Following a conversation with Matt Holmes after both of us had seen the latest addition to the X-Men saga (which will shortly become a duel article exploring the virtues and problems with X-Men: First Class
), a question arose that has eaten away at me ever since. So, swiftly following on from my Fantasy Characters post from a few days ago
, I've decided to tackle the second area of debate inspired by Matthew Vaughn's
brilliant Bond-inspired take on the property. And the question? Given how the film is resolved, and the scripting decisions that led to that resolution, where would a X-Men: Second Class
film go? Slight warning of spoilers below
, so be warned - if you haven't seen it yet, best avoid this article until you have... So here's a recap... By the end of First Class, Erik (Michael Fassbender
) is Magneto, and he's gone bad, Charles (James McAvoy
) is Professor X, and his legs don't work anymore, Beast (Nicholas Hoult
) is blue, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence
) has defected and humans have decided they no longer like the mutants. And most importantly, there are now two distinct factions within the mutants, The Brotherhood (though not yet named) and the X-Men. Basically, in terms of the political dynamic between Xavier's followers and those in Magneto's gang we are heading somewhat towards how things stand at the beginning of Bryan Singer's
. So where now?
Well, accusations have already been levelled at the film suggesting that Vaughn was too hasty in his narrative approach
, and the decision to arrive at the conclusion that First Class ultimately does was something of a mistake this early, if he has further additions to his strand of the X-Universe in mind. Yes, Vaughn could have stretched the Magneto/Professor X story arc across more than one film, but that horse has now bolted, and in terms of the characters' relationship now, we have to accept that we are almost in the same position as at the beginning of that first film. So, if this is indeed a prequel (and there are hints that it is, as well as some suggesting otherwise), there is going to have to be some narrative deviation to introduce more dramatic flashpoints and further develop the fractious dynamic between the two. But then, if it's a reboot, and I'm not entirely sure which camp I'm in just yet , it doesn't matter where we are now, or how similar that position is to Singer's start-point, because this new strand will simply supersede what has already been made, cameos or not. And for me, there are only a limited number of story arcs from the comics that would work for Vaughn if he indeed wants to continue acknowledging the existence of the films that already exist. For Only If You Think First Class Is A Prequel:As simple as the sub-heading suggests, the following suggestions would fit with a narrative arc that includes both First Class and the other X-Men movies, so would represent those bridging steps between the prequel and its follow-ups. So what follows is for you, if you're on Team Prequel...
The Civil Rights Movement Allegory
We already know that this one is a possibility
, thanks to Bryan Singer's musings on the role that history might play in the plot of the follow-up, and based on the sentiments at the end of First Class, you could easily see this one coming to light. One idea talked about is to have Magneto and Xavier surrogate mutant figures for Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X but the question here is how to handle the somewhat delicate subject-matter. I've already suggested that the introduction of Bishop
would represent a clever counterpoint to the story, given his personal history, and overall I think the prospect of any focus on a Civil Rights story is a good idea. After all, mutant integration is one of the perennial backbones to the entire X-Universe, and Vaughn has already proved more than capable of infusing his superhero work with an authentic sense of historical importance (even if he was somewhat liberal with the real facts). This one seems most likely for the sequel.
Inherently linked to the Civil Rights allegory, since the Sentinels are essentially a policing force to find and neutralise "mutant threats" and could reasonably be rewritten slightly as humanity's direct response to Magneto's threat on the beach at the end of the first film. The Sentinels are almost as iconic a part of the X-Men universe as the main characters themselves, and represent a far greater threat to the mutants than anything humans could otherwise offer, plus they are a physical embodiment of the fractious relationship (borne out of fear) between humans and mutants. The Sentinels' early introduction here would also explain why they are largely ignored in the original trilogy, with their only appearance coming as part of a Danger Room training program in X-Men 3: The Last Stand
. The suggestion there could be that they are an already dealt-with threat, relegated to a frankly not very challenging training programme, so having them appear in 'Second Class' would also plug that slightly odd plot-hole as well.
House of M
This exceptional event story-arc may be slightly hindered by the fact that at the end of 'First Class' Magneto isn't old enough to have late teenage children, but that doesn't make it any less appealing. Besides, some creative reimagining could sort that little stumbling block out: as I said in my Fantasy Characters article there is no reason why Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch couldn't be introduced as new characters, unrelated to Magneto, with the magnetic villain merely taking up a paternal-like role in their lives. However, wiping out 98% of the mutant population might not be the best step at this stage, and it certainly wouldn't fit with the universe of Singer's X-Men (since Cerebro clearly shows a lot of mutants still alive) without some re-writing. But the appeal here is of a Phoenix style unstable mutant threat, this time with the mentally unstable Scarlet Witch, who would test the relationship between humans and mutants even further. So perhaps this storyline would represent an even better prospect after the Civil Rights allegory is committed to film and that relationship appears to be heading towards a more positive position.
