Hugh Jackman: Wolverine or Showman?

Hugh Jackman, the showman from down under has wowed the world with yet another fantastic film in The Greatest Showman. However, has his musical performances been overshadowed by his reprisal of the infamous mutant Wolverine, or does he finally have an opportunity to truly shine now that he's put the X-Men in his rear view mirror?

Hugh Jackman: Wolverine or Showman?


Whenever I see the name Hugh Jackman, my first thoughts go to X-Men's Wolverine. Although Jackman has had many outstanding performances throughout his illustrious career, his name has all but become synonymous with rippling muscles, overgrown sideburns and deadly, metal claws. His performance as Wolverine in the various comic book movie adaptations has become so iconic, it feels like blasphemy to even suggest someone else should reprise that role in the future. Much like Robert Downy Jr.'s Ironman, Hugh Jackman isn’t just the actor who played Wolverine, he IS Wolverine.

But, as with all good things, linger on it for too long and it begins to stagnate and eventually, the local vegetation will grab hold and turn you into part of the scenery. I thus believe it a good thing that Jackman is finally hanging up his claws instead of holding on to this role until we start hating him for it. Moving away from Wolverine now leaves the audience wanting more, and as all rock stars will agree, that's exactly where you want them.

During his time as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman has completely transformed his body to suit the character. Just look at the comparison between his first appearance X-Men (2000) and The Wolverine (2013) below and you should have a sliver of an idea just how much dedication he's put into this role. He's turning 50 later this year and no longer wishes to keep up such a demanding lifestyle, a decision anyone who follows even a moderate diet and exercise program can completely understand.

Hugh Jackman: Wolverine or Showman? Wolverine then and now.
I have to admit that I found the majority of the X-Men movies to range from bad to mediocre at best with only a few exceptions, and I know most of you will join me in wishing we could go back in time and stop X-Men Origins: Wolverine from ever being conceived. Despite the subpar material at his disposal, Hugh Jackman's performance as the clawed mutant has always been stellar and his last reprisal of the character in 2013's Logan showed that even as a muscle-bound brawler, he can do what most action heroes can't, add convincing emotion to his performance.

other notable roles

Many will argue that Jackman should attribute his fame and fortune to his part in the X-Men franchise, and when looking at his history, it is difficult to disagree. Perhaps he would have done just fine without ever stepping into Professor Xavier's school for the "gifted", perhaps not, but there's no mistaking that his role in 2000's X-Men was, for most viewers, his breakthrough performance.

However, Jackman has shown through his many years as an actor that he has quite the range and shortly after playing Wolverine for the first time he played a semi-geeky hacker in Swordfish and even tried his hand at romantic comedy alongside Meg Ryan in Kate and Leopold. He would return as Wolverine in several other films including X-Men 2, X-Men The Last Stand, X-Men Origins Wolverine, X-Men: First Class (if only briefly), X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Wolverine, X-Men Apocalypse and of course Logan.

The remainder of his most notable roles outside the Marvel Universe include the vampire killing Van Helsing, a scientist/magician in The Prestige, Captain Hook in Pan and he even went back to his home country to star in Australia alongside Nicole Kidman. Furthermore, he's done his fair share of voice acting in various animations including Flushed Away, Happy Feet and Rise of the Guardians. Finally, Hugh Jackman has shown his taste for the theatrical and several of his past movies were musicals such as Happy Feet, Les Misérables and one of his latest releases, The Greatest Showman, which we'll get to in just a moment.

I also, grudgingly have to mention a movie made in my home country, South Africa, called Chappie. South Africa doesn't have the best reputation, due to current happenings as well as past, and this movie certainly didn't do us any favors. If you are a fan of Hugh Jackman, foreign movies, or just prefer watching films that don't have you gagging on your own vomit then I suggest you stay away from this sad excuse for a cinematic production.

The Greatest showman

It's a lesser known fact that Hugh Jackman started his acting career in musical theater, something he has a great passion for. His performance in musicals like Les Misérables gave him a chance to go back to those days and he's proven that he has quite the musical talent. I'll admit that I didn't enjoy the cinematic version of Les Misérables very much, mostly because I didn't fully understand the need for the entire dialog to be done in song. I understand that this movie was seen as a masterpiece of the arts but to the average moviegoer, the artistic side of films simply isn't as important as sheer entertainment value which this film lacked for me.

Hugh Jackman: Wolverine or Showman? Could The Greatest Showman be Hugh Jackman's best performance yet?
However, his latest musical performance in The Greatest Showman has won me over entirely. This film proved that not only can Jackman hold a note, he can also move to the beat and shake it out with the best of them. Gone is the muscled figure we've come to know from him, this movie had him dive deep into the artistic side of his sole, and the results were nothing short of spectacular.

The Greatest Showman was not without its problems though. The story was completely predictable and cliche. Jackman plays a poor orphan who wins the heart of a rich girl. He finds success in show business, allows his success to overshadow his family which leads to him making all the wrong decisions. Of course there's another woman and finally, he returns with a pure heart to set things right. I'm also baffled by the casting of Eric Anderson as the circus' "Tallest Man". At 6", he's hardly what you would call enormous and instead of appearing gigantic, he merely looks like an average man walking on stilts. Since his character mostly fades into the background I would argue that a 7" plus actor would have been much more suited, even if they are lacking in the talent department.

On this flip side though, there were several things I adored about this movie. Zack Efron returns to his High School Musical days, this time with fewer hormones, and less hair. Zendaya has also done some growing up since her last role in Spider-Man Homecoming. In a few short months, she's gone from geeky teen to striking young woman and I thoroughly enjoyed her in this film.

But it was the production quality of The Greatest Showman that most impressed me. The cinematography and special effects were top notch and the choreography was truly phenomenal. After 1978's Grease the number of musicals I found enjoyable have been slim pickings but The Greatest Showman has been added to that very exclusive list. This film made me feel like I was in a theater, watching a live performance on stage, it was that good.


So, do I prefer Hugh Jackman as a dancing star or violent mutant? Honestly, I can't say. He has made it impossible for me to imagine anyone else playing Wolverine but I don't think I've enjoyed any of his films as much as The Greatest Showman.
That doesn't mean I want nothing but musical performances from him going forward, however. His performance in The Greatest Showman has merely proven to me that he can take on any role and make a success of it, which ranks him among my very favorite actors in the business today.

Whichever side of the fence you fall on, there's no denying that Hugh Jackman is a great entertainer and a vastly talented actor, and whatever he gets up to next, I can all but guarantee that it will be outstanding.

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