Produced by X-Men franchise veterans Simon Kinberg and Lauren Shuler Donner, X-Force will star Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool and Josh Brolin as Cable, who will lead a “black-ops force of down-and-dirty mutant warriors who are far more ruthless than their X-Men counterparts.” Beyond that, we know nothing about the film, based on the Marvel Comics team introduced in 1991 by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza.
However, there’s important piece of the puzzle that should soothe longtime fans of X-Force that have been yearning for a faithful adaptation to the beloved 1990s X-Men spinoff, and that’s Goddard.
A veteran television writer and producer whose credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, Lost, Daredevil and The Defenders, Goddard has a clear knack for working in the genre landscape — but he’s also proved his chops in film. Prior to co-writing the 2013 action-horror film World War Z and earning an Academy Award nomination for his 2015 adaptation of The Martian, Goddard directed a feature that should assure fans X-Force is in good hands: the 2012 horror-comedy The Cabin in the Woods.
Written by Goddard and Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods was significant as a horror movie made to please the palate of the modern film-goer, the hipster audience that’s seen it all. The film relied on the viewer understanding age-old horror tropes, in order to be enjoy the work on another level. It was a love letter to the techniques employed by other beloved films in the genre, while serving as a scary tale in its own right.
The Cabin in the Woods took the decades-old premise of a group of (mostly) sexy 20-somethings that spends a summer weekend in a, yes, cabin in the woods, and spun it on its head with the revelation that the terrors they encounter are part of an experiment orchestrated by observers who represent the bloodthirsty audience, passively watching the horror for sheer pleasure (and to appease an apocalyptic demon).
A lot of what makes The Cabin in the Woods work can be attributed to Goddard’s ability to preserve classic horror tropes while making a work of art that’s entirely new. That is exactly what an X-Force film needs, only instead of horror, it requires a clever spin on the superhero action-movie tropes. X-Force has the opportunity to continue Deadpool’s tradition of subverting expectations to deliver something familiar yet with flourishes of the unexpected. Goddard has the chops to pull that off.
Goddard masterfully handled the tone in The Cabin in the Woods, which could lend itself well to his take on X-Force. Although The Cabin in the Woods was, for the most part, full-fledged horror, it packed a lot of great jokes and a lovable cast that delivered humor with sincerity.
The Cabin in the Woods didn’t make a mockery of the genre, but was instead a loving ode to it, and introduced characters that were genuine and believable — something extremely important when juxtaposed with the spectacle of a special effects-heavy horror flick or, in the case of X-Force, a special effects-heavy superhero movie. The jokes need to be there (it has Deadpool after all), but it needs to have real heart, just like The Cabin in the Woods did, if we’re to believe there are real stakes.
Above all else, if the film is to remain true to what made the early X-Force comics special, it has to have inventive action scenes. The original X-Force material was groundbreaking at the time it exploded onto shelves in the early 1990s; Rob Liefeld’s over-the-top art captured the balls-to-the-wall absurdity of the team, helping to earn him the moniker of “the Michael Bay of comics.”
And, while the X-Force film doesn’t have Bay at the helm, Goddard may be exactly what the X-Force film needs up its sleeve (er … shoulder pads).
Regardless of the result, we know that something unique will come from Goddard’s involvement in X-Force. He’s the kind of filmmaker that respects an existing genre, while adding his own touch to the material he’s adapting. He did it with Daredevil, he did it with The Cabin in the Woods, and he’ll most definitely inject that same gusto into X-Force.
The X-Men spinoff has the potential to challenge our notion of the superhero team-up film, and with Goddard at the helm, we can’t wait to find out what makes us do a spit-take in the theater.
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