The Brotherhood Of Mutants
Following almost immediately on from the beach scene in which Magneto recruits his first mutants, the next installment of Vaughn's film will probably focus on Magneto building a team, since at the minute he only has three great team-mates in the shape of Azazel, Emma Frost and Mystique (let's be honest Angel is pretty weak, and Riptide was a filler, without a voice or a character). The fun part comes in suggesting who he will choose... perhaps Liev Schrieber's
The Rise of The Academy
A likely balancing aspect to the Brotherhood storyline, Xavier's manifesto will no doubt include him growing his X-Men team, having already lost Magneto, Angel, Darwin and now Mystique from the team. This would also represent an opportunity to establish origin stories for Storm and perhaps Cyclops (presumably reimagined again as a younger sibling to Havok, and not his elder brother/father), while there now needs to be clarification on Jean Grey's origin, given the murky narrative conflicts that have so far confused that story.
Again linked with a Civil Rights allegory, a storyline focused on Genosha, and ideally the liberation of the enslaved mutant nation from the dictator-like leader Genegineer would fit quite well. Both the X-Men and the Brotherhood could well be involved in trying to overthrow Genegineer, though with obviously different intentions. The resolution of the storyline would also offer Magneto a base, and at least partially, a realisation of his dream of mutant supremacy: thus also offering a pleasant cyclical counterpoint to Magneto's own treatment at the hands of Sebastian Shaw and the Nazis. And For If You Think It's A Reboot:Obviously all of the above work for a reboot as well, but the ones that follow here are only appropriate for Vaughn's sequel if First Class was indeed a true reboot. So basically, what follows is material we have already seen (obviously handled differently than I'd suggest Vaughn and team would) - probably no where near as likely as the suggestions above, but you never can tell with new takes on any established property.
Astonishing X-Men: Gifted
The same storyline that formed the basis for The Last Stand, but was criminally badly executed: the award-winning "Gifted" run includes the discovery of a "cure" for mutant genes that appeals to Beast, due to the complete nature of his mutation, leading him to discover (along with the rest of the X-Men team) an illegal experimentation behind the cure, and a new threat in the shape of evil alien Ord. Gifted deserves a film treatment like no other X-Men property, because of its rejuvenating effect on the comics in the hands of Joss Whedon
, and because it was easily the stand-out story arc of a long time. The story would follow on from First Class quite easily, reinvestigating Beast's unhappiness with his mutation, and his quest for a cure, while also introducing a key figure in the shape of Colossus, who was yet another victim of bad execution of Last Stand.
Building The New Team
Basically a collection of origin stories for the most recognisable figures from the X-Men teams, including those who we have already met in the "Original Trilogy" - again this is already trodden ground, but it would allow for the introduction of some of the better characters who have already appeared. This is particularly valuable for characters who were particularly badly handled in the original three movies - so I'm talking Angel (Warren Worthington III), Juggernaut (who has a much better origin story than the muscle bound silliness of Last Stand and Vinnie Jones) and to a certain extent Storm, who I always felt could have been done a lot better. In essence this story would chart the development of the X-Men team from the current line-up at the end of First Class, to the new string already established at the start of X-Men, and intriguingly would also necessarily include some traumatic event that would split up, or even wipe-out the current members who aren't around by the time Singer introduced Wolverine to the line-up.
The Dark Phoenix Saga
This is the point where I thumb my nose at the boss, editor Matt Holmes, who berated me on the choice a little after reading an early outline, due to the severe unlikeliness that Fox would retread this ground. But this being a Fantasy Options article, my argument is that any storylines that weren't handled at all well are fair game. Plus the Dark Phoenix Saga is arguably the most famous of all X-Men extended story-arcs, and since the Phoenix has raised its head on multiple occasions there is no reason why a rebooted strand of the franchise couldn't focus on a different part of the story, with a younger Jean Grey, in order to swerve too close proximity to the Last Stand version of events. Plus, if Nolan's Batman trilogy can find a new way of telling the Joker story and the upcoming Superman can reintroduce General Zod, there is clearly an established precedent that suggests Hollywood isn't afraid to remould and retell stories. So, there we have it: what do you think? Are there any other storylines that would work, or that you'd like to see brought to the screen? Let us know!