Through the years, comic-book films took audiences to all the predictable places, including the grim streets of Gotham City and the doomed spires of planet Krypton, but, a decade ago, a new type of comic-book film had the audacity to set its opening sequence in a truly unexpected place — the gates of Auschwitz, where Jewish families were bring marched through mud on their way to death and despair.
From those first moments, "X-Men" set itself apart from the entire Hollywood history of comic-book adaptations and marked the beginning of this current era of fanboy cinema, which has dominated the box office and elevated San Diego's Comic-Con International into something resembling a Cannes for capes.
"The opening, it really was a declaration of intent," producer Lauren Shuler Donner said of that sequence, which showed a terrified young boy exhibiting mutant powers as his family was separated by German guards. "It said to the audience this is a serious film, grounded in the realistic and the historic and somewhat dark. It was so smart. And it was all totally Bryan."
That would be Bryan Singer, the director of "X-Men" and its first sequel, who was sitting next to Shuler Donner in her office on a recent afternoon. The pair both had big smiles on their faces — they had been reunited by an invitation to reminisce about the legacy of the July 2000 release, which they were happy to do, but the conversation kept veering into giddy plans for the future. Singer is returning to the "X-Men" universe, it's clear now, for a project called "X-Men: First Class"; it's all just a matter of timing.
"I had lunch with Hugh Jackman today," Singer said, and Shuler Donner, after asking for an off-the-record moment, pressed the 44-year-old filmmaker for details. A few minutes later, with the recorder back on, Singer said he is mightily enthused to work again with Shuler Donner, who has produced two X-films without him, the Brett Ratner-directed "X-Men: The Last Stand" in 2006 and the Gavin Hood-directed "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" in 2009.
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