You wonder how Mark Millar finds enough time in the day to accomplish everything: from his job at Fox, overseeing the cinematic legacy of the Marvel Universe, to editing CLiNT magazine and, of course, his own duties as a writer on all number of self-invented comic book titles. When SFX catches up with him, for an exclusive chat, Millar is prepping to appear at the Glasgow Film Festival, for whom he curates the annual Kapow! event. Choice cuts this year include appearances from Steve Niles and John Wagner, and even a chat with SNP leader Alex Salmond who promises to introduce his favourite “geek movie”. In the meantime, Millar was happy to chat about all things superhero related and even share a scoop or two about X-Men: Days of Future Past ...
Interview by Calum Waddell
The cast of X-Men characters announced for Days of Future Past is huge – they can't ALL be in it with “starring roles”, surely? How are so many X-Men going to fit in one film?
“It has actually been very well put together – Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn worked on it together and they are both great at what they do. Then Bryan Singer came in, and, of course, he is Mr X-Men and he knows exactly how everything works. Just look at these first two X-Men movies: despite the huge cast of characters it all came together really well. These two movies never felt like overload and the balance was really, really good. On the other hand I though the third film felt crowded, but then Singer is excellent at working with ensemble casts. So with this one I feel it is all fine. I have read the screenplay and it doesn't feel rushed and it doesn't feel like it is too many characters.”
Are some of the appearances cameos? Is there a main team we’ll be following?
“I think the best comparison I can give is to Star Trek – that is an ensemble but it never feels as if there is not enough time with any one character. Or maybe Lost – that is an ensemble but every character gets their own moment to shine. So as long as everyone is there for a reason there doesn't need to be a problem with so many characters. This is a beautifully structured film, and it is a time travel story so the structure has to be especially strong.”
“I hadn't actually thought about that [laughs]. Yeah, that is true isn't it? You will have a couple of big movies with giant robots in them. I don't really want to give too much away but the Sentinels are a big feature of this story. They will be cool and this will deliver on all of the teasers. We've all been waiting for this ever since X-Men: The Last Stand showed us one of their heads. Now it is finally coming, and we only have to pay ten quid to see it in the cinema whereas they're having to pay $100 million to deliver it. So I'm delighted [laughs].”
Kitty Pryde – is she finally going to have a decent big screen role?
“Ach, I cannae get into that [laughs]. As soon as I say something it will turn into a big internet story. Let me put it this way though: Kitty Pryde fans will not be disappointed.
Can we expect to see any more X-Men spin-off movies?
“I hope so. I think that the X-Men universe is as interesting as, if not more interesting than, the Marvel universe. There are a lot of things you can exploit in there. Comics are actually really good at sussing out what works and what doesn't. It all comes down to what sustains a title and what doesn't – and that is why you have so many of the X-Men characters with their own line of comics. I think a lot of these characters deserve their own movies – there are a good half dozen that I would like to see do their own thing.”
“Yeah absolutely. Kick-Ass 3 is going to be the last one though. I told my agents this and they asked me, 'What does that mean?' I said, 'It means that this is where it all ends.' They said, 'Do they all die at the end?' I said, 'Maybe' – because this is a realistic superhero story. And if someone doesn't have a bullet proof chest like Superman and doesn't have Batman's millions then eventually he is going turn around the wrong corner and get his head kicked in or get shot in the face [laughs]. So Kick-Ass needs to reflect that. There has to be something dramatic at the end, he cannot do this for the rest of his life.”
You will be hosting John Wagner at the upcoming Glasgow Film Festival. What did you think of the Dredd movie? Were you disappointed it did not do better at the box office?
“Alex Garland is a gigantic Dredd fan and I know there was originally a plan to make three Dredd films. The plan was to do a second one and then a really ambitious third movie. And the film itself... Yeah, I really enjoyed it. I saw it when it came out in the UK and by that time I knew it had not been a success in the US and I remember thinking it would probably find its audience on DVD, which it has. It was not hugely expensive either; I think it only cost $30 million so if it makes $60 million on DVD that's pretty good. I hope we see a sequel. I know that the guys who made that film were really passionate about it. I loved Olivia Thirlby and Karl Urban, who did a great job of channelling Eastwood. The only thing that let it down was the direction – it was a wee bit TV movie – and Lena Headey wasn't a great baddie either. But it was still great and I felt it deserved to be a bigger hit than it was.”
You began your career with 2000AD . Is there no temptation from you to revisit that world on the big screen?
“Nah, I didn't grow up with Judge Dredd: I grew up with American comics. My passion now is to create my own stuff. I learned that from Pat Mills and John Wagner: they created all of these characters and they didn't go off and write Superman or whatever the way that I did. I really respect that now. I didn't get it when I was growing up, but I love it now. They just did their own thing. I think for pop culture to thrive you have to keep adding new stuff to the pot – you can't just be doing a Batman comic and having the Joker break out of prison for the 40th time. So I think I have learned from these guys to do my own thing.”
Finally, what was your take on
The Dark Knight Rises
“I know there are different opinions on that movie. I thought it was interesting that when The Dark Knight came out it was just after the financial crash and you had this mass joblessness all over the Western world. I thought, 'It is going to be quite hard to do a film about a billionaire hero who lives in a gigantic mansion and goes out to beat up poor people every night.' Just think about it – Bruce Wayne is the guy who is firing people, he is not really one of us [laughs]. But to their credit they really tackled it in that movie. It was very, very timely: it was a tale of two cities and I thought it was on the side of the poor guys. When they were raiding the mansions and throwing people out on the street – and even at the end Bruce Wayne gave away his fortune. I thought Bane was the most compelling out of all the villains – right from the start I thought, 'this guy is great.' I thought the only thing that let it down a bit was the action: Nolan should go to movie jail for the Bane vs Catwoman thing at the end. But the rest of the movie was so brilliant that you could easily forgive him. I liked it better than The Avengers .”
Kapow runs at the Glasgow Film Festival from February 15th. More information can be had here: http://www.glasgowfilm.org/festival/whats_on/strand:ka