There's a ton of good stuff in "The Wolverine" – hello, ninjas! – but perhaps the coolest part of the film takes place after the credits roll.
Two years after Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) has taken care of said ninjas, a giant semi-robotic samurai, and the foul-mouthed, green-leotarded Viper, our hero finds himself standing in line at an airport metal detector. He looks up to see a TV playing a commercial advertising Trask Industries (the company infamous for launching the Sentinels, who will be hunting down mutants in next summer's "X-Men: Days of Future Past").
Wisely, Logan requests the pat-down treatment. As tense music swells, Logan's senses perk up while coins and other metallic objects shake furiously. Logan's witnessed this scene too many times before and instinctively unleashes his claws, though they are no longer sheathed in adamantium, thanks to that pesky samurai.
Logan turns around to find Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen) staring him right in the face. With a twitch, Magneto stops Wolverine in his tracks, commanding the adamantium that still flows in Logan's blood. Obviously Magneto has recovered nicely from being injected with the mutant "cure," which we saw at the end of "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006).
"There are dark forces moving," says Magneto, "New forces, building a weapon that could bring about the end of our talent. Logan, I want your help."
"Why would I trust you?" asks Wolverine, through clenched teeth (which have pretty much been clenched the entire movie).
"You wouldn't," answers Magneto. He twitches again, freeing up Logan to turn around and see Professor X (Sir Patrick Stewart), rolling up in his wheel chair, still apparently very much alive.
As you might recall, Professor Charles Xavier didn't exactly have a glorious end to "The Last Stand" either, having been vaporized by Phoenix, aka Jean Grey (aka Famke Janssen, aka Logan's long-lost love who serves as a scantily clad plot device in "The Wolverine").
"How is this possible?" Logan wonders aloud.
"As I told you a long time ago, you're not the only one with gifts," answers Professor X.
Boom! And that's how you tease the next film: by giving us so much to chew on, yet so few answers. So, let the chewing begin!
We recently asked director James Mangold about the scene. "We made a more serious film, so if we were going to have something waiting for audiences in the backend of the film, I wanted it to be something equally serious and pretentious that kind of led you toward, perhaps, the next film," said Mangold.
Indeed, it's safe to say we're properly set up for "Days of Future Past," as Jackman's statement at "The Wolverine" Comic-Con press conference certainly corroborates: "The character you see at the end of Wolverine is very much the character you see at the beginning of 'Days of Future Past.'"
The next X-Men film is based – perhaps loosely, perhaps not – on a popular story arc in Marvel's "The Uncanny X-Men" #141 and #142, published in 1981. In the comics, the mutant Kitty Pryde sends her adult consciousness into her younger self in order to prevent an anti-mutant dystopian future.
In the film, Logan will be taking Pryde's place.
"Basically, the notion is that Wolverine of the future, his consciousness is sent into his younger self. And it's nice because Hugh is able to play both parts, because the character of Wolverine is ageless," said "Future Past" director Bryan Singer, who also directed the first two X-men movies, in 2000 and 2003.
What this really means is we get to see all the old X-Men in the same film as all the new ones we recently met in "X-Men: First Class" (2011).
"Since Wolverine is the journeymen, his interaction with the younger cast is primary," Singer said at the film's Comic-con press conference.
Perhaps Jackman dropped an even bigger hint at the press conference: "In honest truth, this movie is two great movies in one."
But none of this really answers the biggest question of all, namely, how the heck is Professor X still alive?
"I heard about this movie and I was immediately filled with such sadness, because most of you probably won't recall, but at the end of [X-Men] Three, I was vaporized by Jean Grey," said Stewart.
"There's a beat at the end of 'X-Men 3' after the credits, when his consciousness is sort of inside of this woman in a hospital, and then you take that, and you mix it with some powerful mutants – and new mutants can do a lot of cool stuff – so you can imagine, anything's possible," said Singer.
Oh, we can imagine a lot of possibilities. And thanks to "The Wolverine" post-credits scene, May 23, 2014 – the opening day of "X-Men: Days of Future Past" – seems a LONG way off.
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