Making the Case for a Pitch Black ‘X-Men’ Movie


Making the Case for a Pitch Black ‘X-Men’ Movie


So Christopher Nolan got bored of doing Batman and the great Dark Knight saga had to come to a close. Although the last installment of the trilogy, this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises, ended with an opening for a Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Robin spinoff, Nolan has quashed any suggestion that this was designed so that the franchise could continue. While no one would be surprised by $ome $ort of $equel, so far, we’ve not heard anything substantive. And so us fankids are left with little to look forward to. (Man of Steel, I’ll believe it when I see it.)

Most comic book movie adaptations suck and, while I’ll still go see them all, the pleasure I get is largely from deconstructing all the ways that they suck. That doesn’t mean I don’t want them to succeed. I’ll keep buying tickets out of the hope that these screen adaptations might live up to the potential of their original material. That I might see another The Dark Knight.

This is a petition. A petition for a darker X-Men reboot. First Class (2011) was pretty good, like Mad Men meets the 1990s animated series. Plus, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. The follow-up to that movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, is due out in 2014 and Hugh Jackson has just confirmed that he’ll be joining the time-travelling team bringing the First Class together with the Millennial cast. Bryan Singer, of X-Men and X-Men 2, will be reprising his role as director and I can see myself eating Twizzlers and rolling my eyes already.

See, I wanna see X-Men get dark. Get Real. I want to see X-Men get as gritty as Nolan made Batman. The Wolverine (2013) is trying. The upcoming movie, with Hugh Jackman, natch, is written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie) and directed by James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma). It sees Wolverine travelling to Japan to train with a samurai warrior; Kill Bill, Batman Begins and Ra’s al Ghul… The premise is exhausted but at least the McQuarrie/Mangold team is promising.

To really properly reboot the X-Men franchise, to get a Dark Knight equivalent, not a Dark Knight knockoff, first we need a comic. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies would never have been possible without Frank Miller’s Dark Knight comics (1986-87, 2001, 2005). Because in comics, one can take risks. Production costs are relatively low. An auteur can, literally, try his hand at a wild reinterpretation. Play with form. Make mistakes. Make Robin a girl. Remember: with great freedom, comes great commercial art.

Why X-Men? What made Miller and Nolan’s Batman work so well is that he could be anybody, anybody with an infinite pool of money, a sick sense of the sickness of the world, and nothing to lose. In X-Men, it’s the same. The mutants could be anybody. You go through puberty and all of a sudden you start developing differences beyond your control. And you just have to deal. It’s the simplest, most perfect metaphor for growing up.

The X-Men legacy is full of material ripe for contemporary adaptation. Sci-fi potential: Mutants are a product of evolution, a genetic (X-Gene) differentiation. Posthumanism, transhumanism… think of the 21st century metaphorical possibilities! Socio-political potential: Mutation is also a metaphor for difference and minority rights. The conflict between mutants and not-mutants has been compared to real-world conflicts like those faced by African Americans, Jews, and the LGBT community. Terrorism. The Other. Hello? Psychological potential: Mutations are just human neuroses and other tics blown to, ahem, comic proportions (Beast-iality and the beauty myth, Professor Xavier and the psychic empathy of the disabled body, the hot-headed aggression of Cyclops, Rogue’s sexual trauma and frigidity, Gambit’s gambling problem…). Let’s R-rate this shit.

If superheroes are the Gods of our time, then X-Men is the most encompassing mythology of contemporary humanity. So, dear Marvel, I know you’re owned by Disney now, but please consider a “Parental Advisory” comic book adaptation of the X-Men. None of this “Teen” shit. Try Frank Miller or maaaybe Brian Keller Vaughan (I feel like Alan Moore is too spiritual these days).* Then we can make the great movie for the masses from a wildly inventive source text. Bring in Fincher or Lynch or Cronenberg. Kathryn Bigelow? Herzog? Some young upstart visionary? Anyone but the Wachowskis or Zack Snoozer. If you need it, Hollywood, you can even make the movie PG13. But it better be bleeping smart.

*Or, I’m available for contract work.