X-Men: Cover your eyes!

 

Burn it. Kill it with fire! Yes you guessed it, or maybe you didn’t, but here it is anyway – it’s been announced: X-Men is getting yet another sequel… okay breath, I’ll allow a few tears…
This time they’ve nabbed the title and portions of the cherished “Days of future past” storyline, ugh, hack, wheeze… I’ll admit, I literally wanted to scratch my eyes when I saw it – I have witnesses to back me up on this.

This is a travesty. But let me tell you why.


So, I realise that there are a number of people, pseudo fans of the current X-Men film series, mainly because producers have successfully conned the masses of new audiences into believing this IS what X-Men is all about… in theory yes, I can see how you got that. But no, it is NOT. What you see on screens and in DVD stores is a mere shadow, a sliver, pretenders to the X-Men name. They’re good for one thing and one thing only, introducing the new audiences to the characters and some fragmented story lines – but at a mere base, or sub-base level, lower than low. Take it as this: It’s as if they’re selling you a car, when really, it’s only the scale model, or more accurately, a kit-car assembled in their garage, posing as a thoroughbred.


What do I expect? If Marvel were actually in charge of their own material then we’d see something along the lines of Avengers, only darker, grittier, deeper, less corny and three times as awesome. Oh, and a few times cooler as well. For those still in dark, and still blindly looking forward to the new film – it basically combines the cast of the first X-Men films with First Class, tossing them into one of the most unforgettable Mutant/comic storylines ever conceived – then let me lay it out for you here.
Let’s start with the major problem which renders this, the others and all future contributions, lame ducks: FOX Network.
X-Men is a very big comic book series – this needs repeating because their fan base (I mean true fans who know the stories and grew up with these characters) is huge and strong. What FOX has done, is spit in the face of all those loyal fans by offering half-baked storylines, cardboard characters, and total fabrications, all to lure a greater audience and generate quick money.

“All they’ve done is hijacked storylines and plucked characters with cool superpowers to fill blockbusters”
The original content is perfectly fine and pure, multi-faceted, deep, complex and dark with so many intricate and fascinating characters. What you see is simply the short change version of what literally could’ve been the greatest comicbook/film adaptation of all time, surpassing even Chris Nolan’s epic Dark Knight Trilogy – if it was done right of course. The thing of it is though, that this Marvel comic transcends genres, from crime to action, drama to science-fiction, but where the current film series fails most of all, is respect, or actually the lack thereof. They’ve shown none for the creators, the illustrators, writers, fans, and most of all, the content and characters themselves. All they’ve done is hijacked storylines and plucked characters with cool superpowers to fill blockbusters, and the sad thing is, Marvel’s hands are tied, for now. The clause in the contract states that Fox Studios owns the license of many X-Men characters, so long as they keep making films within a set time frame of the last production.


I’ll concede this, First Class was a slight improvement, but only because of Michael Fassbender and director Michael Vaughan, many parts of that film though, was cringe-worthy material – (not to mention that they used the wrong mutants for their “first class”), the puny Beast (in his blue monkey/cat suit) especially – I only watched this film to gain the qualified opinion to effectively criticize it, since I knew it would fall well short…
And then, somebody at FOX had a brain fart and coughed up the idea of combining the two cast lists; so they’ve effectively taken a half step forward (or sideways) and then five steps back.
Let me just say that the only studio one can honestly trust with a project is Warner Studios (this was actually gauged by an audit of top studios – Sony I believe was second), and in all honesty, FOX studios don’t have a very good rep right now anyway – ditching a lot of fans because of the way they treat their TV series’. Then again Rupert Murdoch is a founding member, so it’s hardly surprising. For more convincing; 20th Century Fox were behind ball-faced blockbusters like Daredevil and Fantastic Four (both due for a reboot – although thankfully the former returned home to Marvel Studios late last year after stagnating production plans).

Here’s what the world needs:


Marvel must somehow get all their characters back home. One could say they can use The Avengers money to buy the X-Men characters back, but the outdated contract they signed with FOX is pretty tight, and even if they did so, they may not have enough money left for sufficient capital to make a decent film in the next few years. And, of course, since the current film series is actually making money because of an ill-informed public, constantly buying into the below-par franchise, a new deal is unlikely to materialize anytime soon.
A protest then – this would need to be well organized and fairly large, marching down to FOX headquarters to rescue our superheroes from the evil Murdochians clutches. It will be big, a ransom will be called for, blood will be spilled, and if the studio just so happens to catch fire and burn to ash in the process, well, such is the spoils of war (I do not condone violence, my sword is the written word! Amen).

