Comic book movies pre-2008, before Iron Man released, were known as the dark ages. It really was a crap shoot if the movie was going to be any good. For every X2, there was a Daredevil or Batman & Robin. Dark times indeed. Now, it’s expected, most in thanks to Marvel Studios, that a comic book movie deliver a solid, all around experience, especially with 3 to 4 movies in the genre being released per year. In 2006 however, two high powered sequels faced off against each other, with a myriad of behind the scenes production issues that ultimately tanked both movies. X-Men: The Last Stand, and Superman Returns.
It all started with a script from J.J. Abrams for a rebooted Superman entitled, Superman: Flyby. Brett Ratner was hired to direct in 2002. After trying to cast everyone in the film from Anthony Hopkins to Josh Harnett and even Brendan Fraser, Ratner dropped out in 2003. He cited casting difficulties as the reason, though it was likely an argument with a producer that did it. McG, who really hasn’t done anything worth while, took over, before eventually dropping out too.
Warner Bros. approached Bryan Singer, who wrote and directed X-Men and X2. Directing a Superman movie being a life long dream for the man, he instantly jumped ship on the still early in production X-Men 3, taking his production crew and even some of the cast with him (namely James Marsden – Cyclops). Singer gave his treatment for Superman Returns, and the rest is history best forgotten. Seriously, that movie was terrible.
Fox now found themselves in dire straights, needing a director. Many were offered the position, including Joss Whedon, who declined because he was working on Wonder Woman. Looking at the future, that just makes me laugh. Zack Snyder was also approached, but turned it down because he was working on 300. Perhaps that one was for the better. Still with no director, Fox announced in February 2005 a release date of May 5, 2006, beating Superman’s release by nearly 2 months. I can’t help but think that was a big middle finger.
A month later, Fox hired Matthew Vaughn to direct, casting several actors such as Kelsey Grammer as Beast and Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut. Then, Vaughn dropped out, saying he didn’t have the time to make the movie he wanted with Fox’s tight production schedule. Considering how quickly he turned out X-Men: First Class, I wonder what was the real reason. Finally, Fox turned to Ratner to direct. The man was brought on board, openly admitting he had limited knowledge of the X-Men, and hoped the writers knew what they were doing.
Essentially, Ratner and Singer switched places, and both produced garbage. The moral of the story is, the grass isn’t always greener, and Hollywood’s stupid. If you’re going to do something, do it right, don’t just try to cash in. All you’re doing is selling goodwill and loyalty for a quick buck.
Which movie was better? Wondering why I wrote about this? Comment below!
The movie lengths should have switched too.