Wednesday, 10 April 2013

X-Men: First Class (Part 2 of 2)

Following on from Part 1, this article will focus on two further sets of posters from the X-Men: First Class marketing campaign. Both focus on Professor X and Magneto with the first set taking a slightly more ambiguous silhouetted approach, while the second set is slightly more conventional.


These posters focus on the link between past and present in terms of Professor X and Magneto. In doing so, they highlight to the film's prospective audience which of the actors from the main poster (discussed in Part 1) will be portraying the two iconic mutants.

The posters are largely minimalist, opting for a simple style of black silhouette, representing the older versions of both characters from the original trilogy, on a white background. To make the link between old and new, floating heads of a young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) have been superimposed onto the silhouettes of the respective characters. This is all well and good... but what about all of the other characters?

X-Men: First Class was a prequel and an opportunity to introduce an entirely new audience to the legendary mutants. Subsequently, this then had the potential to propel the movie franchise to much loftier heights.

However, it was never achieved as demonstrated by the film's lukewarm $353 million global box-office cume.

Aside from the structural aesthetics of these posters, my biggest criticism is the lack of information that is present. The content is contradictory to a film title that promises an exploration into the first class of the X-Men. However, the focus is entirely on the two best-known characters of the franchise, and the actual X-Men seem, quite rightly, anonymous and inconsequential as a result.

The worst aspect of these posters is the image arrangement, which is lazy and disrespectful to the source material. A floating head superimposed on a character silhouette is clumsy and cheesy for a film that was intended to breathe new life into a struggling franchise.

However, there is one very positive feature to these images, though it is extremely subtle...

The direction of the floating heads are both left, which suggests that both characters are in agreement and have similar views and opinions. Interestingly, the silhouettes are in opposing directions, which is an indication to the audience that the characters will go their separate ways and will ultimately oppose each other, which is true.

The direction of Professor X's silhouette and floating head remain in the same direction, which indicates that his beliefs will remain largely unchanged. However, it is notable that Magneto's silhouette is facing the opposite direction to the floating head. This does suggest to a prospective audience that this will become the main focus of the film, but it also negates the relevance of the title.

Even though this is an effective feature, it is far too subtle to be acknowledged at a first glance. It should be absolutely clear that this is the main premise of the film and as previously stated, a prequel should never assume that its entire audience is familiar with the character story arcs.


The second set of posters again focuses entirely on Professor X and Magneto but this time we are treated to a bit more information about the character personality and history. These are far superior to to the previous posters but are not without their faults.

In the poster dedicated to Professor X, the focus is on a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) standing in the grounds of the X-Mansion with his future self reflected in clean pool water. The imagery is full of promise and hope, which is demonstrated through the peaceful colours, blue sky, and the bright sun emerging from behind the mansion, which signifies a new beginning.

In contrast the poster dedicated to Magneto focuses on a young Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) in very bleak war-torn surroundings, he is standing in Auschwitz, Poland. The colour scheme is dark and gloomy and represents the very tragic history of the character. It is very effective in establishing the reasons why Magneto eventually opposes Charles Xavier and the X-Men, and emphasises this by featuring Erik's future-self reflected in a large, dirty puddle.

Aside from the fact that the water is being used far too literally in these images, they are generally a vast improvement on the previous efforts.

However, my biggest criticism are the tag-lines:

"Before he was Professor X, He was Charles"

Professor X has always been Charles, he didn't change his name via Deedpoll, he is referred to as Charles Xavier constantly throughout the original trilogy and well before that. Professor X is his alias but ultimately, he has never stopped being Charles Xavier.

"Before he was Magneto, He was Erik"

Magneto was never officially Erik Lensherr, he was born Max Eisenhardt, and later created the secret identity of Erik Lensherr while on the run from the authorities and searching for his wife, Magda.

When taking into account his tragic history, Max was ultimately Magneto long before he became Erik and therefore it would be more appropriate to refer to the latter as his alias. He is after all, disguising his true beliefs in order to conform to what is deemed acceptable in a modern society.

To conclude, these posters are far too dependent on the two iconic characters that feature in them. Yes, they are pivotal to the story, but this is also about the first class of X-Men, (even though the chosen characters were inaccurate) and therefore, some focus should be afforded to those characters so audiences can establish who they are.

This approach was actually implemented in other territories (see below for examples)...
Why was this strategy not implemented on a global scale? I have no doubt that these posters would have been translated into several languages, a quick google search would prove this. However, my point is that they were not part of the main marketing campaign in key territories and it is very likely that this will have affected box-office grosses as a result.

Next up is X-Men: Days of Future Past, which will see the return of almost the entire cast of the original trilogy, including: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, Daniel Cudmore and Ian McKellen.

The only actors from X-Men: First Class who are scheduled to return are James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult. This suggests an acknowledgment from the producers that there is a demand for more recognisable characters. However, this could also be seen as a considerable backtrack for the franchise reboot and a response to below-par financial confidence in the series.

X-Men: Days of Future Past will be directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2) and is scheduled for release on 18th July 2014.

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