The upcoming comic book movie slate includes two films directly inspired by the work of prolific X-Men writer Chris Claremont: The Wolverine, out this July 26 and inspired by his iconic 1982 miniseries with Frank Miller; and X-Men: Days of Future Past, scheduled for July 18, 2014 and based on the famed 1981 story from the writer and John Byrne.
Newsarama talked to Claremont, who had some advice for director Bryan Singer, as the time-travel film merging the original three X-movies with 2011's First Class is set to start production next month.
"The challenge, I would think, for Bryan is that the heart of the original story is not the fight with the Brotherhood back in the present day," Claremont said. "The challenge, the story, is actually what happens in the future. Getting them to the point where you can send Kitty back, and seeing the consequences of what will happen if they fail, and not knowing at the end how it's going to turn out."You think it's going to be a happy ending, but you're not sure, because pretty much everybody dies — in the comic, anyway."
Claremont was the main X-Men writer from 1975 to 1991, and returned to the franchise in 2000, where he worked on various books — including two returns to flagship series Uncanny X-Men — until early 2011, where his last Marvel stories to date, X-Men Forever and Chaos War: X-Men, were published.
In his time on the X-Men, he wrote noted stories including "God Loves, Man Kills," "The Dark Phoenix Saga" and the 1991 adjectiveless X-Men launch with Jim Lee that the Guinness Book of World Records has dubbed the best-selling single issue comic book of all time. His co-creations include Rogue, Emma Frost, Gambit, Mystique and Sabretooth; all of whom have been portrayed on screen in the X-Men films.
Given his track record, one would expect Claremont to watch these movies very closely — and he does.Len Wein, Wolverine
and Chris Claremont."You can't not be invested," Claremont said. "That's pretty much most of my working life, dancing around or through the X-Men as a concept."
Yet overall, Claremont is noticeably positive about the X-Men movie franchise; crediting Lauren Shuler Donner, who's produced every entry thus far, including the two upcoming films.
"Cliché as it sounds, the concept of the films from my perspective as audience owes so much to Lauren as producer, bringing all this stuff together, finding the right people in terms of making the films, and then just picking the ideal cast," Claremont said, calling actors like Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen "extraordinary talents."
Despite having spent so many years writing the X-Men, Claremont says he hasn't gotten hung up on the inevitable changes made in live-action adaptations, from plot alterations to the traditionally diminutive Wolverine being played by the 6'2" Jackman."I could quibble about lots of details, sure," Claremont said. "I could wish that they'd done the actual story of 'God Loves, Man Kills' in and of itself [in 2003's X2], rather than weaving bits and pieces of it into the totality. On the other hand, the final mix was cool."
The writer is effusive with his praise for the significant role the first X-Men film played in both the movie and comic book industries, and calls the First Class cast "just great." Claremont even has some nice things to say about one of most critically maligned X-movies — 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand.
"You could argue, maybe they shoulda woulda coulda done this," he said. "On the other hand, it was equally successful, and in its own way it capped off the trilogy. And probably demonstrated to Bryan that he shouldn't have gone off and done Superman."
Claremont is a little less positive about 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine — which also got rough reviews from fans and critics — but more due of his strong thoughts on revealing Wolverine's back story rather than the film itself."My argument had always been, before then, and then, that Wolverine was a character that was much more interesting as a mystery," the writer said. "The more you told, the less fun you were allowed to have with him."
While Claremont is optimistic about both The Wolverine and Days of Future Past films, he states that he doesn't know much currently about the former — saying it's "evolved somewhat" from its original starting point of the 1982 comic — and that he's not quite sure how exactly Days will work, given the amount of elements and characters it looks to be combining, and the timeline discrpancies between First Class and the rest of the movies. But he's eager to see it come together.
"You could look at it as time travel, or you could look at it as pan-dimension," Claremont said. "It's all a matter of how you want to define it, and I'm sure they've got some brainiacs out on the left coast earning a small research stipend figuring out a plausible way of making it fly. That's the fun and games of Hollywood."How the hell they're going to fit it into 120 minutes, I have no sodding idea. I'd be looking on this as your basic 1974 film with an intermission."
Claremont has been focusing on prose work as of late, and recently released his novels Dragon Moon and FirstFlight in an ebook format for the first time. He's also got a busy convention schedule this year — he appeared last month at Wizard World Portland, and was at Emerald City Comicon this past weekend; with Megacon in Orlando, a Free Comic Book Day appearance at Mile High Comics and Ottawa Comicon all on the horizon. Though he doesn't have anything currently in the works at Marvel, he isn't ruling out a return to the publisher in the future.
Claremont hasn't been directly involved with the production of the X-Men films other than a cameo in The Last Stand, but he sounds grateful to have worked in the comparatively lower-stakes world of comic books."As [late writer and editor] Archie Goodwin is fond of saying, 'If we get it wrong, file it away, come back in 30 days, and you've got the next one,'" Claremont said. "With the movie, you're stuck with it. You devote two years of your life, and heaven knows how much money, and you're gambling that it all works in the end. "In movies it's a one-shot item too often," Claremont continued. "'If we're doing Days of Future Past, we need Ororo, we need Logan. OK, we've got Hugh Jackman, but that means we've got to get Halle Berry. I'm sure some accountant at Fox is going, 'Huh? 'We're talking how much?' On the other hand, you never know when a major talent is willing to do a Scarlett Johansson, and come in perhaps at scale, just for the fun of it."
The biggest hope Claremont seems to have for X-Men: Days of Future Past is that the underlying themes of the original story don't get lost in the requisite action-movie trappings.
"The really nice thing with Future Past is that you actually have a superhero film — much to everyone's surprise, I will hope — that is about something," Claremont said. "It's about racism, I hope. It's about resisting oppression. It's about fighting for freedom and the cost of fighting for freedom. I will be fascinated to see how they weave the two together."More from Newsarama:
- Now and Then: 10 Mind-Bending TIME TRAVEL Stories in Comics
- What We Know About 2014's X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST Movie
- Behind Magneto's UNCANNY X-MEN Motives