When X-Men was released in 2000, it represented an ambitious attempt at revamping the comic book film. Joel Schumacher’s debacle of a movie, Batman and Robin, with its campy script and, uh, Bat Nipples, put the genre in deep freeze.
In X-Men, Bryan Singer, the director of such dark dramas as Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil, introduced a gritty realism to the superhero film that would later be perfected by Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The historic success of the new Batfilms has ushered in another decade of superhero movies. But what about the franchise that got the ball rolling?
As Singer left to make Superman Returns, glorified music video director Brett Ratner took the wheel. Ratner promptly drove the franchise off a cliff with his garish X-Men: The Last Stand. The misguided and predictable X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t help matters either.
Luckily, this summer’s X-Men: First Class looks to right the ship. Guy Ritchie protege Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, Layer Cake) directs from a script by frequent-collaborator Jane Goldman; Singer re-joins the franchise, penning the story and producing. The cast is a Who’s Who of up-and-coming talent, including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, and January Jones. The trailer debuted yesterday, and the buzz is already substantial.
X-Men: First Class examines the origins of the team, along with the friendship-turned-rivalry of Professor Xavier and Magneto, set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The historic fiction angle is an interesting one, representing a return to the Golden Age of X-Men. And while fanboys may blanch at the character list of the film (which does not faithfully reproduce the original X-Men team), it should be a return to the tastefully reverent work of the Singer films.
X-Men: First Class premieres June 3.