If all good things must come to an end, it should be no surprise that Patrick Stewart has announced Logan will mark his last appearance as Professor X. But it is a surprise, not least because just last week Stewart was talking about not saying goodbye yet. So, what changed his mind? And how does this affect future X-Men movies?
Professor X No Longer
Throughout the Logan press tour, we heard all about the fact that Hugh Jackman was leaving, but Patrick Stewart seemed game for more movies.
When asked whether Charles Xavier would appear in Deadpool 2, he told Entertainment Tonight, “Hugh has raised the flag that says goodbye. I haven’t done that yet.”
That article was posted Feb. 15, but word broke Feb. 24 that Stewart was saying goodbye to the franchise for good.
What changed in those 9 days?
Apparently, Stewart watched Logan, and it was so good that he decided his time in the X-Men franchise had come to an end.
He broke the news at a SiriusXM Town Hall with Jackman and Logan director and co-writer James Mangold. Stewart said:
“A week ago, Friday night in Berlin, the three of us sat, watching the movie, and I was so moved by it, much more moved than I had been the first time of seeing it. Maybe it was the company of these two guys, but the movie ended and — this is an admission — but at one point [Hugh] reached out, and he took my hand in those last few minutes, and I saw him go [mimes wiping a tear from his eye] like this, and then I realized I had just done the same thing. Then, the movie ended… and we were going to be taken up on stage, but not until the credits were over. So, we had some time to sit there and, as I sat there I realized there will never be a better, a more perfect, a more sensitive, emotional, and beautiful way of saying au revoir to Charles Xavier than this movie. So, I told [Hugh] that same evening, ‘I’m done too. It’s all over.’”
For X-Men fans, who’ve seen Stewart in the role since 2000’s X-Men, it’s an abrupt and devastating about-face, but is this the best decision for the franchise?
Saying Goodbye to Professor X
Honestly, based on what we know so far about Logan, it’s hard to see where Professor X would fit in the rest of the movies anyway. Presumably, Stewart could have done cameos, but to what end?
Logan features a Professor X who’s losing his grip on his memory. Sometimes Charles doesn’t even remember Logan, and Mangold implied in an interview with Empire that Charles’s powers might be fading too.
In Logan, Professor X has a little bit of hair because, as Mangold says, “the theory was that he originally lost all his hair because it’s just too damn busy [in his head] to grow hair – the idea for me was, well, maybe there’s a little fringe on there because things are slowing down mentally.”
It’s hard to see how Charles’s characterization in Logan could lead to anything but an ending for the character.
Although Logan is set in 2029 and could be easily displaced from other movies in the X-Men franchise, like Deadpool, a move like that could confuse the casual moviegoer or even smack of simple fan service.
Fan service is, to be fair, a major portion of superhero movies, and it’s not entirely unwelcome. But it’s been 17 years and six movies since Stewart started playing Charles Xavier. At this point, a well-rounded character arc is deserved, and the best character arcs have a beginning, middle, and end.
In this day and age of remakes and reboots, characters rarely get to rest and resonate anymore. Charles Xavier can be one character who gets an ending – until we reboot the series again in 20 years.
Can X-Men Survive Without Professor X?
Patrick Stewart’s decision to step down from the role, of course, leaves a hole in the X-Men franchise. Will we ever see Charles Xavier onscreen again?
James McAvoy has been playing the role in the prequel series, including X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse. But that last film was also the last film on McAvoy’s contract, so it’s unclear at this point if he’ll be returning for the next film in the series.
The next film, X-Men: Supernova, is rumored to cover the Dark Phoenix storyline where Jean Grey is transformed into Phoenix and becomes villainous when the full potential of her mutant powers is unleashed. A version of the story appears in X-Men: The Last Stand.
The problem with Supernova potentially being a Dark Phoenix movie is that Charles Xavier is pretty damn important in resolving the plot. The professor uses his own power to return Jean to her original personality.
Without Stewart and potentially without McAvoy, the X-Men franchise would be in search of a new Professor X. Could audiences accept a new actor in the role? If they couldn’t, could the X-Men franchise live on?