Summary

  • Hugh Jackman’s absence from the X-Men movie Dark Phoenix was likely due to concerns about the age gap between him and co-star Sophie Turner.
  • Director Simon Kinberg made the decision to exclude Wolverine from Dark Phoenix to prioritize Jean Grey’s story and avoid overshadowing her character.
  • Kinberg’s decision to focus on Jean Grey’s story and be sensitive to the optics of a large age gap is admirable, especially considering the lack of female-led films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


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Hugh Jackman, who has portrayed Marvel’s character Wolverine throughout the X-Men movies, has only been absent from one mainline X-Men movie, Dark Phoenix (2019), and for good reason. While Jackman hasn’t appeared in every X-Men spin-off film, including Deadpool 2 (2018) and The New Mutants (2020), the choice to not include Wolverine in Dark Phoenix is more notable, as the character was originally integral to the plot. The film sees Jean Grey become the Phoenix, but the character’s well-known love interest was missing.

Even outside the Jean Grey connection, though, Wolverine’s appearance was likely highly anticipated and even expected in Dark Phoenix because that character had come to represent such a massive part of the X-Men movie franchise. In fact, X-Men had become one of 20th Century Fox’s most prominent brands alongside industry heavy-hitters Star Wars and Avatar prior to Disney acquiring Fox in 2019, with Wolverine as one of the most popular character brands under that larger umbrella. That level of prestige and popularity, which only grew with each new film, makes it all the more interesting that Wolverine was left out of Dark Phoenix, suggesting how significant those concerns were.

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Why Dark Phoenix Is The Only Mainline X-Men Movie Without Wolverine

Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner fighting in X-Men Dark Phoenix

The decision to leave Jackman out had to do with a concern about the age gap between potential co-stars, Jackman and Sophie Turner. Jackman, now 55, would have been approximately 50 years old during Dark Phoenix, and Sophie Turner, 27 years his junior, would have been in her early 20s. Given that, it’s unsurprising that the love story was scrapped; it would likely have proved too jarring and become controversial.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Kinberg gave his rationale for this decision. He explained,

“If you know the Dark Phoenix story, you’d want to really service the love story between Logan and Jean. And I think the notion of Hugh Jackman, as great as he looks for his age, and Sophie Turner — it didn’t sit well with me. Or anyone else!”

This change is just as well, because that love story may well have crowded out Jean Grey’s origin story, in what was meant to be Turner’s breakout film as the character. Kinberg seemed equally aware of this potential pitfall, and that also weighed into his decision. He went on to say,

“There was an element of this being Jean’s story. And I was committing so fully to it that I didn’t want to run the risk of pulling away from Jean by going to the well of a fan-favorite character in these movies. I wanted this to be a very different experience of seeing an ‘X-Men’ movie.”

Why Dark Phoenix’s Wolverine Snub Was Right

Sophie Turner's Jean Grey using power in X-Men Dark Phoenix

Of course, that kind of age gap is not necessarily unusual in the film industry, so it’s interesting to see that Director Simon Kinberg elected not to follow suit and be a bit more sensitive to the optics of a 50-year-old man pursuing a 23-year-old woman. This was probably for the best, although it’s a pity that Dark Phoenix didn’t include Wolverine. The thoughtfulness over Wolverine undermining Sophie Turner’s leading role is, also, frankly admirable, particularly given that Marvel films, especially in the MCU, haven’t exactly offered up many female-led films in its last several Phases; they make up about 12% of the MCU’s feature films to date. It would be an excellent turn to see the MCU take note of Kinberg’s decision and apply the same interest in female heroes’ stories.

Wolverine did not appear in X-Men spin-offs Deadpool, Deadpool 2, or The New Mutants, but he will be part of the Deadpool 3 cast.

Of course, with the news that Wolverine will appear in Deadpool 3, and the confirmation that Deadpool has officially become part of the MCU, those points of connection are increasing. This is an exciting update to the MCU, as both the Deadpool films and the X-Men films have been massively popular and introduced a number of dynamic characters and exciting storylines.

Source: Rolling Stone

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