Open Letter to Fox Studios
|Posted by (kiplingkat) on Feb 08 2009|
A couple months back, sharing the fustration of many Magneto fans on the poor news coming out the production of the "X-Men Origins: Magneto" film, fellow Magnus-Clan fan JMC247 of the CBR forums had the excellent idea to send the producer of the film, Lauren Shuler-Donner, important comic book issues of Magneto and his development. Splitting up the task, and the cost, we have each sent a package to Ms. Donner care of Fox Studios.
My package contained:
~All of the Magneto Testament miniseries
~Magneto # 0 - which contains copies of "Fire in the Night" and "I, Magneto"
~Uncanny X-Men # 161
~The Classic X-Men reprint of Uncanny X-Men # 150
~The Classic X-Men reprint of Uncanny X-Men # 200
~New Mutants # 35
~New Mutants # 40
~New Mutants # 52
~Uncanny X-Men # 274 & 275
~X-Men (Vol. 2) # 3 (JMC was to include issues # 1 & 2 in their packet)
~ X-Men (Vol. 2) #40 (Legion Quest)
~Uncanny X-men #321 (Legion Quest)
~Excalibur (Vol. 3) #'s 2, 4, 11, & 14
With this letter:
Dear Ms. Shuler-Donner,
Hello. I hope this letter finds you well.
It has come to my attention that you will be handling the role of producer on the potential “X-Men Origins: Magneto” film if Fox should decide to go ahead with it. As a comic book fan longstanding, and a fan of the character of Magneto in particular, I thought I might be able to provide some insight on the character.
As a historian who also loves films, I have come to understand the time constraints of trying to jam a story that takes place over years into two hours. I understand that events or quotes maybe jumbled up or dropped in order to streamline a story. In “Elizabeth” (the first film) this worked well in order to convey who Elizabeth was very effectively. However, the film “U-571” shows what can happen when writers and directors go too far in trying to tailor events to fit what they think a movie-going audience wants to see.
Please understand we are not trying make you follow the comic books exactly. We understand that simply cannot be done. What we are concerned about is making a great film around one of Marvel's greatest characters. He did not become the 9th greatest comic book character of all time on both Wizard and IGN.com lists by being a vengeance-driven monster. He did so by being a morally ambiguous, thought-provoking character who calls heroes' assumptions and tactics into question. He is the “Spider Man – weak man gains great strength” archetype turned on its ear.
Unfortunately, everything Magneto fans have read coming out of the production of “X-Men Origins: Magneto” have caused us a great deal of dismay. Goyer's capabilities as a director are already highly questionable, and his statements about the character and the potential script synopsis show lack of understanding of who the character is.
Goyer has compared Magneto to Anakin Skywalker in interviews and created script synopsis that show a character driven by rage and vengeance. Anakin Skywalker was a whiny jerk who's fall into darkness was neither surprising nor compelling. The climactic scene of his final fall played as rather ridiculous. Watching an angry man become more angry is not compelling or interesting. It is predictable and boring. I think the sales numbers of the "Punisher" films prove this.
Magneto was not an angry character who became more angry. Max Eisenhardt (his real name, “Erik Lehnsherr” is a forged I.D.) was a good person who sincerely tried to leave his Holocaust experiences behind and was only alienated from humanity when his wife, who's life he had saved at least twice, rejected him for being a mutant. Years later he and Xavier would encounter an Aryan supremacist organization (HYDRA), which showed Magneto the need for someone to protect mutants from another Holocaust. It was only after all three of these events, the Holocaust, his daughter's death and wife's abandonment in a single incident, and his encounter with Charles and Hydra, that the character went down the path to terrorism and became "Magneto".
The forces that drive Magneto are not rage, but survivors guilt fueling an overwhelming need to protect his people. He must prove his life was worth saving by protecting his new people, mutants, where he could not protect his old people, the Jews. His rage is not his motivator, it's his Achilles heel.
My understanding is that you have already received a packet of comics from an associate of mine (a person I only know as JMC online). To her contribution I would like add more issues which contain information on his background, character development, and friendship with Charles Xavier. If you pick up and read only two issues in order to understand who Magneto is, I would recommend Uncanny X-Men #274 and 275. These issues contain a story told entirely from his P.O.V. and his inner monologue is extremely illuminating. I also included the award winning “X-Men Origins: Magneto Testament” miniseries which covers Max/Magneto's childhood during the Holocaust. This miniseries is not one of superhero daring-do, but of a boy and his family trying to survive that Holocaust told with the same writing skill and respect to history as Speigelman's “Maus”. In fact, teachers have already contacted Marvel to use it in their classrooms.
I have also included several more issues which show Magneto's background or deal with his characterization and motivations with some notations.
Turning Magneto into nothing more than an angry man who gets more angry as an excuse to use special effects to beat up on people in new and fascinating ways is not a very appealing audience draw, especially in today's social climate. Magneto is not the Punisher and should be approached as such. Characters of his complexity and ambiguity are more commonly found in dystopian SciFi novels and modern political thrillers. I think it would be more profitable for the studio to approach the character in the same way.
The best example of how to approach the character on film would be to look at the success of the "Punisher" films versus “V for Vendetta”. The "Punisher" films, films about an angry vengeance-driven character, have not been very successful. However, while no one outside the comic book community had heard of “V for Vendetta” before the film came out, its thought-provoking complexity and real-life analogies created a critical acclaim buzz that drew people into the theaters, making it both an artistic and commercial success.
I think it would be in Fox' best interest to approach Magneto the same way. Not as a “comic book character” to be used as excuse for a special effects laden action-fest, but complex literary character who's story can reveal many things about a topic which greatly concerns people today: Terrorism.
Thank you for your time and attention, I hope I was able to help you make a successful film and did not come across as a crazy comic "fan-girl". ;-)
Best of luck in all your endeavors.
Last changed: Feb 09 2009 at 12:13 AM