By Joshua Burton
Nerds are absolutely salivating over the May 23 release of X-Men: Days of Future Past. This movie represents the apex of the 14-year X-Men movie franchise and the 23-year wait for fans of this classic comic book story to come to life. So what has got the superhero geek community all worked up? Time travel, and lots of it.
Let’s start at the beginning. In 1980 Marvel Comics released a two-issue storyline in the Uncanny X-Men title that, without warning, plopped readers into a dystopian futuristic society where the mutants of the world were hunted and killed by the government. Nerds love a good dystopian future and the storyline unfolded without explanation and culminated in death – and lots of it. Everything returned to normal the next issue but fandom was changed forever by the sight of what the X-Men books had been warning about for decades. Blatant racism, the death of beloved characters, and the renewed fear of a looming danger led fans to pick apart the books in search of the possible causes of this bleak future.
Fast forward to the year 2000. Nerds were living in their own dystopian future for years after Batman and Robin had seemingly put the final nail in the coffin of the comic book movie industry. Box office flops like Superman IV: The Quest For Peace and the painful death of the Batman franchise seemed to dash the hopes of ever seeing a studio take a risk on superheroes again. Enter Bryan Singer.
The young filmmaker had cut his teeth in the independent film circuit and had gained notoriety making smart, edgy films like The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil. Suddenly he was in the center of a flurry of talk that he was going to helm an X-Men movie for Fox. The nerd community blew up. Fox was taking a risk with the young Singer, who had never been in control of a big-budget movie. But the hopes of millions of fans rode on Singer’s back, himself an outcast and subject of ridicule of sorts as an openly gay man in a still burgeoning community of notable figures who were out.
Fox’s bet paid off and X-Men opened to huge success, opening at over $54 million in the first weekend. This spawned two sequels of quite different appeals – Singer’s directorial run ended with the first sequel – and a variety of Wolverine spinoff movies. The more recent prequel to the series, X-Men: First Class, broke barriers as a period piece and a dramatic improvement in critical reception of the mutant-based movies.
And here we are in the present. The loosely interconnected movies seem to all be leading to this point. Unquestionably the most popular character, Wolverine, whose past has been developed greatly in his own movies, will be the catalyst for the crossover of the previous X-Trilogy with the recent 60’s-era prequel as he travels through time to stop a distant future from becoming the world’s horrific present.
And who else is popping back into the fray? None other than the Brian Singer, returning to direct the merry band of mutants as they fight to protect a world that hates and fears them. It’s been a long and winding road to this release date.
The interweaving storylines can be confusing, but this is where the movies are imitating the format of the original medium. X-Men comics have been continually published for over 50 years. That’s a lot of history, and if Fox continues to plays its cards right, it will be looking at a new life for it’s long-running superhero franchise.
Interested in comics and superheroes? There are some great resources in the bookcase section of your WebRoom. Check out ComiXology for all of your digital comics needs or any of the great comic book and comic movie news sites like Comic Book Resources, Newsarama or Bleeding Cool. And don’t forget to see X-Men: Days of Future Past starting May 23. See if you can spot X-Men creator Stan Lee’s inevitable cameo. Excelsior!