Tuesday, August 17, 2010


A whole slew of news has recently dropped regarding X-Men: First Class. We have know for a while now that violence extraordinaire Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake) will be in the director seat for this X-Men project profiling the younger versions of Magneto and Professor Xavier. This movie will feature the two men before they were defined by circumstances that caused them to go in two very different directions in human/mutant relations. Erik Lensherr, or Magneto as he is known, takes the route of mutant superiority. Charles Xaiver decidedly chooses to believe that humans and mutants can live in harmony and founded the School for Gifted Youngsters which in turn helps formulate the X-Men.

Enough of the background info, on to the news. Much has happened in the past few days casting-wise, helping to round out the already stellar looking ensemble. Old news is the role of Professor X being played by one of my favorite young actors, James McAvoy (Wanted). Magneto is being played by an underrated but not unknown actor Michael Fassbender. Many of you may remember him as the seemingly maniacal Spartan soldier in 300 laughing as the rain shower of Persian arrows pelted the warriors hiding behind their shields. It was also reported awhile back that the stunning Alice Eve was in negotiations to take the role of Emma Frost. If you were among the people to check out She's Out of My League, you could not miss her as the blonde bombshell lead Molly. Fingers crossed that she lands the role.

A few days back it was reported via ComingSoon that Jason Flemyng will join the X-Men: First Class crop of talent as Azazel, a teleportation specialist who later becomes Nightcrawler's father. Flemyng has worked with Vaughn on Kick-Ass and Layer Cake, and also was part of one of my favorite movies The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I have always loved the character Nightcrawler because of his awesome mutant power, but his father Azazel possesses even more useful abilities like bolts of paralysis and destructive energy that can cause disintegration. Flemyng like the other castings, seems like a perfect fit.

Just yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter learned that Rose Byrne is in negotiations to play the role of a Scottish character named Moira MacTaggert. In the X-Men series, she was Professor Xavier's closest friend, confidant, and at one time, fiancé. Just like Xavier, Moira is adamant about creating positive human/mutant relations. She even creates her own research facility on Muir Island to better understand the genetic mutations that affect so many of the world's citizens.

I personally think Rose Byrne would be perfect for this role. She is not only very talented, but I honestly can picture her playing the role while adorned in a white lab coat just like the X-Men animated television series. Byrne is most know for her role in the FX show Damages, but has been in films like Troy, Sunshine, and most recently Get Him to the Greek.

While Rose Byre is not officially signed onto the project (Rosamund Pike has also been in talks with Fox and has been rumored to play the part), the biggest casting rumor comes from the part of Cyclops, or Scott Summers as he is known amongst the humans. The buzz around town has been that Aaron Johnson, star of Vaughn's Kick-Ass, would be playing the role of Cyclops. This report is over a month old, and we still have no confirmation on who will be playing the Cyclops role. Does this mean Johnson is in the running with other candidates to play the role while Fox ponders their choices? Johnson's casting has been dismissed, but not completely disregarded.  No other actors have been mentioned to play the part, but when Cyclops is cast, you will hear it from me.

Rounding out the bill is the aging (but still $) Kevin Bacon, who is set to play the villain in the film. His name is rumored to be Sebastian Shaw, but no official word has been dropped yet. Nicholas Hoult is set to play Hank McCoy aka Beast. This will be intriguing to fans seeing the younger days of this blue haired mutant. Also signed on is the young Lucas Till (Walk the Line) playing Scott Summers brother, Alex Summers, who goes by the mutant name Havoc. Lastly, Deadline reports the talented Oliver Platt is joining the squad as a non-mutant character called The Man in Black (LOST anyone?).

Lastly, I wanted to talk a bit about Matthew Vaughn and how his role in the production of this film should make it the best yet. Consider me among the few, but I personally did not really like any of the X-Men movies. The first was decent, and the second more of the same; but the third and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were slanderous upon the great Marvel name. The only reason I sort of enjoyed those two movies was because I have been an X-Men fan my whole life. Watching all four of those movies I never really got the feel that the movies were taking themselves seriously. None of the films tried to leave the glitz and glamor of a Hollywood production to enter the dark, gritty world where I think the X-Men story resides.

