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The Next 007? Michael Fassbender

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The Next 007? Michael Fassbender Empty The Next 007? Michael Fassbender

Post by Admin on Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:20 pm

The Next 007? Michael Fassbender

Before getting to today's post, I want to acknowledge that I've finally succumbed to the force of digital nature that is Twitter. Somewhere on this page (thanks to tech wiz and great friend Doug Textor) there's a button for whatever it is you do as a reader of this blog, for Twitter. Following, tweeting, I'm still figuring all of that out, but the button's here for your pleasure(?). Now to the good stuff:

(Mock retro Esquire cover for Total Film magazine)

This is a big summer for super hero movies. 'Thor' got things off to a rousing start, 'Green Lantern' is in a couple of weeks and the one that my fingers are crossed for, 'Captain America: The First Avenger', opens on July 22nd. But there was one big budgeted entry that I had virtually no interest in, but it wound up being a very satisfying addition to the X-Men canon, possibly the best of the series so far.

'X-Men: First Class' is the fifth in the series of tortured, discrimated against, super powered mutants. Following the dismal 'X-men: The Last Stand' and disappointing 'X-men Origins: Wolverine', I had no hope for a film set in the sixties focusing on the origin of the relationship between Professor X and his friend turned nemesis, Magneto. Additionally the film introduced a combination of younger incarnations of previously introduced characters along with brand new ones. It didn't sound like a recipe for success. But there's always an unknown ingredient that can change what could have been bland into a tasty treat.

In this case, that spice was director Matthew Vaughn. Vaughn, who directed last year's 'Kick Ass' as well as the film that gave Daniel Craig his first opportunity to shine in 'Layer Cake', originally turned down 'X-Men: Last Stand', but was regarded highly enough by 20th Century Fox for the studio to approach him again for this latest film, and he delivered one of Marvel's best films yet.

The action and story move at a brisk pace, while the characterizations are all well defined for a film with nearly a dozen important roles. James McAvoy gives Professor X more charm and playfulness than one would expect after seeing Patrick Stewart's much more mature characterization in previous films. Kevin Bacon has a ball as arch villain Sebastian Shaw, never overplaying, a carefully modulated performance. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique does what she can in a role that isn't as fleshed out as it could have been, but she makes it easy to feel her frustration and conflict as she tries to find her place in a world that is dangerously prejudiced against mutants.

But the real revelation in 'X-men: First Class' is the arrival of Michael Fassbender. The German born actor has been working steadily for several years now, and is on everyone's hot list. He's currently starring in Ridley Scott's prequel to 'Alien', 'Prometheus', due out next year.

Fassbender first came to national attention as Lt. Archie Hicox in Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds'. Fassbender portrayed a combination of British cool with humor and aplumb. His fifteen minutes in the film are among the movie's best.

Fassbender was most recently seen in the latest version of 'Jane Eyre', released theatrically about a month ago. He's also been in a number of movies that you may have seen playing as part of an ensemble, including '300' and HBO's 'Band of Brothers' mini-series. He recently starred in an overlooked action film, 'Centurion' as a Roman officer charged with getting the survivors of his squad across enemy lines and back to safety. Lots of action and a fair amount of computer gore, but it's a solid adventure film and Fassbender carries the film with no problem.

I've been a fan since 'Inglourious Basterds', but still had no real interest in 'X-Men: First Class'. I didn't expect director Vaughn to take such great advantage of setting the film in the sixties and giving it a real international, espionage feel. Fassbender's Erik Lehnserr, the future Magneto, is essentially James Bond with mutant powers! From the slick three piece suit, to speaking four languages, to backing up his threats with cold fury, Fassbender owned the film. I, like many others, couldn't help but picture him with a license to kill.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all about Daniel Craig. I've been a fan of his since 'Layer Cake' and think he's the best Bond since Connery by far. 'Casino Royale' is virtually a perfect film to me and I'm in no real hurry to see him leave Her Majesty's Secret Service. However, he's contracted for two more films, one due November 2012, the fourth probably sometime in 2014, at which point he'll be 46 and Fassbender will be 38, about the age Craig was when he started. Now Roger Moore stayed until he was 59 and Pierce Brosnan was close to 50 when he bowed out, so one could argue that for Craig to leave at 46 is premature. But given that he's always been a private guy and an in demand actor, not to mention the physical toll the role takes, I'd be surprised if he elected to carry on past a fourth film.

Fassbender, like Craig, is a physically competent, well regarded actor, whose career would undoubtably thrive if he never took on the 007 mantle, but his performance in 'X-men: First Class' puts him at the front of the list as far as I'm concerned. Another interesting item, Fassbender is closer to author Ian Fleming's physical idea of Bond than any of the other actors who have portrayed him thus far. Fleming describes James Bond as being 6 feet tall, slim build, with a three inch long thin vertical scar on his right cheek, blue-grey eyes and short black hair.

In Fleming's first Bond novel 'Casino Royale', the heroine offers her description, "Bond reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless." Likewise, in 'Moonraker', a female officer offers that the secret agent is "certainly good-looking . . . Rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way. That black hair falling down over the right eyebrow. Much the same bones. But there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold." Below is a photo of jazz pianist Hoagy Carmichael for your reference.

Fassbender's hair is dark brown and he doesn't have a scar, but measures up in all other areas. In the fifties, Fleming commissioned a cartoonist to draw what the author saw as Bond for an ongoing comic strip. Below is the illustration and a head shot of Fassbender.

While we've got a few years to go, and hopefully two more great Craig Bond flicks (I won't hold 'Quantum of Solace' against him), I'm happy to know that there's a legitimate contender out there to keep the franchise moving forward. I'd expect that this post will cause a fair amount of conversation, because everyone has their favorite Bond, and surprisingly, it's not always Connery. They say that your favorite is the one you grew up with. If you came up in the seventies, so sorry..

Posted at 06:59 AM

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