Saturday, October 27, 2012

X-Over: Vaughn Out, Singer In For X-Men?

Two summers ago, I lavished praise on X-Men: First Class, the prequel/reboot film that washed away the bilious aftertaste of the the previous two X-Men flicks (2006's The Last Stand and 2009's Origins), so I was happy to report late last year that director Matthew Vaughn, who played such a key role in leading the X-franchise out of the wasteland, was back onboard to shepherd a return visit to the First Class prequel-verse. With the director and stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender confirmed to return, it looked like full steam ahead for the sequel, titled Days of Future Past (from a famed X-Men comic book storyline by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) to meet its July 2014 release date.

However, a wrench got thrown into the works earlier this week when Vaughn, who'd been developing the story with producer Bryan Singer, decided to bail on the project in favor of another collaboration with Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar (though he would apparently still remain aboard as a producer). Oddly enough, this comes just weeks after another returning director exited another fast-tracked Fox sequel. Is this a
"where there's smoke, there's fire" indictment of the famously heavy-handed studio? Hard to know, but like I said with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a two-plus year development window to get to theaters isn't exactly cruel and unusual punishment.

I'm not sure if there's more to Vaughn's departure, but as of now, we have a sequel without a director. Now, before we start spraying the place with Brett Ratner Repellent, the good news it that Fox isn't looking far for Vaughn's replacement. Instead, they're eyeing the guy who got the whole X-Men series started for them back in 2000, and who was initially supposed to direct First Class anyway: Bryan Singer. And what a journey this guy's been on, no? He helmed X-Men and X2 to much ballyhoo, launching the superhero boom we're in the midst of, but rather than close out the trilogy, he bolted for Warners' Superman Returns. The result: a creatively stillborn X-Men franchise and a financially stillborn Superman franchise (itself due for a reboot next summer).

Given his history with the brand, and given the time already spent creating the Days of Future Past storyline (which promises to bridge the prequel series with the earlier trilogy Generations-style), it sure seems like a no-brainer for Singer to take his place in the big chair. Not only would it assuage any worries for a potential dip in quality to have the guy who directed X2 -- arguably the creative high point of the whole dang series -- taking the reins, but it would also neatly sidestep the lag time and learning curve of getting a new director up to speed. As of now, there's no word on whether Singer is officially the guy, but it sure seems like a no-brainer to me. Let's see what happens.

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