X-Men Prequel Pounds Hangover 2
By John Hamann
June 5, 2011
I find it kind of odd the way the franchise peaked with the third film, but in terms of quality it really hit a high point with the second film, X2. Looking at RottenTomatoes, the first film was very well received , garnering a 82% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. The second received the best score at 88%, and then returns began to fall with X-Men: The Last Stand at 57%, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, at 37%. Quality had left the X-Men franchise, especially with the brutal Wolverine, but Fox and Marvel assembled a better team, spent more money, and delivered a MUCH better product this time out with X-Men: First Class, and legs may become a factor again in the X-Men world.
20th Century Fox hired Matthew Vaughn, who, prior to First Class had directed only three films, but all of them had style and an impact on the audience. After getting Producer credits on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as well as Snatch, his first directorial effort was Layer Cake, a British film starring the then unknown Daniel Craig, Tom Hardy and Sally Hawkins. Layer Cake earned only $2 million in the US, but did better overseas. It became a cult hit on DVD, and I suggest you seek it out if you haven't already. Vaughn then did Stardust, a $70 million effort that earned only $40 million in North America, but took in almost $100 million overseas. Then came Kick-Ass, one of the biggest love it or hate it films from the last 10 years. Regardless of whether you think Kick-Ass is a good film (or a responsible one) or not, it did show that Matthew Vaughn had a seriously large set of balls on him, considering what he put on the screen.
The X-Men franchise needed some new life, and they certainly got it with Vaughn. Critics love the new product, as X-Men: First Class received 150 positive reviews out of a possible 172, giving it a fresh rating of 87%. That's the best of the 2011 blockbusters so far – better than Thor's 77% and only a point less than Bridesmaids 88% rating. To start a new franchise under the "First Class" banner, the first one was going to have to be good and successful, and so far, it looks like X-Men: First Class has done both.
With X-Men: First Class, Fox was able to spend more of its large budget on the movie, instead of on the cast. X-Men films are going to have large casts due to the team nature of these films, and after the success of the first three films, paying Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, and Ian McKellan couldn't be cheap. They tried to lower those costs with the one-star Wolverine, but it cut into revenue. Audiences wanted multiple super-heroes, not just Hugh Jackman whining a lot. So, we bring in X-Men: First Class, with names like James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender leading the cast, along with Rose Byrne, January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence. These names aren't going to break the bank, at least until third film in the new franchise. Going this very financially effective route allowed Matthew Vaughn to have submarines flying through the sky in what was a very impressive trailer for the reboot. Marvel Studios is taking this summer by storm, as Thor is already a winner, First Class is winning, and they still have Captain America coming very soon.