Bigger than the recent announcement that geek idol Hugo Weaving has been confirmed as The Red Skull in the upcoming “The First Avenger: Captain America” movie is the news that “Kick-Ass” director Matthew Vaughn has been signed by 20th Century Fox to direct “X-Men: First Class”, with a proposed opening date of June 3, 2011.
While it’s not clear whether this is the originally proposed Magneto prequel, or a fresh new movie altogether, what is clear is that Fox is very keen on making this movie work. “X-Men” and “X-Men 2” director Bryan Singer is on top of this project in a producer role, and it was he who gave Vaughn a glowing recommendation, as well as setting the scene for the film.
The premise of the movie is to show a young Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr growing up as mutants in a world unprepared for them. These two men will work together with other mutants, but as a result of their differing ideals on mutant-human interaction, will soon become the sworn frenemies Professor X and Magneto. Though the technology has been used in previous X-Men movies, it remains to be seen if “X-Men: First Class” will be casting the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan to reprise their characters, albeit much younger, or if Fox will simply cast new faces into the roles, like what they did for Cyclops with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”.
Now as someone who’s watched “Stardust” and “Kick-Ass” and enjoyed them both, this is wonderful news. Matthew Vaughn has proven to be an intelligent, dedicated director who has a great sense of pace and characterisation, both of which I consider crucial a film’s entertainment value. With both movies, he’s also proven that he can adapt material for the silver screen so well that sometimes, the finished product outshines the original material.
That being said, it appears that “X-Men: First Class” is a completely new story, yet untold even in the comic books – the closest would be Uncanny X-Men #161 from the early 1980s which imply that Magneto and Professor X met in a hospital near Haifa, Israel and encountered the forces of Baron Strucker and HYDRA, thus revealing their powers to one another. While I have no doubt that much of the philosophical debates between the two in the issue will be drawn on, I seriously doubt scriptwriters Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz will be following the comic book faithfully.
The way Fox is pushing this so aggressively is worrying. It’s all too reminiscent of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” – announce an acclaimed director, push for a release within the following year, and then mire it with differences in creative direction and then release it a year later than expected, only to have it flop on multiple levels. I see this especially happening with Matthew Vaughn, who has shown a truly independent streak when it comes to his movies – he refused one studio’s requirements to tone down the violence and another’s demand to make the characters older in “Kick-Ass”. I can only hope that Fox has learnt its lesson and to let Vaughn do what he wants with the film.
As for potential character appearances, here’s hoping that, among other nods to the fans – like having younger versions of the original X-Men – we’ll get to see love-interest Moira MacTaggert nee Kinross and Xavier’s half-brother, Cain Marko aka Juggernaut. Fingers crossed for Vinnie Jones!