when a walk-on cameo for Jackman in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was touted – is also mentioned, with his daughter being a prevalent character and his car being a fairly central part of the plot. As for the villains, Mysterio (a Sony property) is quite key to the plot, while the Abomination, the Hulk, Loki, Red Skull, Ultron and the Kingpin (all Marvel Studios) appear too.

However, with the wide universe of the X-Men, and the convenient ease of making up mutant powers, it’s fairly likely that Fox could find a way around most of this. In place of Hawkeye, a pre-established Gambit (the upcoming Channing Tatum version aged-up) could do the job of projectile-launcher and travelling companion, any old car could replace the Spider-Mobile and the villain roster could be taken up by other members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

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It’s worth remembering too that Mark Millar is also still connected to both of Fox’s Marvel properties, X-Men and the Fantastic Four. If anyone could make Old Man Logan work on screen, it’s the guy who wrote it originally. With the possibility still alive of combining the Fantastic Four with the X-Men, Doctor Doom could also join the villain ranks while Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and/or Ben Grimm could take up supporting roles to beef things up a bit.

At the end of the day, it’s not necessarily the supporting characters that make the Old Man Logan comic great anyway. Most of them, after all, are dead fairly early on. It’s the western tone, the dystopian world and the slow-build of tension and character that make the comic such a good read. As long as those elements could be captured, Fox would still be on to a winner.

The only problems that remain after rights issues are the idea of following Days Of Future Past with another dystopian vision of the future, and the worry of how the main X-Men movie narrative in the 1980s would suffer from fans knowing that this Clint Eastwood-esque future is where things ended up, regardless of what happens.

Old Man Logan would take a bit of bravery from Fox to pull off, then, and having to show the distant future of their main franchise’s world may well put the powers that be off the idea. There is the possibility of palming it off as an alternate reality ‘what if’ story if they want, though. They did after all just spend $200m on a film which undid the events of their previous instalment, so we shouldn’t really rule anything out.

Will it ever happen?

Now, we should probably tread carefully here. There were some red faces (namely mine) at DoG Towers when Mark Ruffalo crushed the concept of a Planet Hulk movie mere months after we told the world it would be an amazing idea.

That being said, there have been some positive signs for an Old Man Logan movie. Firstly, a sequel to James Mangold’s The Wolverine, which adapted another classic Wolverine comic (Chris Claremont and Frank Millar’s 1982 limited series) fairly faithfully, has already been announced. It will be released on March 3 2017, when we can confirm that Hugh Jackman will be quite old. For a non-Expendables action star, at least.

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The most promising sign was that Jackman himself told SFX earlier this year that “of course we’re looking at Old Man Logan, because that may be the only option left at this point”. He did add, however, that “you can tell from my answer that we’re still working it out!”

So the option is at least on the table at Fox, with it surely seeming like a tempting way to give Jackman another bite of the Wolverine cherry. However, he is also the man who has told interviewers countless times how much he’d like to join the Avengers on-screen and team-up with Spider-Man, so it’s slightly difficult to take his suggestions 100 percent seriously.

So, essentially, we don’t know. But in the name of embarrassing ourselves in a few months, let’s just say it’s definitely going to happen.