Ever since the first details of X-Men: First Class started hitting the Net, fans have either been wary or downright upset about the film, claiming that it is presenting the origins of the X-Men in a manner that is seemingly dismissive of the continuity established in X-Men comic books, or even the X-Men movie trilogy.
While the X-Men: First Class trailer and recent Russian trailer have both served to sway some fans over to the possibility that First Class may in fact turn out to be a good film (against all odds), there is still a substantial amount of concern about the movie’s plot, and how seemingly different it is.
Yesterday I was writing an article questioning whether or not Hollywood should cater to the fan community when it comes to superhero movies, and in that process, I found myself focusing on the case of X-Men: First Class in some detail. As I dug into the topic, one question quickly emerged: Is the plot of X-Men: First Class as far removed from the comics as some fans seem to think it is?
In case you aren’t yet aware, here’s complete breakdown of which actors are playing which roles in X-Men: First Class. Click on any name for more info on the character:
- James McAvoy – Professor X
- Michael Fassbender – Magneto
- Kevin Bacon – Sebastian Shaw
- January Jones – Emma Frost
- Nicholas Hoult – Beast
- Caleb Landry Jones – Banshee
- Lucas Till – Havok
- Zoe Kravitz – Angel Salvadore
- Alex Gonzalez – Riptide
- Jennifer Lawrence – Mystique
- Edi Gathegi – Darwin
- Jason Flemyng – Azazel
- Rose Byrne – Moira MacTaggert
- Ray Wise – Unamed Government Head of State
- Oliver Platt – Shady Government Agent
We know that this First Class movie has been described by director Matthew Vaughn as a quasi-reboot of the X-Men franchise – one whose center would be the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr and how a rift formed between the two men, leading to the warring factions of Magneto’s brotherhood and Xavier’s X-Men. In the film, Magneto is seemingly a part of Xavier’s school, teaching young mutants to master their powers. This is, of course, also part of X-Men comic book canon. In fact, Magneto was the first headmaster of Jr. X-Men squad The New Mutants, until the loss of several team members and continuous conflict ultimately turned him away from Xavier’s school and pacifist ideals.
There are hints that X-Men: First Class‘ history-meets-comic-books storyline is also drawing from Ed Brubaker’s miniseries X-Men: Deadly Genesis, which retconned the classic story told in Giant-Size X-Men #1, the issue that brought fan-favorites like Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus into the X-Men fold. In that story, the first class of X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast, Angel) were sent to investigate and island called Krakoa; however, upon arriving there, they are ambushed and captured. Only Cyclops escapes, but seemingly has no memory of his ordeal. He and Professor X recruit new X-Men (Wolverine, Storm and others) to save the captured team members. On the return trip, they discover the island is in fact alive, having gained sentient life as a result of Cold War A-bomb tests in the area. Krakoa is beaten, and the combined team of X-Men is formed.
X-Men: Deadly Genesis “re-imagined” the X-Men’s Krakoa mission by introducing the story of the “Lost X-Men,” a team of mutants tutored by Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne in the film) and psychically trained by professor Xavier. The Lost X-Men’s first mission was to rescue the original X-Men from Krakoa, but the team was only able to save Cyclops and seemingly perished in the line of duty. This “Lost X-Men” team included Darwin (Edi Gathegi), an elemental-powered X-Man (Riptide (Alex Conzalez) instead of Petra) and a new Summers brother (a re-imagined Havok (Lucas Till) instead of “lost” Summers brother, Kid Vulcan).
Brubaker’s “Deadly Genesis” story even features a young Emma Frost graduating from stripper to queen of the Hellfire Club; she was approached to join the Lost X-Men, but turned the offer down. Ultimately, the demise of these Lost X-Men proved too traumatic, and Professor X used his power to wipe the memory of the encounter from the minds of those involved.
Clearly there is room to suggest that the inclusion of characters like Darwin, Riptide – and to a certain extent, Havok – could be First Class‘ tweaked version of the Lost X-Men team. Having a roster of essentially expendable characters would also negate the problem of why the old X-Men in Vaughn’s film would have little influence on the newer X-Men presented in Bryan Singer’s films: Hard for the old class to influence the new class if most of the old class is dead…
It would be especially interesting to see Xavier and Magneto try to lead a young generation of X-Men, only to have the children meet a grisly fate trying to play hero – a trauma which would potentially cause Magneto to split from Xavier (like in New Mutants). Will that mission be to stop (or save) Krakoa, the mutant island? Judging by some early set photos it’s possible…but all the same, it’s unlikely that this film would go so far as to feature a living island as the villain. (Unlikely, not impossible.)
Our own Rob Keyes has already envisioned a more likely scenario – one that could mesh the Lost X-Men mythos with the early history of the Hellfire Club’s inner circle. As told in the comics, the inner circle’s leader, powerful businessman Edward Buckman (possibly the role Ray Wise plays in the film?) and his partner Steven Lang (possibly Oliver Platt’s role in the film?) enact “Project Armageddon,” a program designed to destroy mutants (through the use of The Sentinels in the comics – not sure if that exact doomsday scenario would carry over to the film).
The X-Men ultimately defeated Project Armageddon; meanwhile, Inner Circle member Sebastian Shaw (a mutant himself) overthrew Buckman with help from allies like Emma Frost, and ultimately seized control of the Hellfire Club. Soon after breaking away from Xavier’s school, Magneto ousted Shaw as leader of the New York Hellfire Club and established himself as “The Grey King,” using the club as a base from which to raise his Brotherhood for the coming war against humans. Magneto was also responsible for sinking a Soviet sub armed with nuclear warheads (a sequence that is referenced in the First Class trailer).
See where we’re going with all this?
The “Project Armageddon” scenario is certainly evidenced by the not-so-subtle wording of the X-Men: First Class official synopsis, as well as by hints that both Kevin Bacon and January Jones have dropped about their respective roles in the film. It would also be a very practical approach, one that could allow Xavier, MacTaggert and Magneto to train a young team of X-Men for a mission – one that costs the lives of some of their students – while still allowing for the subplot of The Hellfire Club’s power grab, and even Magneto’s eventual takeover of the Club (as hinted at in the Russian trailer). I’m especially interested in the psychic action sequences Vaughn has described, which could be the same sort of psychic training Xavier gave the Lost X-Men in Brubaker’s Deadly Genesis miniseries.
Best of all: The Lost X-Men angle, and Xavier ultimately wiping that incident from memory, would also be the perfect hinge that connects X-Men: First Class to Bryan Singer’s X-Men – arguably even Wolverine – without a whole lot of continuity knots.
While the plot details of X-Men: First Class are still largely unknown, there are plenty of hints in the trailers and images suggesting that bits and pieces of established X-Men comic book cannon are being used for this film, and that the story is not the “bastardization” of the X-Men comics that a lot of fanboys have been claiming.
Are there liberties being taken? Certainly. In the comics Havok is Scott Summer’s younger brother, but Lucas Till’s character in the film would be much older than James Marsden’s Cyclops from Bryan Singer’s X-Men. But in the larger scheme of things would it really be a deal-breaker to make “the lost Summers brother” Havok instead of Kid Vulcan? I don’t think so.
Does the notion of X-Men: First Class drawing its story from the comics make you more open to the film? Or is it still too different from the source material for your liking?
X-Men: First Class will be in theaters on June 3rd.