It was a little mysterious when Matthew Vaughn signed on to direct X-Men: First Class, since he had turned down the X-Men 3 job just a few years earlier and had just wrapped up his own satiric take on the superhero genre with Kick-Ass. Was he changing his mind? Was he just that committed to casting Michael Fassbender as Magneto? As it turns out, Vaughn took the job with his eye toward the future-- a future in which he believes there will be no more superhero movies.
"It's been mined to death and in some cases the quality control is not what it's supposed to be," he said of the genre in The LA Times. "People are just going to get bored of it." Vaughn said he figured it was now or never if he was going to direct a superhero movie, so he jumped at the chance with X-Men: First Class:
"I've always wanted to do a big-budget superhero film and I think we've kind of crossed the Rubicon with superhero films. I think [the opportunity to do one], it's only going to be there two or three more times. Then the genre is going to be dead for a while because the audience has just been pummeled too much."
The Times also dug up an excellent quote that Vaughn gave to The Daily Telegraph, admitting what we've all known for years: his version of X-Men: The Last Stand would have been way better than Ratner's:
"As it happens, I could have made something a hundred times better than the film that was eventually made. It sounds arrogant, but I could have done something with far more emotion and heart."
Vaughn is right about everything he's saying here-- his X-Men 3 would definitely have been better, and more important, superhero movies will be reaching their endpoint very very soon. I've been predicting it'll happen next summer, actually, when Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America and Vaughn's own X-Men will all be competing for audiences, and surely not all of them can succeed. If I'm right Vaughn's film could wind up as the true last gasp of the genre, leaving the new Spider-Man and The Avengers and whatever else is coming in 2012 to sweep up a party that's already over.
As much joy as the good superhero movies have brought me over the years, I do hope Vaughn is right and the genre dies out sometime soon, before we get The Avengers sequel nobody really wants, or the next Fantastic Four reboot or whatever else they're planning. It's been fun while it lasted, sure, but it's probably time for a few more heroes who don't come swaddled in spandex.