“We’re going to take this superhero thing and really just push it into a new genre.”
A couple weeks back, news broke that Hollywood Übermensch, James Franco, is attached to Fox’s upcoming X-Men universe film based on the character Jamie Madrox, aka Multiple Man. Now, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Franco shed light on how he plans on adapting the comic book source material.
Franco is the proud owner of one of Hollywood’s most diverse careers. One look at his filmography — better yet, his Wikipedia page — and it’s clear that Franco subscribes to the YOLO philosophy. He’s willing to try anything once if it provides a new and exciting experience. Franco made his mark on the comic book movie genre in the early aughts when he starred Sam Raimi’s classic Spider-Man trilogy. It’s safe to reason that Franco is returning to the genre with an eye towards creating something that has never been done. And Franco’s comments during his conversation with The Hollywood Reporter back it up.
Our bottom line MO is, how can we push this into new ground? A little bit, but still make it entertaining? [But] what I love about what Simon Kinberg and Fox and the X-Men people have done with Deadpool and Logan — it took a while to get there, maybe 10 years — but they are going to go hard R. And we’re going to take this superhero thing and really just push it into a new genre. So we’re working with Simon Kinberg on an X-Men property.
Franco touches on an interesting point when he states, “It took a while to get there.” Comic book movies are the driving force behind Hollywood right now but that wasn’t always the case. In the days before the MCU, people weren’t sure that Marvel could even pull off successful Captain America, Thor, and The Avengers movies. So, when it came to embracing a title’s “comic booky-ness,” studios were extremely risk averse. A perfect example is how the X-Men movie characters went from wearing black leather outfits (the superhero version of mom jeans) to comic book accurate costumes in Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse. And best of all, these progressive representations of classic characters aren’t just cosmetic.
I think that Fox has squandered the X-Men property over the years but now they’re finally figuring it out. For the most part, too many core characters are underdeveloped, they’ve dropped the ball on classic story arcs, and they have failed to embrace the series’ soap operatic relationship dynamics. But, Fox recently hit it out of the park with Deadpool and Logan, the two films that Franco references.
Deadpool and Logan aren’t exceptional because they’re R-rated, but their R-rating is essential to capturing each character’s essence. There is no inherent reason to make a Cyclops, Nightcrawler, or Jubilee movie R-rated but Deadpool and the crotchety Old Man Logan are two characters who “give no fucks.” Both men are anti-heroes and their film’s R-rated potty humor, sexcapades, and fits of extreme violence feels spot on. Multiple Man is somewhat of a cipher and part of the appeal of adapting a C-lister like him is forging the public image of a little-used character. As far as pop culture is concerned, he’s a blank slate.
Fox has piqued my interest with their upcoming slate of X-universe movies. They’ve given the Deadpool series a budget increase, made The New Mutants a straight-up horror movie, and they’re taking a second swing at the beloved story arc, “The Dark Phoenix Saga.” There are worlds of possibility for the X-universe characters to explore and I can’t wait to see how a bonafide risktaker like James Franco tackles the material.