In this X-Men universe you have the war of segregation forced upon mutants by humans, much like the Civil Rights Movement or the Holocaust, but obviously much less life-like. But the real story in this narrative is focused on the mutants who want to straddle both sides of the battle lines, and act as diplomats to the humans and a police force among the mutants. While the first movies do feature mutant restrictions and a forced mutant registry, as I stated above, it never felt like these films were taking it as seriously as they should have. Another thing that made those movies feel less realistic is the absence of any real violence. One example is Wolverine owning a pair of indestructible claws, but never drawing blood from his enemies. My hope is for more hardcore type violence from Vaughn and Co. in X-Men: First Class.

Vaughn, like Christopher Nolan, seems to be a mind that understands how superhero movies should be made; imagined in a world a fiction, but based in a world of reality. Many of you don't know, but Vaughn was actually hired to direct X-Men: The Last Stand, but backed out very late in pre-production. Here are his thoughts on the matter from an interview with the Telegraph.

What happened with X-Men was I didn’t have the time to make the movie that I wanted to make. I had a vision for how it should be, and I wanted to make sure I was making a film as good as X-Men 2, and I knew there was no way it could be. I just suddenly knew it wasn’t the right thing for me to do. It was a tough decision because it was a hell of an opportunity. But I was trying to make a career as a director, and I didn’t want to be the guy accused of making a bad X-Men movie.

While Vaughn and I disagree about the quality of X2: X-Men United, I still think the above statement can be nothing but music to the Marvel fans' ears. A director, turning down a movie in the last stages of pre-production, simply because he didn't feel the studio was giving him the ample opportunity to create a product he was proud of. Studios often times pull this ace out of their sleeves because they finance the movies, and usually want to manipulate the product however possible to maximize profits. Vaughn obviously knows this. I am confident to say that he wouldn't take the reigns of X-Men: First Class unless the studio entrusted him with the key to the "X-Men city", allowing him to give the film his own creative touch.

Vaughn discusses in an LA Times interview that he wanted to direct X-Men: First Class because he knew this might be his last chance to direct a big-budget superhero movie, something he has aspired to do for a long time. Why might this be his last chance?

I think we’ve kind of crossed the Rubicon with superhero films. It’s been mined to death and in some cases the quality control is not what it’s supposed to be. People are just going to get bored of it. I think [the opportunity to do one], it’s only going to be there two or three more times. Then, the genre is going to be dead for a while because the audience has just been pummeled too much. It is a crowded room. It’s too crowded.

Vaughn is a man who tells it like it is. Of course with the overload of superhero flicks people are going to grow tired of poorly made products like Spider-Man 3, DareDevil, and Catwoman. The public never goes out of their way to consume cheap products, especially ones they have to pay a pretty penny for. With studios jamming 3D down our throats, people are even less inclined to give sub-par movies their hard earned money.

While I agree audiences are possibly growing weary of the superhero genre, I will counter by saying that the movie-going public with never cease their appetite for well made movies in the genre. Who would have ever thought Batman could be resuscitated after the atrocious attempt Joel Schumacher made at the series with Batman and Robin? As long as the great superhero movies are still being produced, the American public will never cease to engorge themselves with the genre. Though the may want less of the superhero fad, the quality projects will always have staying power.

Vaughn has worked hard to only attach his name to work he can be proud of which is shown by his comment on X-Men: The Last Stand in his interview with the Telegraph:

As it happens, I could have made something a hundred times better than the film that was eventually made. It sounds arrogant, but I could have done something with far more emotion and heart.

I have to say, Vaughn has balls. To publicly criticize a movie in a franchise you are about to become a part of, to say the least, is bold. Not many names in the Hollywood landscape would go as far to say what Vaughn did, but I think he definitely has the right approach to making this movie. I believe Vaughn will make the best X-Men yet, but that is coming from someone who didn't personally like the first four.

Vaughn has that type of personality that wants a superhero movie to be believable, a mindset that I believe produces the best type of superhero movies. He likes to focus on his characters, and I would guess he will highlight their internal struggles as well as the outward pressure of being a mutant (something I felt the first movies really missed in their kaleidoscope of mutants). But now with all he has said, Vaughn has put some pressure on his own shoulders to make the best X-Men yet. Doesn't seem like he would have it any other way. I know I wouldn't.

X-Men: First Class starts filming in less than a month, and hits theaters June 3rd, 2011.


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