Warning. This post contains spoilers for X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men, X2, X-Men 3, Wolverine: Origins, X-Men: First Class and possibly X-Men movies that haven’t even been made yet. Read at your peril.
So I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past, fell in love and we are getting married in the spring. Honestly, really enjoyed that movie. My favourite of the X-Men franchise so far, and probably my favourite comic book movie of the year. Now, I said “favourite”, not necessarily “best”. Captain America 2 had a tighter script, whereas DFP will have your brain swerving like an articulated truck driven by a drunken monkey to avoid all the plot holes. And I’m not even talking about the inevitable stuff that comes with a time-travel story, as I mentioned in the Meet the Robinsons review there is really no way to do a “travel back in time to save the future story” that makes logical sense. No, this is just basic inconsistencies with how different mutants’ powers work, and seriously bad science. And yet, I enjoyed this movie so much, even more that Cap 2. It moves around at a great clip, there’s some great gags and character moments and it has one phenomenal prison escape scene and also one of the most flat out jaw-dropping effects shots I can remember seeing since I don’t know when. Also, there’s James McEvoy, rapidly becoming one of my favourite actors, giving an absolutely beautiful performance as a young, embittered, broken Charles Xavier that I honestly think would be getting Oscar buzz if it was in a movie with fewer giant flying robots. But there’s a question that’s raised by the movie’s ending that I want to talk about, and to do that I need to spoil pretty much everything about the movie. It concerns six little things that completely changed the entire Marvel universe, and many would argue for the worst.
I refer of course, to Wolverine’s claws.
Alright, you all know Wolverine right? One of the most famous superheroes in pop-culture. Canadian mutant with enhanced senses, heals really quick, metal skeleton and razor sharp claws. He’s one of Marvel’s top tier characters, and also the youngest, being created not in the forties or sixties but in 1974. Wolverine was introduced as an antagonist for the Incredible Hulk, and then was brought into the second, multinational iteration of the X-Men where he quickly became a breakout star. At the time, Wolverine was unique, a snarling, foul-tempered anti-hero who didn’t play nice with others. Other Marvel teams had had their loose cannons before (The Thing in the Fantastic Four, Hawkeye in the Avengers) but they were mostly harmless hotheads. Wolverine seemed genuinely dangerous. And then there were the claws. Instantly iconic, undeniably cool looking and really, really, really dangerous.
The Irish Times did this feature called “A History of Ireland in 100 Objects” where they would do an article every week on a different artefact, starting with a 7,000 year old Stone Age fish trap and finishing with a decommissioned IRA weapon, using the history of these objects to tell the story of the entire nation. If you did something similar with the Marvel Universe, Wolverine’s claws would represent a pivotal turning point. You see, unlike say, Spiderman’s webbing or Captain America’s shield, it’s very hard to find a non-lethal way to use razor sharp unbreakable metal claws as a weapon. Given their nature, it was pretty much inevitable that Wolverine would eventually kill somebody, and he did. And then he did it again. And then a bunch more times. Basically, Wolverine became the first major Marvel hero to routinely resort to lethal force and his popularity led to a darkening of the whole Marvel universe and I would argue the DC universe as well. Wolverine is patient zero in what is called the Dark Age of Comics, that cursed era of brooding, angsty, sociopaths, masquerading as heroes. Claws were ubiquitous. Cigar use increased exponentially. The haircut situation was grim. Every team in the nineties had “a Wolverine”, and if they were written by Rob Liefeld they most likely had five or six. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the claws themselves. Where did they come from?
Wolverine’s skeleton was coated in unbreakable adamantium by a shady government operation that wanted to see what would happen if someone had an unbreakable skeleton and also couldn’t create red blood cells or lymphocytes. And for a long time, it was assumed by fans that Wolverine got the claws as part of that experiment. The limited series Weapon X, which showed the experiment itself, seemed to back that up. When Wolverine is abducted he tries to fight off his attackers by punching them and doesn’t seem to have the claws, which only appear after the adamantium is bonded to his skeleton. But then much later, in X-Men #25, the adamantium is ripped from Wolverine’s bones by perennial X-Men foe Magneto.
It was then revealed that the claws are actually bone, and part of Wolverine’s natural anatomy which has been the consensus ever since. So, why am I bringing this up? Well, let’s go back to Days of Future Past. So the plot of the movie involves the X-Men of the future, who are losing a genocidal war against the robot Sentinels (because there are no good futures in the Marvel universe) sending Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to the nineteen seventies to his old body to change history. So, Wolverine wakes up in his old body in a time when that hairstyle is actually in fashion and quickly discovers that his claws are now bone. See, in the movies, Wolverine got the adamantium later on from a military guy called William Stryker. This was all covered in X-Men Origins: Wolverine which I’ve just saved you from having to watch. Here’s the tip jar.
So, wacky time travel hijinks ensue that results in history being changed and Wolverine waking up back in the present where Xavier’s school is thriving, Cyclops and Jean Grey (who died in X-Men 3) are still alive and basically everything is gravy. The movie then flashes back to the nineteen seventies, where seventies Wolverine, almost dead after the final battle, is being taken into custody by William Stryker.
Aha! Says the audience. So, now Stryker is going to experiment on Wolverine and give him the adamantium claws thereby creating the Wolverine we know and love.
But then, in a final twist, Stryker’s eyes go yellow, showing that he’s not actually Stryker but Mystique in disguise!
Ah..huh? says the audience. Wait a minute, that doesn’t make any sense! Does that mean that it was Mystique, and not Stryker who actually grafted the adamantium onto Wolverine? Why would she do that? (In the movies, Mystique is not a villain but a morally ambiguous hero who is actually working to prevent mutant experimentation so this would make no sense for her character). The only logical explanation is that Mystique is here to rescue Wolverine and set him free. So…does that mean Wolverine never gets his adamantium claws? Does the Wolverine in the new, all-gravy future still have bone claws? As I watched it I thought that Bryan Singer had goofed, and that in his attempt to give the audience one last twist, he’d actually created a massive plothole. But now I think this is actually a clue as to what we can expect in the next X-Men movie. In fact, I’m willing to bet money on it.
See, after that final scene there is of course the mandatory post-credits stinger.
Okay, seriously, if you’re an X-Men fan and haven’t seen this movie yet, stop reading now, because this is the biggest spoiler of them all.
Okay, so the final post-credits sequence shows a desert, presumably in Ancient Egypt where a young man stands before a massive crowd who solemnly chant “En Sabah Nur” while he builds Pyramids in the distance with his mind. And over the young man’s should, four figures watch ominously in the distance. Who is this young man? En Sabah Nur is this guy:
Apocalypse. The ultimate X-Men villain. Baddest of the bad. He’s a nearly omnipotent, immortal mutant who has a habit of recruiting mutants to be his “Four Horsemen”, those four figures we see in the distance. Now, remember how I said that Wolverine lost his adamantium in the comics? Well, he eventually got it back. Because he was brainwashed by Apocalypse into being one of his horsemen and had adamantium re-bonded to his skeleton. So in answer to the question: does Wolverine now have bone claws, the answer is “Yes”.
But if If they’re going where I think they’re going, not for very long…