The X-Men franchise returns to theaters on June 7, this time focusing on the complex superhero Jean Grey a.k.a. Dark Phoenix (Sophie Turner). Jean was previously portrayed by Famke Janssen, in five X-Men movies that came out between 2000 and 2013. And the breakout character from those movies is Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, who received a spinoff series that included 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2013's The Wolverine, and 2017's Logan. But Wolverine didn't appear in Dark Phoenix's precursor, X-Men: Apocalypse after showing up in 2011's First Class and having a big role in 2014's Days of Future Past. So does Wolverine appear in Dark Phoenix? Don't expect a cameo this time around.
Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg revealed his reason for not wanting to involve Jackman's Wolverine in the new film. He explained to Rolling Stone that 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand factored into his decision to keep Wolverine out of Dark Phoenix, because that film included a love triangle between Cyclops (James Marsden), Wolverine, and Jean (Janssen). "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!" Kinberg said.
It's true that Jackman, who's 50 years old, wouldn't make the best romantic interest for Turner, who's 23. And while an age gap like that hasn't stopped Hollywood in the past, it's refreshing to know that this director kept that factor in mind.
Kinberg also told Rolling Stone, "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." He's right that Dark Phoenix is really all about Jean Grey and the change that she endures, and considering how popular Jackman's Wolverine has been over the years, his presence might complicate things unnecessarily.
On that note, however, it's frustrating to think that a film would need to omit certain male characters in order for its female protagonist to shine. Who's to say that Jackman would overshadow Turner in Dark Phoenix? The new film is already stacked with other major players enough to prove that even among a cast of shining stars — including James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and more — Turner can stand out like the phoenix she is.
Of course, the unspoken circumstance that likely explains why Wolverine won't appear in Dark Phoenix is that Jackman probably wouldn't want to do it. After Logan came out, Jackman told Entertainment Weekly that it would be the last time anyone sees him in the iconic superhero role. Logan, a dark and idiosyncratic superhero film, was the perfect sendoff for Wolverine — or at least Jackman's Wolverine. It's Jean's show now.