The Future of Wolverine in the X-Men Films

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I’m a die hard X-Men fan, and even the bad press of X-Men: Apocalypse couldn’t keep me away from the theatre on opening day. I wasn’t as let down as I thought I might be—the performances really saved a lot of the movie (which is a recurring theme for the franchise). But the best part was by far the after credit scene.

Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for X-Men: Apocalypse.

Midpoint in the film, Mystique, Beast, Quicksilver, and Moira MacTaggert are held hostage by William Styker in the Weapon X facility inside the dam at Alkali Lake (seen previously in X2). Xavier students Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler aid in their escape by releasing a newly weaponized Wolverine free in the compound. Logan slashes his way through scientists and armed guards, leaving blood, bullets, and bodies behind as he runs to safety in the snowy Canadian terrain. (This small detour from the plot is not mentioned again at all—the only purpose for it was so the team could acquire a new jet plane and fan service.)

The aftermath of an unleashed Wolverine

After the credits, we go back to the Weapon X base where people in—I wanna say, painter’s coveralls—are cleaning up after Logan’s big attack and escape. A man in a suit walks through the ruin and gathers up all of the remaining Weapon X data, including x-rays and a blood sample. He places them in a briefcase, closes and secures the lid, which says “ESSEX CORP.” by the latch. But what does this mean?

Well, I know exactly what it means! For awhile now, Hugh Jackman has said that he will be shelving his claws after the third installment of a (yet to be titled) solo Wolverine movie (set to release in 2017). Fox has built a franchise around the character of Logan, so alarm bells must have blared when execs heard this. How would they continue when their most notable actor/character was leaving? Would they risk recasting? It worked well with the recent trilogy, so why not?

Thank God for Marvel comics for supplying a better option than forcing Fox to believe they had to recycle an old story. Earlier this year, Laura Kinney, Logan’s clone/daughter/genetic twin, successfully transitioned to the role of Wolverine.

In mid April, Project Casting released a casting call for stand-ins and photo doubles for the upcoming Wolverine 3 (which furthered many to speculate):

STAND-INSSeeking Caucasian, Hispanic and Asian looking females over the age of 21 who are between the height of 4’0-4’11, size 0-4, with dark brown hair.

PHOTO DOUBLESSeeking Caucasian, Hispanic and Asian looking female children age 6-13 who are between the height of 4’2-4’5 with dark brown hair.

In early May, leading up to Apocalypse’s release, director Bryan Singer said that he “actually initially pitched the X-Force and the female” to Fox, referring to X-23. So it seems that the franchise know exactly what to do with the next iteration of Wolverine. And I’m for it.

But what does this have to do with the ending of X-Men: Apocalypse? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.

Laura Kinney was cloned from a damaged DNA sample of James “Logan” Howlett in an attempt to recreate the original Weapon X. The Y chromosome was destroyed beyond repair, and minor damage was done to select autosomes. It wasn’t until geneticist Sarah Kinney—who would later become Laura’s surrogate mother and primary caregiver at The Facility—convinced the team to abandon constructing a new Y chromosome and just duplicate the remaining X chromosome. It took 22 failed attempts to generate a successful product, thus the name X-23.

X-23 during her Weapon X training (X-23: Target X #1)

Dr. Martin Sutter, who worked on the original Weapon X program, was head of The Facility, the top-secret organization that conceived X-23. His second in command was Dr. Zander Rice, whose father also worked on Weapon X, and was killed by Logan during his escape. Zander became resentful towards Laura over the death of his father and carried that outlook over into his work, finding joy in torturing her.

Dr. Zander Rice being the absolute worst

Dr. Zander Rice being the absolute worst (X-23 vol.1 #2)

But what does this all have to do with Laura in the X-Men films? Well, I’ll tell you.

No doubt the “Essex” of Essex Corp. is referring to Nathaniel Essex, better known as Mister Sinister. Originally a biologist from Victorian England, Dr. Essex was obsessed with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution—except he took it one step further. Noticing a rise in human mutations, Dr. Essex believed that the progeny of certain genetically superior individuals would trigger a further increase in these mutations. All in all, he was really into eugenics. The mutant Apocalypse saw Dr. Essex’s work and transformed him into Mister Sinister, so he could continue and understand further the extent of mutants. Apocalypse saw his beliefs of a homo superior-dominant world were mirrored in Dr. Essex, and—by mutating him so he could live longer and be more resilient—they could reach that goal together. (Obviously, this wouldn’t be the case in this film— if you’ve watched X-Men: Apocalypse and know what happened early in the film to the titular villain.)

Nathaniel Essex

Nathaniel Essex

In the comics, Sinister focused a lot of his practices on the Grey-Summers family tree, but since most of the films are so Wolverine-centered, I believe that Essex will abandon Nate “X-Man” Grey in hopes of creating Laura “X-23” Kinney! So the question is, will Essex take on a more Dr. Sutter role, and just oversee the project, or will be hands-on like Dr. Rice?

Essex will more likely be a Sutter-type character as the company is named after him. But Mister Sinister is known for his unethical experiments on humans and mutants—living and dead. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that Essex would be in the labs assisting with the science. Sinister even worked on the original Weapon X project under the guise of “Dr. Robert Windsor,” so why not repeat that method in the movieverse?

A huge question any X-23 fan might ask though is, how will it come to be that she is made biologically female? The reason Laura was female in the comics was because of that damage done to the Y chromosome of Weapon X’s DNA. However, in X-Men: Evolution, X-23’s first ever appearance, no reason was given to why she was made female. Maybe the films will go with that logic of “who cares” or hastily construct a narrative with more reasoning than that.

