As opposed to the growing universe of The Avengers, the X-Men saga seems less a dollar-driven mega-brand these days than an interweaving, incestuous franchise bent on its own redemption. James Mangold’s The Wolverine rather effectively removed the bitter taste of Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class opted to wind the clock all the way back to the 1960s, as if to distract us from the overreaching piecemeal mess that was Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Now comes X-Men: Days of Future Past, whose very plot involves amending the ills of days gone by, and using this valiant approach to suppress chaos and make for a better future. Allowing life to imitate art, Marvel even reached into its own past to bring this picture to the screen, tapping X-Men and X2 director Bryan Singer to once again take the reins. Few would argue that Singer’s X films, particularly X2, were the strongest of the series, and then there’s the tangentially related tidbit that his Superman Returns soared above Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. It’s with that directorial promise that viewers can watch Future Past’s debut trailer with confidence, taking in the Marty McFly parallels to a comic-book storyline first penned by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, and watching Halle Berry channel Helen Slater from The Legend of Billie Jean. X-Men: Days of Future Past may not be able to wipe clean the sins of the series, but thanks to its helmer and the sheer audacity of its apparent convolution, it may just be the rare new superhero film that’s actually remarkable. Watch the trailer after the jump.
X Men: First Class (#1–10 of 5)
If you wait until halfway through the credits of new Marvel actioner The Wolverine, you’ll get—surprise!—an Easter-egg-y teaser of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest leg of this comic-book-maker turned film studio’s incestuous universe. In the clip [spoiler alert], Logan (Hugh Jackman) catches up with Magneto (Ian McKellen) and a resurrected Professor X (Patrick Stewart), who, now evidently on the same team, warn their furry friend of an incoming menace that’s a threat to all mutants. Thanks to this early teaser poster, and, to a lesser degree, this one, fanboys know said threat is the infamous army of towering robotic “Sentinels,” which, in the end-credits scene, are further foreshadowed by a flash of the Trask Industries logo (for the non-geeks to whom this means nothing, just roll with me).
While DC and Warner Bros. stole headlines this past weekend with plans to integrate Batman into Man of Steel 2 (a.k.a. Batman vs. Superman, or vice versa, as writer David S. Goyer confirmed), it’s Marvel and 20th Century Fox that look to immediately capitalize on all the geekdom hoopla this weekend with The Wolverine, the second standalone film for Hugh Jackman’s titular X-Man, which has made him one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. What’s changed since the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine just four years ago? For starters, it appears that Fox has abandoned plans to make standalone films for each of their comic-book properties, instead offering X-Men: First Class as a means to reboot the entire franchise, while anchoring Wolverine on his own for two films until…wait for it…X-Men: Days of Future Past, which will finally bring all of our favorite mutants together again, marking four X-Men films in just six years.
Amid the new British invasion of rising stars (see Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, and the entire cast of Downton Abbey), the strongest candidate for male heartthrob seems to be Nicholas Hoult, an English actor and model who just turned 23, 10 years after co-starring with Hugh Grant in About a Boy.
Born with actorly blood, Hoult is the great-nephew of Anna Neagle, British star and muse to director Herbert Wilcox, whom she wed in the 1940s. Part of Hoult’s appeal is that he carries some of the classic mystique of Neagle’s heyday, his stark features begging to be captured in black and white, and his lean frame designed for chic formal wear. It’s no wonder perfectionist Tom Ford nabbed Hoult for his ’60s-era feature debut, A Single Man, casting the then-20-year-old as Kenny, the studious slice of eye-candy who connects with Colin Firth’s professor. Through Ford’s stylized lens, viewers saw the extent to which Hoult could be an onscreen asset, providing a look both pure and dangerous, nostalgic and new. Few, though, might have expected just how big a star he was on his way to becoming, with multiple blockbusters and, potentially, three franchises on the horizon.
Ten films remain in the running for berths in Oscar’s visual effects category, and all but two of them are fodder for snarky infotainment graphics showcasing just how many top-grossing movies this year were either superhero epics or franchise entries or epic superhero franchise entries. Which probably ought to make this the most important category of the year for the demographic that evidently decides everything that gets green-lit. By that measure, don’t get your hopes up too high for either Hugo or The Tree of Life to make appearances here. The former’s swooping 3D tracking shots and Best Picture heat will probably allow it to squeeze in alongside Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s more broad-shouldered robo-jock jamming. (The downright photorealistic metal-head getting ready to rumble throughout Real Steel may end up lost in the shuffle—a classic middle child held up against Optimus Prime and that crying French boy’s tinker toy.)