The “X-Men” film series feels like it has become a cinematic entity akin to the “Star Trek” franchise — a property that seems destined to navigate some seriously choppy waters, alternately exciting and infuriating fans, and probably continue to be a viable box-office presence long into the future. And like “Trek,” it’s not so much a staggering box-office behemoth (it’s batting well below the “Batman,” “Spider-Man” and, it would seem, the “Iron Man” movies with ticket-buyers), but rather a very respectable brand-name with a fairly large built-in audience and, minus the last two fumbled entries, a reputable history of smart, sci-fi-tinged storytelling centered around a large ensemble of endearingly colorful characters.
The announcement from late last year that Bryan Singer would be rejoining the franchise for “X-Men: First Class” felt like a conscious decision on the part of 20th Century to back-peddle away from their recent poor creative choices and take the franchise back to its roots. While I’m still not convinced a prequel is the way to go, I’d be a sap to argue against the importance of Singer’s personal vision in adapting the characters to the silver-screen and making their adventures compelling and rousing.
In an extensive piece for the L.A. Times, Singer and producer Laura Schuler Donner took a little time-travel-trip both back to the early days of the property’s transition over to the filmic medium, as well as into the series’ possible future.
Although the article makes for an engrossing and nostalgic read (including some amusing anecdotes regarding the casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine), some revelations were brought to light regarding the topics that “First Class” will delve into:
“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.)
The premise has compelling elements to it, Singer said. ‘Just doing younger mutants is not enough. The story needs to be more than that. I love the relationship between Magneto and Xavier, these two men who have diametrically opposite points of view but still manage to be friends — to a point. They are the ultimate frenemies.’”
Also, the story hints that, if Schuler Donner and Fox have their way, Singer may be sticking around for longer than he may have initially planned:
“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.”
I gotta say, I’d love to see a Singer-helmed “X4” one day. While I’m sure his prequel movie will be well-executed and entertaining, I hate seeing the characters I’ve already spent three installments getting to know and love mired in movie-land purgatory. Maybe if the studio hadn’t hedged their bets so badly with the conclusion of “The Last Stand” this wouldn’t all be so frustrating. But they did, and it is.
Still, at this point, any “X-Men” news (minus “Wolverine 2” talk) is pretty much wishful thinking and prognostication, as Singer is still attached to helm “Jack the Giant Killer” for Warner Bros. — making it unlikely that we’ll be seeing “First Class” for at least three or four years. And that’s assuming that the project makes it through the development phase intact and with the often fickle director — no stranger to abandoning high-profile creative ventures — still enthusiastic to get behind the camera and film himself some mutant antics.
Oy, I know, at this point, I can’t be the only one getting a tad X-asperated!
. . .
Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.