With so much attention currently given to the Spider-Man films and Avengers franchise, fans may not remember a time when we were all agog at the X-Men movies, anxiously waiting to see if we got a Sentinel in the next film or an adaptation of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Bryan Singer, the man who made the seemingly unfilmable X-Men movie a success is back in the saddle for a prequel chronicling the early days of that fictional school in Westschester.
The LA Times Blog Hero Complex ran an interesting article yesterday that went into great detail of the making of the previous films and how the public opinion of superhero films has drastically altered to the point that it is practically its own genre today. There are some neat tidbits on the direction First Class will take and confirmation that this will not take the place of X-Men 4, following the events of Brent Ratner’s X-Men 3.
Here are some highlights, but I strongly encourage you to read the full article.
(Read the entire article here)
VIA the LATimes Hero Complex blog:
Through the years, comic-book films took audiences to all the predictable places, including the grim streets of Gotham City and the doomed spires of planet Krypton, but, a decade ago, a new type of comic-book film had the audacity to set its opening sequence in a truly unexpected place — the gates of Auschwitz, where Jewish families were bring marched through mud on their way to death and despair.
From those first moments, “X-Men” set itself apart from the entire Hollywood history of comic-book adaptations and marked the beginning of this current era of fanboy cinema, which has dominated the box office and elevated San Diego’s Comic-Con International into something resembling a Cannes for capes.
“The opening, it really was a declaration of intent,” producer Lauren Shuler Donner said of that sequence, which showed a terrified young boy exhibiting mutant powers as his family was separated by German guards. “It said to the audience this is a serious film, grounded in the realistic and the historic and somewhat dark. It was so smart. And it was all totally Bryan.”
That would be Bryan Singer, the director of “X-Men” and its first sequel, who was sitting next to Shuler Donner in her office on a recent afternoon. The pair both had big smiles on their faces — they had been reunited by an invitation to reminisce about the legacy of the July 2000 release, which they were happy to do, but the conversation kept veering into giddy plans for the future. Singer is returning to the “X-Men” universe, it’s clear now, for a project called “X-Men: First Class”; it’s all just a matter of timing.
“I had lunch with Hugh Jackman today,” Singer said, and Shuler Donner, after asking for an off-the-record moment, pressed the 44-year-old filmmaker for details. A few minutes later, with the recorder back on, Singer said he is mightily enthused to work again with Shuler Donner, who has produced two X-films without him, the Brett Ratner-directed “X-Men: The Last Stand” in 2006 and the Gavin Hood-directed “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” in 2009.
Shuler Donner has watched the legacy of “X-Men” grow but she says that, at the time, in the closing days of the editing process she wasn’t sure what kind of movie Singer had on his hands.
“There wasn’t anything else like this; all the other superhero movies were made with a different tone and we were nervous,” Shuler Donner said. “You lose perspective, and now in hindsight it seems like the right choices were made but at time it was scary, believe me.”
“Ultimately, the comic-book fans are your first core audience, the ones that are going to embrace it and talk about it and embrace it or reject it,” Singer said. “They were the first people we worried about.”
Shuler Donner nodded. “If the fans didn’t embrace us, we knew we were in trouble. We wanted a wider audience, but it began with the comic book fans. The approach was to do a more realistic approach to the characters that the fans loved. They second-guess us a lot, still, but we did win them over.”
The first “X-Men” film made $296 million worldwide, but its sequel, “X2: X-Men United,” with the benefit of a bigger budget and story elements already in place, rang up $408 million worldwide and 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. The biggest win, though, was in the hearts and minds of Hollywood. As time went on, people began to see Singer’s “X-Men” films as special. David Denby, in the New Yorker, wrote in praise of “the liquid beauty and the poetic fantasy of Singer’s work.” Denby didn’t feel the magic with replacement director Ratner, however, whom he dismissed as “a crude synthesizer of comedy and action tropes.”
The third X-Men movie made the most money at the box office ($459 million worldwide) but many fans found it unsatisfying, and Donner Shuler, choosing her words carefully, made it clear that she is ready for Singer to come back to the mutant universe. “He has an authorship, I feel, and I love all of my directors but with Bryan I would send him e-mails saying ‘Where are you? You should be here.’ “
That’s why Donner Shuler went to Singer with “X-Men: First Class,” a prequel to the 2000 film that shares its name with the eight-issue comics series that began in 2006 and was written by Jeff Parker with art by Roger Cruz. Singer says the film will find its axis in the relationship between Professor X and Magneto and the point where their friendship soured. It will also detail the beginning of the school for mutants and have younger incarnations of some characters with new actors in roles of Cyclops, Jean Grey, the Beast, etc. (He only shrugged when asked if Hugh Jackman might appear as Wolverine, the one character who doesn’t age at the same rate as humans.)
Shuler Donner also has pitched Singer on doing a fourth installment of the previously established “X-Men” franchise and Jackman had that lunch with Singer to coax him into a project as well, which may or may not be a “Wolverine” film, which Jackman has said will be set in Japan and released in 2011. “I wish I could be four people,” the director said with a moan. “I could make everybody happy.”
Singer turned to Shuler Donner and said of “X-Men 4″: “Hold that one off for just a little, I’m fixated on the other one right now.” She nodded and answered, “I will, I will … I’m holding it open with high hopes. It’s totally different [from 'First Class'] and it will be so interesting for you.”