English filmmaker Matthew Vaughn first burst on to the international film scene as a producer of his friend Guy Ritchie’s breakthrough films LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and SNATCH. He then made to transition into directing with the 2004 film LAYER CAKE, which starred Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller. Layer Cake, a stylish British gangster film based on a hit novel, not only established Craig as a superstar (and the new 007), it turned Vaughn into a hot commodity in Hollywood.
His next two films, STARDUST and KICK-ASS, were adaptations of popular graphic novels. The 2010 Kick-Ass was an independently financed film that Lions Gate placed high hopes on after footage from the film stole the show at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. Unfortunately, the film underperformed badly at the box office as the marketing campaign for this R-rated film failed miserably. However, his work on the film impressed 20th Century Fox enough to select him to be Bryan Singer’s replacement as director of the upcoming X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, which opens nationwide on June 3rd. Does Vaughn have the chops to resuscitate an X-Men film franchise that has suffered nearly mortal wounds due to pathetic films directed by hack filmmakers such as Brett Ratner (X-MEN: THE LAST STAND) and Gavin Hood (X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE)?
One reason to be optimistic about Matthew Vaughn’s work on X-Men: First Class is that the trailers look fantastic. Unlike his previous two comic book films, this X-Men film will not be based upon a single graphic novel and will instead be a re-imagining of the X-Men storyline. However, the trailer shows that Vaughn knows how to craft a film that brings the superhero concept convincingly into a real world setting with a tone that leans much more dramatic to the dramatic side than the campy previous two X-Men films did.
Speaking of tone, I think this next scene shows that Vaughn can get it spot on, with a blend of drama, special effects and comedy, just as Bryan Singer did in the first two X-Men movies.
Based on the trailer, the clip above, a screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller (THOR), and a terrific cast that includes Michael Fassbender (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), Kevin Bacon, January Jones (MAD MEN), Rose Byrne (BRIDESMAIDS), and James McAvoy (WANTED), there are many reasons to be super hyped for this film. Plus, even though the movie Kick-Ass did not succeed completely, with that film Matthew Vaughn demonstrated an ability to take an effective scene off the pages of a comic book and translate it into effective cinema.
The comic book page above from the comic book Kick-Ass, written by Mark Millar (WANTED) and drawn by John Romita,Jr., illustrates the bizarre father/daughter (handler/slave?) relationship between Hit Girl and Big Daddy. It’s fairly disturbing in black comedy way. Now, here is the scene as adapted in Vaughn’s film version:
Vaughn goes with closeups just as Romita and Millar do in the comic book, but he increases the distance between Hit Girl and Big Daddy by mixing in longer and wider shots perhaps to make the scene, where a bulletproof vest must stop a bullet, look more realistic. The change also serves to emphasize the distance between the two in their relationship as handler and programmed, mind-controlled asset, providing the scene with a colder, more disturbing feel. Regardless of the motivations, this is a classic example of an effective piece of comic book adaptation and it was the standing ovation that this scene received in front of a crowd of 6,500 at Comic-Con that helped convince Lionsgate to open their wallet up to acquire Kick-Ass.
So what do you think about Matthew Vaughn as the new Mr. Adaptation? Will he prove to be a hack like Ratner or does he have the qualities to make a rare good superhero movie?