The story right now is that X-23 will make her silver screen debut in Wolverine 3. Another rumoured character to appear is Dr. Abraham Cornelius, who was also a part of the original Weapon X project and had a hand in creating X-23 in the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon. All of this Weapon X talk can lead many to think that Wolverine 3 might have Logan returning to where he was transformed. And possibly righting some wrongs that were done in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Dr. Abraham Cornelius and X-23 in Wolverine and the X-Men

Hugh Jackman teased fans back in 2015 at San Diego Comic Con with three small words: Old Man Logan. Comic book writer Mark Millar confirmed speculations later that year, explaining that his story could be done with the limited Marvel cast that Fox can use:

“The way I worked that thing is I actually structured it as, I broke it down mechanically—I figured out going from this part of America to that part of America and what he would encounter along the way, and then I added in the adversities later. Basically Wolverine doing The Road movie is the important thing and he has a friend […] with him.”

Millar suggested that a visor-less Cyclops could take the place of a blind Hawkeye from the comics, but with the booming success of Deadpool, I think it would be more likely that we’ll see the Merc with a Mouth rather than a B-character from the movies. The concept of a road trip movie starring Wolvie and Deadpool will certainly attract fans, and their competing personalities will add to the hilarity. Plus, we already know Wade’s position on mad scientists if the film does go down the Weapon X route.

But back to X-23. What will Laura’s relationship be with Logan in the movies? In her origin story, X-23 sought out Logan in hopes of destroying both him and herself. She views them as nothing more than weapons who only destroy and ruin lives—that the world would be better without either of them. It’s a bittersweet relationship they share throughout the comics, because Logan wants Laura to heal from her past, but knows firsthand how hard it is.

Laura and Logan’s first encounter (X-23: Target X #6)

Recently, in early June, The Hashtag Show obtained information about a mysterious young female character in the upcoming Wolverine 3 that could be X-23.

Code Name: Zoe

12-to-15 year-old girl

A pound puppy, raised in captivity in a time of battle, without support systems of a normal childhood.

She has no family and until now, has never left the compound in which she was born.

She has an authentic intensity—her expressions & body language speak volumes, without words.

Once released in the outside world, everything is new, every experience and every image a first.

This does not mean everything is wonderful or wondrous. Some thing she sees (things we might regard as conventional) may scare her or anger her and things we may find interesting may bore her.

She has not been instructed in many social conventions—she can eat like an animal. She studies and often mimics people’s behaviour.

She has a high IQ, but is also a temperamental, impulsive and feral creature that can raise genuine mayhem.

She is a girl that has never been kissed. Looking for a real girl—not made up or done up. Also with genuine edge, not made up or put on.

Martial arts or gymnastics experience preferred but not necessary—but actress must be extremely physical and able to improvise scenes without necessarily resorting to speech. Do not play it “cute.”

Within the same 24 hours, Just Jared posted leaked images from the Wolverine 3 set of an “Old Man Logan” looking Jackman, Patrick Stewart (reprising his role as Professor X), and a young girl.

Logan and Laura’s relationship in the comics (Earth-616) started after she escaped from The Facility and her time in New York. She was already a teenager, and not so young as this actor appears to be. So these set photos lead me to believe that their rapport will not be like it is in the mainstream universe, but more like the universe that Old Man Logan is from (Earth-807128). This close relationship was hinted at in the latest issue of All-New Wolverine, which ties into Civil War II.

All-New Wolverine #9

All-New Wolverine #9

Not everything can be like the comics though. The Facility used Laura as an assassin, but that might not be her part at Essex Corp. If the The Hashtag Show is correct in assuming this “Zoe” character is actually X-23, the narrative of her having “never left the compound in which she was born” doesn’t really fit with her Earth-616 origin, as she did leave for missions. And as for being “impulsive” and a “feral creature,” that’s been more Logan’s deal, not Laura’s. Although she is known for mimicking other people’s behaviour and body language, she’s normally very reserved when not in a fight.

X-23’s past with Mister Sinister in-comics has been rocky at best. How much will Laura’s character change for the films with the inclusion of Dr. Essex and what will their rapport be like because of it? As much as I like to believe my ideas are right, everything at this point is conjecture until the movie is release in 2017.

As a huge fan of Laura Kinney, I want her to be an equal to Logan in every way in Wolverine 3, which to me means equally represented in the film. If the rumors are true that X-23 will replace Logan in the films as Wolverine, then it’s not too much to expect they are valued the same on screen in every way possible. They should be matched in fighting skills (or Laura should be better as she is in the comics), have as much sway over plot direction (not just “what Logan wants, he gets”), and—at bare minimum—equal screen time. (And a major part of me wants to see Sarah Kinney. I need to see a positive maternal/female role model relationship in a superhero movie. Stat.)

Sarah Kinney

Sarah Kinney (X-23 vol.1 #2, #5, and #6 & X-23: Target X #1)

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About Author

Chloe transferred into film and creative writing during university (for the job stability) after years of informal training in fine arts. She has a deep love of the X-Men and any sci-fi/fantasy story that's rooted in eschatology.

2 Comments

  1. Ginnis Tonik on

    Oooh, this is exciting and hopefully will play out in support of a dynamic female character. I was wondering about the end of the film as I don’t know too much about the x-men, so thanks for the insight!