X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is a prequel

After making one really good and one really great X-Men movie for Twentieth Century Fox, director Bryan Singer jumped ship to Warner Bros. to make a Superman movie. This sent Twentieth Century Fox into revenge mode, setting a release date to beat Singer’s Superman even though they didn’t have a solid script or proper time to do Wolverine and company justice.

As a result, we got a terrible, terrible, terrible Superman movie (even though Brandon Routh did the best he could given the bummer storyline and lackluster direction) and a mediocre X-Men movie.

Fans like to blame X3 director Brett Ratner, but I thought he really did a bang-up job.

Matthew Vaughn (who produced Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, directed Stardust, and is currently helming Kick-Ass) was supposed to direct X3, but he left when it became apparent that Fox didn’t want a good movie. They just wanted to show Bryan Singer that they didn’t need him. Vaughn told Ain’t It Cool News, “It was a decision that was forced. I wanted to make a film that was as good as X2, and in the time period that I had, I couldn’t do it. I could understand why Fox wanted to motor ahead.”

Ratner arrived late in the game, and he made the movie very quickly and competently. It looks great. It moves well. My only problems with it are problems that were above and beyond Ratner’s control. For example, I’ll never believe there’s any other reason for the death of Scott “Cyclops” Summers than Fox wanting to punish actor James Marsden for appearing in Superman Returns. And I’m particularly bothered by the way Magneto abandons Mystique after she’s hit by the mutation-reversing dart. The Magneto I know would have been furious that her gift was taken away from her and thankful that she sacrificed herself for him. The Magneto we knew from the previous two films would have torn the planet apart trying to get her gift back for her, and he certainly wouldn’t have abandoned her.

And again, that’s a problem with the screenplay and not with Ratner’s direction. Some more time spent on the script — which is what Vaughn wanted to do — could have fixed such problems.

But what’s done is done. On May 1, we’re going to get a Wolverine movie that’s a prequel to the X-Men films. Even though I’m confident that Hugh Jackman’s dedication to the character will entertain and engage the fans like me who can’t wait to see it, I wish they would have done something more original than a prequel. Take the story forward. Show us something we haven’t seen before. Allow the characters to take us to places that are just as fresh and new to them as they are to us. Like Japan, for example, which is where Jackman wants to set the film’s inevitable sequel. There are so, so, so many good Wolverine stories to tell, so why tell the origin all over again when we got what he needed from the previous X-Men movies?

Oh, well.

Now comes news that the previously announced X-Men: First Class movie is going to be a prequel that might spawn even more prequels. Producer Lauren Shuler Donner says it will focus on Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Beast during their first year at Professor X’s mutant academy:

“It is the first class of Xavier’s school, way back when, so it’s young Scott, young Jean, young Beast, and that’ll be really fun. I think (the plan) is to follow some of the characters into their own stories, and weave them back into the X-Men world. And hopefully First Class will become its own franchise and we can follow them as they grow up.”

(That comment and more information can be found at Comics Continuum.)

The script is being written by Josh Schwartz, who created The O.C. and Chuck and developed Gossip Girl for television. Schwartz obviously has his finger on a youth-oriented pulse, but I’d rather see him (or any other writer) get a chance to revitalize the franchise and move it forward, forward, forward.

I even have a way to bring back Scott and Jean. (We don’t have to bring back Professor X, because he zapped his consciousness into the body of his brain-dead twin brother in the scene at the end of X3‘s credits.) Jean can control matter and energy, right? So what if she didn’t really die? And what if she didn’t really kill Scott? Imagine a scenario where the TV’s on at Xavier’s mansion, and there’s a story on the news about a married couple in a suburb somewhere who are doing some big charity thing. And it’s Scott and Jean, and she’s somehow zapped them into this new existence where they don’t remember who they were and their abilities have been repressed but not erased, and the X-Men have to go get them before the bad guys get them (and use them for nefarious purposes) first.

How about it, Twentieth Century Fox? I’m already on your payroll from when you bought that David Duchovny interview from me a few years ago. Let’s talk about this, and my writing partner Kevin and I will give you a great deal on the screenplay, and my buddy Kareem (who’s kicking ass at UCLA’s film school) can direct it.

And I can make out with Famke Janssen.

But let’s not all get ahead of ourselves.

Anyway, I’m excited about all the new X-Men movie projects, including the Magneto origin movie that’s still in development, but prequels are just wheel-spinners. I’d rather see something new.