In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Penny and Leonard are returning from a movie, with Penny lamenting Leonard’s need to stay in the theatre till the end credits finished. “But what if there was a post-credits surprise?” he points out. “I don’t think that’s likely to happen in a Holocaust documentary, Leonard,” says Penny. Cue laughter track.
The TV show scene plays off the phenomenon of Hollywood movies (especially amongst superhero franchises, action thrillers and sometimes horror movies) of attaching an extra scene at the end of a movie. The scene is a teaser. It could be something that changes the ending altogether, or pave the way for a sequel. City Weekly critic Scott Renshaw commented on the potency of this post-credit teaser on Twitter: “Credit teasers are a microcosm of movie-news mentality: Potential is always more interesting than what's actually happening right now."
The Wolverine is no different. Fox has taken a cue from the segue ways that Marvel loves using. After our clawed superhero is done slashing his way through the bad guys, the credits roll, and a scene signals what lays in wait for X-Men fans next.
Warning: Spoilers ahead. No details of the Wolverine movie will be divulged, but the post-movie scene will be speculated on, thus possibly spoiling future movies for you.
The post-credits clip in The Wolverine begins with the Bollywoodesque time stamp of ‘Two years later.’ Hugh Jackman is at an airport, going through the security checks before boarding his flight. A television screen catches his eye – the news flashing is about the massive technological advances being made by Trask Industries. (For those unaware of the X-Men oeuvre, Trask is the name of Larry Trask, a mutant villain who blames the X-Men for the death of his father.)
Just then, metal objects begin floating around Wolverine. He spins around to come face to face with Magneto, the X-Men villain who had been stripped of his powers in X-Men: The Last Stand, and was only able to move a chess piece at the end of the movie.
Magneto gives Wolverine the endlessly familiar super villain rant: join me or perish in the huge calamity that is coming. Wolverine asks Magneto why he should trust him. Everyone around the duo stands completely still, and Magneto says that he knew Wolverine would be disbelieving, so he brought a friend along with him to prove it.
And then appears Charles Xavier, also known as professor X, who supposedly died in X-Men: The Last Stand. When Wolverine asks Xavier how he is alive, the professor says: “As I told you once before, you are not the only one with powers.”
The last scene is a strong lead in for X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is releasing in March next year. The Trask Industries seen in the television screen is the company that, in the comic books, creates the mutant-hunting robots called The Sentinels. Another confirmation is the fact that Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage has been confirmed as Bolivar Trask in the next X-Men.
Secondly, Charles Xavier is back from the dead. While this was vaguely hinted at in the end of X-Men: The Last Stand, this is the first actual confirmation. So did Xavier fake his death? Or did he actually – as the earlier movie hinted – transfer his consciousness to the body of his brain-dead brother?
As this article in Den of Geek points out, resurrection in superhero movies is a tricky business. Xavier’s death has to be explained within the inner logic of the movie in a way that doesn’t undermine any other deaths, leading to viewers thinking, “Oh well, he/she will probably come back to life,” for every future killing off.
But what the clip really signals how superhero franchises are shaping up today. Movie makers no longer expect movie-watchers to watch just one movie in their franchise; in fact, they make it hard to do so by entangling each installment with each other irrevocably. For example, if you were the one person in the universe who didn’t watch The Avengers, Iron Man’s post-traumatic stress disorder in Iron Man 3 is confusing at best. Same for The Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand. Movie makers are urging viewers to not only watch what comes next, but to make sure they watch whatever they might have missed earlier.
Xavier’s resurrection also reveals how, in the age of blockbusters and franchises, movie makers can’t allow anything to ever actually end, as pointed out in this article in IndieWire. Death can be negotiated, superhero powers will return and even villains don’t satisfactorily perish. All to make sure you’re back warming the movie hall seats next year for X-Men: Days of Future Past.