Original "X-Men" Director and "X-Men: First Class" producer Bryan Singer and Harry have a relationship that goes waaaaaaaaay back to the start of both the site and Bryan's career as a filmmaker. And it's as simple as Harry feels a great affection for Bryan's work, start to finish, and Bryan seems to like talking to Harry.
And when they talk, it usually results in Bryan spilling the beans in a major way, and that's what happened again. Harry just wrote it up, and it is a vintage Ain't It Cool special. Harry lays out a lot of the film's big ideas, pretty much exactly as Bryan voiced them to him. It's not a critical piece... it's pure pitch, and as a pitch, it's a pretty radical shift for the series.
I'm a fairly on-the-record fan of Matthew Vaughn as a director, and I know he was disappointed on a creative and a personal level when "X-Men 3" didn't happen. So far, it appears he's been able to bring his entire creative team with him to the project, and that's very good news. I've long considered his partnership with screenwriter Jane Goldman to be one of the "secrets" of why Matthew Vaughn's done so well with his three films so far. And the same is true of his producer Tarquin Pack. And the same is true of his cinematographer, his sound guy, his costume and make-up people... Matthew's from that British tradition of the rep company, the people you keep employed and fed and working and prosperous, and who work their asses off for you in return. He gets better and better as a director because they work together better and better as a team each time. I'm really pleased to see they're shooting this in London and not in Vancouver or in Los Angeles, and not because I have an issue with those cities... it's just that a London shoot would indicate that this is Matthew's movie.
So what movie is it, exactly? Well, according to Harry, it's set in the '60s, in the era of the initials... MLK and JFK and RFK and Malcolm X... and James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are playing young Xavier and young Erik, the men who will become Professor X and Magneto. They're not there... not yet... but they're getting radicalized. The times, they are a-changin', evidently.
We'll see Xavier walking. We'll see what puts him in a wheelchair. And we'll meet the Hellfire Club, the film's villains, which is a pretty big move. That's where Kevin Bacon comes in as Sebastian Shaw. Which opens up a ton of supporting cast on both sides of the equation.
This isn't the Singer franchise. It's not a reboot, either. It sounds like they're reserving the right to make their minds up later. And I know that sort of thing freaks out fans, but honestly... I don't see an issue with it. And I sort of mean that as a pun. My relationship to comics was always a flirtation, with occasional bouts of heavy consumption. I'd get hooked on a storyline after sampling different books on and off based on cover art or someone's recommendation, and I'd buy a book for a year or two years, and then drop it. Other books, I'd just buy annuals. Special occasions. I liked oversized comics. Giant ones. And one of the reasons I never got manic about many books (with one major exception I'll mention in a moment) was because of the way Marvel would introduce alternative titles. Like you had three or four Spider-Man series, and a couple of Fantastic Four series and the Avengers and the Defenders and Iron Man and Thor and Marvel Team-Up and What If? and continuity across all of that was... well, what's the polite way to put this? Totally f'ing nonexistent.
Comic characters are archetypes. Heightened so you can project meaning and personality onto them. They can be rewritten and reordered and reintroduced and retconned and reimagined and recast and reworked and still come up fresh if you capture something honest with them. They don't have to match what came before as long as there's something interesting done with them.
This is not based on the comic that's been published as "X-Men: First Class." Instead, this is a Bond-era movie, with Bond-era technology, and with mutants struggling to find their place in America for the very first time. Here are some of the points Harry confirms in his piece:
* * Alex "Havoc" Summers, the brother of Cyclops, will be played by Lucas Till.
* * January Jones is Emma Frost and Kevin Bacon is Sebastian Shaw, and they're definitely '60s swingers in this version.
* * Nicholas Hoult is available to play Hank "The Beast" McCoy because of a delay in production on 'Fury Road."
* * This will be a sprawling international adventure movie.
* * Costumes. Vintage comic book style costumes.
* * And we will see those costumes. Soon. Within a month or so.
All in all, it's a provocative framework, but we still don't really know what the movie is. There are some big choices here, and Singer's obviously onboard and excited and enthusiastic.
The question now, one Vaughn has faced a few times already in his short time as a director, is what will the fans think of what he does to the material?
We'll know soon. "X-Men: First Class" starts production August 31, and hits theaters Friday, June 3, 2011.
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