Bryan Singer’s X-Men is widely considered one of the most important films in the history of comic book movies, helping to really kick start the modern age of the genre and having an immense influence on the titles that have been made and released since. What you may not know, however, is that the first cut of the feature was actually a disaster, and such an overlong mess that producer Kevin Feige – the future President of Marvel Studios – feared that it was going to kill his very then-young career.
Feige himself told me this story when I recently had the chance to sit down with him for a chat about the upcoming The Avengers: Age of Ultron - the 26th feature film he’s produced since entering the big screen world with X-Men in 2000. We were discussing the length of the new movie’s first cut – which he said clocked in at about two hours and 45 minutes long – but he then explained in story form why that’s a version of the blockbuster that nobody actually wants to see. Said the Marvel executive,
Things come out for a reason. The very first film I ever worked on was X-Men 1. We went to go see the two hour 20 minute first version of that movie and I thought, my career is over before it starts. It’s over. I didn’t understand the process back then.
Of course, that two hour and 20 minute version of X-Men never found its way to audiences, and found itself heavily cut down in post-production. What was a 140 minute mess was transformed into a much tighter 104 minute cut, and both critics and audiences wound up greatly appreciating it and turning it into a hit. Since 2000, superhero movies on the whole have gotten bigger and longer (The Avengers: Age of Ultron’s theatrical release is 141 minutes long), but Kevin Feige believes that ultimately the stories really do dictate the lengths of the features. He added, with a hint about what we can expect from the Avengers 2 home video release,
It always is that the movie is as long as the movie wants to be. I think there will be some deleted scenes that we put out on home video on this one.
Many comic book movie fans are probably very happy that Kevin Feige’s career didn’t end with X-Men, as he has obviously since gone on to help create one of the most ambitious franchises in movie history with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and has helped create some absolutely fantastic films in the process. The genre would certainly look a whole hell of a lot different than it does today.