Geek Thought of the Week: Five Things X-Men First Class Must Do to Succeed

Geek Thought of the Week: Five Things X-Men First Class Must Do to Succeed

I’ve been thinking about this lately. The X-Men film series is screwed. It has been for a while. The first two films, while taking liberty with the vast X-Men universe, were good films in their own right that could be watched by people who have never before read about Sniktbub and his amazing adventures. But with X-Men: The Last Stand, things started going all crap shaped. Too many characters, no story, deaths for no good reason, it was a mess. And X-Men Origins: Wolverine just kept the stupid coming without any of the quality that X3 had somehow kept from the first two movies. And then what they did to Deadpool…yeah, it was bad. So, here we are with yet another prequel. What can Fox, Marvel and Matthew Vaughn do to bring the X-Men movies back to where they once were? Well, here are five things that they could/should do to get the quality back into this series.

1) Its character, not characters. That s there, it means a world of difference. Look at the first X-Men. We have Wolverine (henceforth referred to as Sniktbub because I like it), you have Professor X, you have Rogue, you have Jean and you have Magneto with a little bit of Cyclops and Storm thrown in. Those are the characters that we focus on, and they are also pretty much the only characters in there. We are given reasons to give a crap about the fate of these people. They’re not just there because their powers are cool. They are there because they contribute something to the story. Where X3 and Wolverine fell apart is when they started just shoving characters in there for no reason. What was the point of Quill, Arclight and Psylocke in X3? Why was Colossus there? Or Angel? What did Angel contribute at all? Was Multiple Man really necessary? Who was Dominic Monaghan’s character in Wolverine? Why use Blob if he’s gonna be in one scene as a fat boxer? Was Gambit necessary? Not really. And that’s the problem. If you’re going to have a character, don’t use them just because they’re cool. People like Gambit because he chucks cards at people, but also because of his character. 15 minutes of screen time and one scene of card chucking doesn’t really cut it.

2) This is a story about Chuck and Erik. One of the best things about all three original X-Men movies is the relationship between Charles Xavier and Magneto. These are good friends who, because of the tragedies that befell Magneto, found themselves on opposite sides of a very personal war. Magneto has never been an out and out bad guy. He is the good guy in his mind’s eye. He sees humanity’s war against mutant kind being a foregone conclusion, something he will never allow to happen again. He’s not a terrorist, he’s a freedom fighter. And with people like William Stryker out there, he kind of has a point. First Class must show Magneto’s slow descent into hopelessness, how a good man can turn into the very thing he is fighting against without even realizing it…or caring after a certain point. It must also show how Charles, despite his friendship with Erik, knows that he must be the one to stop him. It breaks his heart, but in the end, the dream must come first.

3) This is a prequel. Act like a prequel. Look, I’m sorry that X3 and Wolverine sucked. I’m sorry that the films were over saturated with Sniktbub. I really am. But those movies happened. Jean Grey is a schizophrenic with an alternate personality dubbed the Phoenix that Charles and Erik contain. Cyclops is rescued from Three Mile Island by Wolverine and Charles. By the way, Charles can still walk into the 80’s and early 90’s and he and Magneto are still on good terms. That’s the way things happened. But from the looks of things, Magneto will be going all supervillain by the end of the movie in full costume and everything and word is Charles will get crippled before the credits roll. Hey, guys, that makes no sense. You can’t just vague prequel this stuff. One of the cool things about doing a prequel is seeing how all the pieces fit together. Its like in Batman Begins. Not a prequel I know, but the sensation is similar. Seeing Bruce construct the Batcave, the Batmobile, the first use of the Batsignal, the reveal of the Joker card, all that stuff is what we’re there for. That scene where The Roman is strapped to the searchlight and Gordon looks up into the sky, I literally said out loud, “Oh man, that’s the Batsignal!” But if the movie just doesn’t care about continuity…again, I know, slightly different with Begins because it was a reboot instead of a prequel…if it doesn’t care, it just comes off as sloppy and neglected. This is how the movie universe of X-Men begins. We’ve had four movies of this universe. Either give us a beginning or reboot the damn thing. But don’t try to do both. That’s one of the mistakes that comics make all the time. Don’t transition those mistakes into the film universe.

4) Use the comics dammit. The comics, for the most part, are very good. Don’t just make shit up because you feel like it. I know, we can’t have a prequel with Scott, Jean, Warren, Hank and Bobby in it. That’s not how the film universe is set up. You want it in the 60’s? Cool. You want to use characters that don’t belong in the 60’s? Fine. I’m cool with this. But don’t change the things that do work. Don’t pull things like making the Sentinels Danger Room holograms or making Blob a strong guy that got fat or…whatever the hell that was you did to Deadpool. Yeah, Deadpool, let’s focus on that. If you are going to change things, at least keep it in the spirit of the characters. Stryker wasn’t a priest but a military man. Didn’t change the essence of the character. He was still an anti-mutant militant who will do everything possible to keep humanity pure. So whatever you’re going to do to the Hellfire Club, remember that. Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost are two very popular characters. If I see them sprout swords from their forearms, I’m getting angry.

