Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back on May 10, when I ran the story that Jane Goldman was writing "X-Men: First Class" for Fox and director Matthew Vaughn, I finished the article with a very pointed comment:

"Now if only they'd hire Michael Fassbender as young Magneto..."

You can thank me now. 

Actually, you can thank Vaughn and the studio.  I was just spitballing back then, since I'd just seen "Centurion," and I was newly convinced of Fassbender's movie star potential.  Vaughn's got a good ear for casting, and my guess is, Fassbender's a big deal right now, a guy on the rise.  It was inevitable he'd meet on this film for some role. 

Now, word is Fassbender has officially accepted the offer to star opposite James McAvoy, the Magneto to McAvoy's Xavier, and so we're able now to make a guess as to what we might expect from the film, due next summer.

And suddenly, I'm excited for it.

I haven't heard one word from Matthew Vaughn about his approach to the movie or why he signed on to do it, so I'm just guessing here, looking at it from the outside.  When this project started its development life under the guidance of Josh Schwartz, word is the project was much more of a "X-Men in high school" type movie, aimed squarely at a teenage audience.  Up till now, I haven't been very enthusiastic about the project, no matter how much I like Vaughn's films or the X-Men universe.  It just seemed like a marketing-driven, budget-driven step back, a chance to dump the expensive adult cast.

But now, what we're hearing about the film is totally different.  And that may well play into the decision Fassbender made, since he was evidently being offered the villain role in Sony's new "Spider-Man" reboot as well, and that's a very teen-oriented take on the material.  I thought the films were going to take similar approaches to their material.  Instead, "X-Men: First Class" is starting to look like that rare "prequel" that actually has a reason for existing.

I hate the idea of prequels in general.  It is uncommon that backing up to tell a story before the story you've already told can pay any dramatic dividends.  In this case, though, the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr sort of defines the entire "X-Men" series on film so far.  The schism between them, the MLK/Malcolm X vibe that's been so important, creates endless dramatic potential, and yet they've never even hinted in the films at what it was that drove them apart in the first place.

That's a story.  That's a story I actually want to see.  And now that we know it's James McAvoy (who seems to grow on me more as I see him in more films) and Fassbender (who I think has the potential to be one of the biggest names working if he continues to do work like he's been doing so far), I'm genuinely excited.  I think there's a chance for this to really redeem this series.

Of course, all of that depends on the script, which Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn are hard at work on at the moment, and I sincerely hope they nail down just how great a story this could be.

Can't wait to see how this one comes together.

"X-Men: First Class" is set to arrive in theaters June 3, 2011.

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