24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Bryan Singer

Bryan Singer: An 'X-Men: First Class' sequel could be set in Vietnam, or amid the civil rights movement

June 7, 2011 |  8:49 pm

As "X-Men: First Class" completes nearly a week of release, thoughts wander, well, much further ahead, all the way to a sequel.

Though they're not confirming any new development, executives at studio Fox have certainly hoped that the movie's performance warrants a new installment. Like every big Hollywood company these days, Fox craves a franchise, and young actors such as Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy were cast at least in part so they can grow with the series.

The plot of Matthew Vaughn's movie -- which tells of the origins of the mutant superhero group against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis -- does pave the way for a follow-up. [Minor spoiler alert: Please skip ahead to the next paragraph if you'd like to avoid finding out details]. It ends in a time  when the tension between mutants and humans has only just begun, and the franchise's main relationship between Dr. Charles Xavier and Magneto has yet to harden into archrivalry.

But even if "First Class" turns into an international smash, picking up the trail could be tricky. Once you've gone back and shown where a group like the X-Men came from, it's an open question how much mileage you can get from continuing to show where they came from.

Then again, prequels can come in bunches -- "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" was followed by two more. And "X-Men" does offer some juicy possibilities.

Producer Bryan Singer, at least, has a few ideas about where the franchise could go from here.

In an interview last week, the filmmaker who conceived of the new film told 24 Frames that he sees future installments tracking the evolution of the mutants as they navigate -- or even offer parables about -- 20th century America.

"I don't know if every movie has to be a history lesson. But there's a lot of history to cover. If we sequelized this, it could inhabit a whole world of the 20th century," he said. "When ['First Class'] happened, Kennedy had not been assassinated and the Vietnam War hadn't happened yet."

Nor, he said, would it need to deal just with military matters. "What's really interesting about the '60s setting is the civil rights movement," he said.

The filmmaker noted that the principal "First Class" characters of Magneto and Xavier -- who respectively advocate for armed struggle and peaceful co-existence -- lend themselves to the real-world struggle for racial equality. "What's fascinating about these two characters is that they're really the Malcolm X and Martin Luther King of comic mythology," he said.

Singer is aware of the dangers of overdoing a franchise. Of the third X-Men movie, "X-Men: The Last Stand," which he was involved with only early on, he said, "Some things worked. I'm not sure all of it worked." And he believes the 2009 spinoff "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," with which he was not involved, had its issues. "'Wolverine' told a story, but it didn't always feel like a story that was very essential or interesting."

But he embraced the idea of moving forward with a sixth "X-Men" film, especially if it meant the chance to continue weaving in real-world events. "You don't need to hit people over the head with them in every movie or every scene," he said. "But having them at the core of the conflict is what I think makes it all work."

-- Steven Zeitchik



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Photo: James McAvoy, left, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult in "X-Men: First Class." Credit: 20th Century Fox


'X-Men' filmmaker Bryan Singer says his new film takes him in a very different direction

June 2, 2011 |  4:09 pm

After an eight-year hiatus, Bryan Singer returns to the superhero fold this weekend with "X-Men: First Class," a film he conceived and produced. But fans will get another side of the filmmaker when he comes out with "Jack the Giant Killer," a new take on a classic piece of British folklore, next year.

Singer, who is currently in London working on the movie, told 24 Frames that while a classic fairy tale is a switch for him, he believes it's a welcome one. "I think this is the antidote to 'Valkyrie,' " he said, referring to his Tom Cruise WWII movie from 2008, which  involved the attempt to slay a very different sort of villain. 

"With that movie, I was so obsessed with the accuracy and the history and the detail, and this film is a fantastical time in England. It's not pegged to a particular time in history, and it deals with fun and broad characters," the "X-Men" auteur said (more on him and that film shortly).

"Jack" -- which counts among its writers Singer's "Usual Suspects" and "Valkyrie" collaborator Christopher McQuarrie -- plays off an English fairy tale of unknown origin. In many of the incarnations, it involves a poor country boy who slays evil giants during King Arthur's reign. (It's often associated with the fairy tale of Jack and the Giant Beanstalk, in which the hero also faces off with a giant.)

Singer's take on the archetype centers on a farmhand who accidentally opens a door between worlds allowing non-human giants into our universe, in turn motivating Jack to attempt to slay the giants and rescue a princess to boot.

The battle between humans and inhumans is bound to draw some comparisons to the "X-Men" franchise. But the filmmaker said that in at least one respect, his upcoming film deviates from his well-known superhero work. "It's the first time in one of my films that there's a romance that's not fraught with a love triangle," he said. Then he added, giving a small laugh, "The simpleness of this romance is my cure for all the love triangles that permeated the 'X-Men.' "

"Jack" stars Nicholas Hoult, who appears as Beast in the new "X-Men," as the title character. For "Deadwood" fans, the film also offers the added bonus of seeing Ian McShane in a feature role. (He plays the princess' unhappy father.)

Fairy tales have become all the rage in Hollywood -- witness the battle to get "Snow White" to the screen -- and Singer said his film fits squarely in that mold. But he also said that rather than just retell a story, he wanted to explore the art of narrative itself.

"I think this takes it a step further -- it's all about the nature of storytelling," he said. "The tale is told by certain characters, and then it gets retold. It shows you can't separate the story from the way it's told."


The battle over 'Snow White' movies

Hollywood is churning out fairy tales with a twist

'X-Men' star Kevin Bacon has a solution to fame

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "X-Men." Credit: 20th Century Fox


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