5) But don’t be afraid to change things if it fits the film better. Again, like I said above, don’t be afraid to change things so long as the changes still fit the characters. I get it. Its a movie. Movies aren’t comics. We all know that the original Phoenix saga couldn’t fit into one movie. Alternate personality? Fine. But its all about execution. Again, Deadpool. Don’t want the fourth wall breaking meatball faced psychopath? Want Ryan Reynolds with swords? Okay, I can accept that. Just make him still funny. You want him to be an experiment to try and put mutant powers into one body? I could even go that far. It could explain his messed up body. But muting him? Putting swords and laser eyes in him? That’s just…stupid. You took the Merc With the Mouth and got rid of the mouth. That couldn’t possibly have missed the mark more. That’s not better. So if you’re picking all these mutants and putting them into the 60’s and making them the X-Men’s first class, you have to ask why they make the movie universe better, why this setup fits the format of film better than the original team.

It occurs to me that most of these are complaints about the first movies. That makes sense, seeing as they are the only things I can draw from as I’ve only seen one trailer and some stills. But going by past experience we do have reason to worry. Fox just doesn’t seem to get the X-Men franchise at times. I do have hope for this movie though. The trailer looked way better than I thought it would. Though, to be fair, my expectations were rock bottom. I guess we can just wait and see and hope that Fox won’t mutate this franchise into something that’s too far gone to be saved.

Yeah, I made a mutant joke. What of it? Endings are hard.

  • Shawn

    You contradict yourself by praising Batman Begins but then saying you don’t want them to give X-Men a beginning and reboot but rather pick one. When in fact Batman Begins is a beginning and a reboot. Not only that but you also have grammatical and spelling errors in there. You do have some good points though, it pissed me off that they just threw Gambit in there for no apparent reason.

    • Chris

      I don’t think he’s contradicting himself by praising Batman Begins. His issue (and mine) is that X-Men First Class is meant to be a prequel (because bits of the trailer have distinctly linked the movie to the first movies), but contains material that blatantly defies the content of the first movies (such as timeline). Batman Begins is a reboot and a beginning, and it firmly establishes itself as separate from the previous Batman films. This is ideal, and this is something First Class has failed to do by including imagery from the first films in its trailer.

      Kyle can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s the point he’s making when comparing how Batman Begins handled the beginning/reboot and how X-Men First Class is handling the prequel.

  • Shawn

    You contradict yourself by praising Batman Begins but then saying you don’t want them to give X-Men a beginning and reboot but rather pick one. When in fact Batman Begins is a beginning and a reboot. Not only that but you also have grammatical and spelling errors in there. You do have some good points though, it pissed me off that they just threw Gambit in there for no apparent reason.

    • Chris

      I don’t think he’s contradicting himself by praising Batman Begins. His issue (and mine) is that X-Men First Class is meant to be a prequel (because bits of the trailer have distinctly linked the movie to the first movies), but contains material that blatantly defies the content of the first movies (such as timeline). Batman Begins is a reboot and a beginning, and it firmly establishes itself as separate from the previous Batman films. This is ideal, and this is something First Class has failed to do by including imagery from the first films in its trailer.

      Kyle can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s the point he’s making when comparing how Batman Begins handled the beginning/reboot and how X-Men First Class is handling the prequel.

  • Nope, that’s pretty much it. Either reboot, like Batman, and do it well, or make it a prequel and do it right. Don’t half ass it, in other words. Its like with Superman Returns, which instead of a vague prequel was a vague sequel. One of that movie’s big problems is that it just did shit and started storylines with no regard for previous continuity. Superman had left Earth, Lex had gotten out of jail and all sorts of stuff had happened. But we were given no grounding. The continuity was swiss cheese. Vagueness doesn’t work, especially for 30 year old sequels or prequels that really have to make up for ground that previous movies have squandered.

    Like I said in the article, most of the fun of a prequel is seeing how things started for some of our favorite characters. But if the movie just throws out continuity whenever it feels like it the fun is eliminated, replaced with confusion. Instead of evoking a kind of backwards nostalgia, it just comes off as sloppy. It makes it seem like the studio just doesn’t care about the franchise. Then again, this is Fox and the X-Men series. I think the question of their caring about quality has been around for a while now.

  • Nope, that’s pretty much it. Either reboot, like Batman, and do it well, or make it a prequel and do it right. Don’t half ass it, in other words. Its like with Superman Returns, which instead of a vague prequel was a vague sequel. One of that movie’s big problems is that it just did shit and started storylines with no regard for previous continuity. Superman had left Earth, Lex had gotten out of jail and all sorts of stuff had happened. But we were given no grounding. The continuity was swiss cheese. Vagueness doesn’t work, especially for 30 year old sequels or prequels that really have to make up for ground that previous movies have squandered.

    Like I said in the article, most of the fun of a prequel is seeing how things started for some of our favorite characters. But if the movie just throws out continuity whenever it feels like it the fun is eliminated, replaced with confusion. Instead of evoking a kind of backwards nostalgia, it just comes off as sloppy. It makes it seem like the studio just doesn’t care about the franchise. Then again, this is Fox and the X-Men series. I think the question of their caring about quality has been around for a while now.

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