Hugh Jackman has had the most impressive run of any superhero actor to date. Jackman has been the face of the X-Men franchise for 17 years, and next week when “Logan,” his final portrayal of Wolverine, hits theaters, it will be the ninth time Jackman has played the character. There will be people next week who are old enough to go see the R-rated X-Men movie who were not born when Jackman first began filming the original X-Men movies.
This 17-year run of playing the same character is completely unprecedented in the superhero genre, where rebooting and recasting happen so frequently. During Jackman’s tenure as Wolverine, we have seen three actors play Spider-Man, three actors play the Hulk, two actors play Batman and two actors play Superman. Chris Evans, Ryan Reynolds and Ben Affleck have all finished their run as one superhero and taken on a second superhero role in the middle of Jackman’s time as Wolverine.
Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine is noteworthy not only because of the length of time he has been playing the character, but also because of how he has embodied the character. I almost expected Jackman to pop out metal claws and start cutting people up in the middle of “Les Misérables” because he is permanently linked to Wolverine in my mind. It is weird to watch him play other characters, just like I’m sure it will be weird when, one day, another actor plays Wolverine.
Jackman’s “Logan” co-star, Patrick Stewart, will be playing Professor Charles Xavier for the seventh time, but his tenure, while just as long as Jackman’s, is not quite as impressive. Stewart is not the only actor to have taken on the role of Charles Xavier. James McAvoy took on the role in the 2011 X-Men prequel “X-Men: First Class.”
Stewart’s is definitely the more iconic of the two Xaviers, but McAvoy has added a lot to the role as well. Stewart also lacks his own trilogy of solo movies like Jackman does to help boost his superhero legacy.
The only actor who really has a shot to outdo what Jackman has done with Wolverine is Robert Downey Jr. in his portrayal of Iron Man. Downey Jr. began his superhero journey in 2008 and will continue to play Iron Man until at least 2019, but after that his contract with Marvel is up, and he may not put on his metal mask again. He has already hinted that he is ready to move on from the role, and it is a real possibility that we could see a new Iron Man in the not so distant future. If Downey Jr. were to end his run as Iron Man in 2019, it would still be a very impressive 11-year run, and he would forever be Iron Man in the eyes of many fans, but he won’t have outdone Jackman.
It will be sad to see Jackman hang up the unbreakable claws, but 17 years of Jackman’s Wolverine is worth celebrating. Logan is getting a lot of good reviews so far and is looking like it could be the best X-Men movie yet. I hope that this is the case and that Jackman’s final ride as Wolverine is a memorable one for all of us.