Mike Dougherty, director of the long-delayed and mistreated Trick ‘r Treat and co-writer of X-Men 2 joined the /Filmcast over the weekend and in their special “After Dark” segment, where they talk about whatever’s on their mind, their conversation hit on the interesting subject of X-Men 3, for which Dougherty and Singer were not a part of, but would have been had Singer not swung over to DC to make Superman Returns (for which Dougherty helped write).
In the audio clip, Dave Chen, Adam Quigley and Devindra Hardawar bring up the subject the X3 and quiz Dougherty on his thoughts of the movie, for which he answered reservedly and professionally. The interesting parts however, came afterward, when Dougherty moved on to explain some of the ideas he pitched to Bryan Singer for what of been their version of the third installment of the X-Men film franchise.
To start, we’ll go through some parts of the conversation, transcribed by Alex Billington of First Showing.
When questioned about what his and Singer’s ideas were for X-Men 3, Dougherty revealed some parts (that he was allowed to – he doesn’t want any angry calls from Bryan and these ideas could still be used down the road…) that he could remember from what he pitched as story elements.
“The idea – you open up with Alkali Lake but it’s completely barren and dried up and there are these odd reports of strange phenomena going on around the world accompanied by bright lights in the sky.”
“The idea would be that both the X-Men and the Brotherhood realize that essentially a very god-like force had entered their reality and that it was causing disruptions around the world – mutant prisons being decimated. I had pitched an idea about a fleet of cargo ships getting torn apart in the Atlantic and you found out that they were shuttling mutants as slave labor.”
“So basically you found out was that Phoenix was going round the world taking things into her own hands and that she had basically returned as a god, which they did touch upon in X3. She had viewed herself as above the conflict, that she was here to end things on her terms, she was basically sick of the fighting and she was going to take things into her own hands and she didn’t give a shit what the X-Men or the Brotherhood had to say about it.”
These few simple sentences are already a step up from how the ever-important Phoenix Saga was treated on screen in Brett Ratner’s adaptation. In X3: The Last Stand, The Phoenix character was resigned to standing and staring blankly in a red dress… that’s it. Every scene, she stands, stares and sometimes destruction surrounds her when she’s angry (and staring). There was no character, no purpose, just the under-utilized idea that she was all-powerful which never showed through and really didn’t have a plot.
Was X3 about Phoenix or about a cure to the mutation? It didn’t do either well, and neither storyline served its purpose fully.
In Dougherty’s version, he goes on to explain that in the end of his version Phoneix/Jean doesn’t get stabbed and die again but instead, chooses to leave. It gets better though as he continues to share his idea of the Cyclops we all know and love, the leader that should have been.
“The one idea that I loved, that I really wanted to do, was that Cyclops would build the Danger Room. Cyclops felt guilty, he felt that because the X-Men were too weak, they weren’t strong enough, they weren’t fast enough, that was the reason Jean died. If they were a little bit better at fighting, then she might still be alive. It was all about this guilt he had about her death and so he built the Danger Room to train them to be better. But in the end it really was about him not being able to let go of her, so that causes all the chaos and disruption in the movie. But in the end it’s about him letting her go.”
“Ultimately she kind of becomes that cosmic force that Phoenix is known to be, she choose to leave Earth and become a god, or at least a higher level of intelligence, and she goes into the cosmos possibly to kick-start life somewhere else… The final scene for me would have been her telling Cyclops or her telling the X-Men ‘I’ll be watching.’ Essentially she becomes a god.”
Cyclops lives, Phoenix is an all-powerful god (who can make a return), the story makes more sense, Cyclops becomes the leader he should be, introduction, use and purpose of danger room explored – This is the movie we needed.
You should definitely check out the audio podcast (playable here) to listen as they talk about more X-Men stuff and a wide variety of things including Dougherty’s thoughts on Superman Returns and the problems surrounding the release of Trick ‘r Treat.
What do you think about Dougherty’s plan for X3 – would it have made for a better film and happier fans?
With X-Men super producer Lauren Shuler Donner hinting that she desires and is planning an X-Men 4, as well as all of the statements from both her and Bryan Singer about him wanting to come back to the franchise, it’s certainly a possibility to see Singer direct X-Men 4. Perhaps this is the chance for him to implement some of the unused ideas they had for X3. I think that would be a great way to right the ship and gain back the support of the hardcore comic fans and the film critics who laid a smackdown in the reviews of X3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.