Furthermore, I have it on good authority that some of the actors in the First Class cast are unaware of the X-Men comic book story-lines. Now, I don’t have an issue with an actor being unfamiliar with source material, think of the Hunger Games or Harry Potter, but when you played a role in a film with the option of continuing as that character in future installments, maybe a bit of research in the role will do some good… typically very little commitment here.

Days of Future Past


Sometime in the future we find that the X-Men are mostly dead or captured, save a few exiles, and the quest is now to find out what happened to them, and then alter the course of history by going back in time and saving them. Of course it involves time traveling mutants, war and many villains. This storyline first came to light as far back as 1981, so there’s plenty to bite into, and plenty to get wrong. F%O#X got it wrong thirteen years ago, and the franchise has been crawling along ever since.
A big question mark hangs over the future though, because the direct sequel to this storyline is of course ‘Days of Future Present’, and integral to this story is one of my, and legions of fans, favourite characters, the time traveling soldier ‘Cable’. Sources indicate that this is one character that escaped that fateful day years ago when F!O$X looted Marvel’s library. So, how will they cope without such a great character still under the Marvel license (those who know his origins will understand), my guess is they’ll suck something vile form their dirty thumbs to stuff the gap – although I’ll admit that there is a degree of conflict about that Cable licensing issue, with some claiming that according to a technicality in the initial contract, F^O^X does have the option to use fringe characters (which may include him)… Then again swaying the pendulum back in Marvel’s favour is the fact that Cable has been a crowd favourite ever since his debut, and that Marvel has had a special film concept in the works and under wraps for their mutant/cyborg time traveling soldier, for a very long time. So then, it stands to reason that they’d hold him back from other studios. The licensing rights would then mean making a film without mentioning his origins, or rather, referencing his parents and past events without revealing their names.

Perhaps the most telling move was made in 2009 when Marvel reportedly hired a group of writers to pen some story/script ideas for it and other titles mentioned here below.
Here’s a list of Marvel titles coming soon: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Power Pack and Shang-Chi (with an Avengers sequel a damn near certainty). And this is apart from titles we already know about like Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 – the money earned from these films will certainly aid in Marvel’s (effectively an independent studio in a 5 film distribution deal with Paramount Pictures) quest to retrieve their characters.
For those keeping score, these are the other titles licensed out to ‘outside’ studios: Spiderman & Ghostrider (Sony) and then Blade (New Line cinema – though this franchise could return home soon due to inactivity). Already The Punisher has returned to Marvel from Lions Gate due to poor performance (War Zone was the lowest grossing film carrying the Marvel title). Of course The Hulk was previously with Universal before Marvel clawed him back to assemble the Avengers.
So, as you can see, of all Marvel’s property, X-Men makes up the biggest collection of superheroes outside their grasp, though I do have hope. The stronger the Marvel studio grows, by consistently producing good films, with solid backing from Disney, the closer we’ll get to see our beloved Mutants the way they should be seen, in all their dark and unconventional glory.
Some of the Hollywood fodder thrown at our feet may actually turn out some decent films, but in X-Men’s case, when the real creators are not behind the films, they will inevitably be soulless pretenders.

*AMENDMENT*:

ALL Xmen are contracted to FOX Studios, including Cable. The problem this franchise has is that his ties to the Xmen is pretty solid and direct and the filmmakers and writers of said films have yet to conceive a story to introduce his character (which needs to be done in a pseudo current timeline) – but then again we’ve seen how they handle continuity and disregarding characters links and timelines – like (brothers) Havoc and Cyclops non-existent link in the films…

The only hope we have – which is nevertheless a bit of a false hope – is in TV, since Marvel still owns the TV rights to the Xmen (hence the animated TV shows). So they could, if they really wanted to, invest in an epic Xmen TV show along the scale of Game of Thrones, to adapt some of the best storylines. Wishful thinking? – maybe – but Marvel are continuing their education as they learn from early teething problems with ‘Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D’ (already fans have asked why mutants have not been introduced or mentioned in the show) as they work on bringing DareDevil, Luke Cage et al, to Netflix. More & more an Xmen venture falls into the reckoning (knock on wood).

______________

About Steven Benjamin:

A Capetonian – the only son, amongst four siblings, of a demure working mother and a missionary (once upon a time) for a father. Humble and God fearing, I’m a writer looking to add a different perspective whilst also telling stories on the side. I’ve lugubriously turned to writing after failing in a mental attempt to become a Formula 1 driver. I’m currently also working on my spicy debut novel, The Quiet Days!

Steven’s personal blog