But while X3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were financial successes, they didn't really resonate with audiences. Rabid fans hated both films, and mainstream audiences were underwhelmed. First Class is even trickier because it's a prequel. This has been a hit-and-miss strategy in franchises past, and audiences may be confused by seeing characters recast and dressed in unrecognizable ways. Also, there's no Wolverine. Love him or hate him, he's one of the franchise's biggest draws.
Finally, audiences may simply be weary of this franchise. This will be the fifth X-Men film. Darren Aronofsky will be filming a much-publicized sixth as First Class hits theaters. While geeks can happily read the comics for decades, ordinary moviegoers might be yawning to see mutants persecuted by humanity again. They might be far more interested in what Thor, Captain America, and The Green Lantern are up to simply because it's a novelty. It may be a repeat of summer 2008, when Iron Man blew audiences away with its "new" hero, but The Incredible Hulk left them bewildered and bored.
All of the superhero flicks this year are experiments. But X-Men: First Class might be the most daring because it's looping its characters back to their retro, offbeat, and decidedly less cool chapters. This is the Silver Age stuff Bryan Singer and Jon Favreau desperately chipped out of their superhero flicks, and Matthew Vaughn is taking it on. It's brave. It's unexpected. Any time there is uncertainty, there is a need for guidance, and Film.com prides itself on offering that! So, here's what to expect when you're expecting X-Men: First Class
1. Matthew Vaughn will be in the press from this moment forward.
The proliferation of movie sites has given way to a very specific style of nerd marketing. It's all a big tease that begins with the first official image, and ends with the first official trailer. It's a rocky span where fans will be won, lost, and won again.
Last week, the first official X-Men: First Class image debuted. It was a snafu, leaking out from MSN before being released officially an hour or two later. Fans loathed it and what followed was a barrage of damage control. Vaughn personally emailed Slashfilm, gave a long interview to Hero Complex, and handed out official images like crazy. The teaser poster premiered at Ain't It Cool News. Not content, Vaughn gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly that may have given away too much plot. I suspect this will be his M.O. from this point forward, and we'll be begging him to stop defending a movie we haven't condemned yet.
2. There will be many eyebrow-raising photos of January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence.
You've seen the last of the posh pictures of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. Fox is going to realize they have not one, but two scantily clad women in the cast. Mystique is legendary for her inability to wear clothes (incidentally, that's not her style in the comics) and for being able to morph into a variety of hot looks. The same can be said for January Jones' Emma Frost, a character who was invented purely to make the other X-Women look like Puritans. I'm a little uncomfortable just thinking about what supple flesh lies ahead of us.
3. Fans will complain about continuity errors and deviations from the mythology. They already are. It will only get louder.
The X-Me universe is one of the craziest in comic book canon. The films made things more complicated by basically chucking out all but the names and powers. Sit down with an X-Men fan, and they will go on a tirade explaining why movie Rogue was so lame, where they messed up Jean Gray, and how Cyclops and Emma Frost couldn't brush shoulders in Wolverine. Actually, you can talk to me. I'll tell you.
When X-Men: First Class was announced, it was widely believed it would be a "reboot" that would revive Cyclops, Jean Gray, Beast, and Storm and try to re-establish them in a franchise that could self-perpetuate. There could be familiar mutants who ushered in new ones (the X-Men are ever revolving), ensuring X-Men movies until the end of time. But First Class has no intention of that, and instead makes things a little more confusing. How was Emma a prisoner of Stryker in Wolverine if she was hanging out with Kevin Bacon? What's Angel Salvatore doing here? Hey, Sebastian Shaw never fought young Professor X, the X-Men were already established by then. Are they really going to bring in Alex "Havok" Summers, brother to Cyclops, and make things even more confusing? Oh dear. Expect lots of posts ranting about how it was done better in the comics until the Internet collapses on itself.
4. It has too many characters. Prepare yourself for loose ends.
I am not silly enough to say the movie is going to be good or bad. Not at this stage, and not based on a handful of stills. But 12 mutants in one film is simply too much. There are characters who will be majorly shortchanged, hanging around in the back, with no purpose other than to look cool. We saw this with X3, we saw it with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and I'm not convinced even Jane Goldman can tie all the superpower strings together here. So don't get your hopes up that this is the movie you really get to know the inner torment of Hank McCoy, or see Mystique and Azazel look meaningfully at one another, the better to produce Nightcrawler. (If they do. See #3.)
5. Michael Fassbender will be fantastic and become an A-List sensation.
There's nothing Fassbender can't do. I just saw a clip of him singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight in German, and even his vocals are sent from heaven. He's owned the handful of images we've seen thus far, and it's clear he'll walk away with the film. That's no small task for someone stuck beneath such a goofy helmet. Most devoted cinephiles already know how good he is, but this will be when middle America falls for him.
James McAvoy will be really good, but no one will notice because of Fassbender.
Sorry, Mr. McAvoy. In 30 years, when you're old and gray, people will point to X-Men: First Class and remark what a nuanced and thoughtful performance it was, particularly in such a popcorn film. It will probably be featured in a montage before you receive a lifetime achievement award. But they're not going to notice it before then.
6. People will hate January Jones.
Have you ever ventured into the comment fields on any Mad Men article? Yikes. Poor Ms. Jones. She seems to be the exact Betty Draper that the show requires -- stilted and hollow, unsure of herself, but determined to be what the world made her. Nevertheless, audiences loathe her and consider her a terrible actress. Is she? I don't know. But it seems to be an unfair criticism. I fully expect it to seep into First Class.
7. It's going to feel rushed.
The film reportedly isn't done. Vaughn sounds rushed in those interviews, and its release date was set long before its casting. We already saw what a rushed X-Men film looked like. We saw a rushed Iron Man 2 last year. Even with the noblest of intentions, First Class is going to be rough around the edges. That's what comes of making films just to keep your copyrights away from Marvel, unfortunately.
8. There will be masculine posturing.
Matthew Vaughn's filmography is varied, and he hasn't yet nailed a particular theme or style. But his characters are generally of the school of Guy Ritchie -- full of swagger and bravado, but often kind of dim. Even his most gentle film, Stardust, has some traces of masculine arrogance. Expect the young mutants to take some pages out of Kick-Ass, and be full of vinegar and angst with a fondness for poorly conceived plans that end bloodily.
9. Professor X's bald pate will be given a thoroughly detailed explanation.
These days, we get origin stories for the silliest of things. After Fox's wretched use of "amnesia bullets" to erase Wolverine's memory, I fully expect Professor X's hair to be the casualty of a magnetic blast from Magneto, or a kinetic kick from Sebastian Shaw. It will literally strip from his head. Millions will be spent on the
10. Wolverine will have a cameo.
I know. James McAvoy said there wouldn't be. Bryan Singer drew a line in the sand between "X-Men movies" and "Wolverine movies" to stress there would be no appearance of the hairy one. But they're doing reshoots, and there's plenty of time to slip a post-credit cameo in, especially since The Wolverine will probably be filming in a few short months. Fox can't resist the cameos. We both know they can't. It's inevitable.