James McAvoy to play Professor Xavier in X-Men: First Class

Anyone looking forward to Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class may have to prepare themselves for a slight shock: Patrick Stewart will definitely not be reprising his role as a young Xavier. Understandably this had to be the case, but James McAvoy’s casting as the new soon-to-be-bald psychic mutant has stirred the cinema and comic community.

James McAvoy, who helped make his name as something of a fairly brilliant actor in The Last King of Scotland alongside Forest Whitaker, is to play the hallowed role in the upcoming film. Many cinematic communities are displeased, but, realistically, did we really expect Stewart? The comments threads across the web are torn between greeting him as a refreshing, exciting choice and damning him to the pit of the comic-fan-reject-actors that have so recently plagued our screens (all the actors in the last two Punisher films, here’s looking at you, guys…).

For what it’s worth, there seems to be a shift in the attitude towards the X-Men in cinematic circles. For those who aren’t hooked on comics or geek culture, the first three films might have caused some confusion. Why’s he in a wheelchair? Why does he hate Ian “Magneto” McKellen so much? What’s with the odd relationship he has with almost everyone he meets? Bar the one flashback in The Last Stand, we’ve had no real view of his past – even Magneto received more of an explanation, his Holocaust background being expanded on significantly in the first film.

The film itself as another collaboration between Jane Goldman (playing the role of writer) and Vaughn, coming soon after the brilliant success that was Kick-Ass. Of course, it’s likely they’ll tone down the astonishing amounts of gore and profanity, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to hear a load of Marvel mutants finally whip out a few asterisks and tear off a few heads. Considering Xavier, in the current cinematic X-Men universe, gets dissolved, atom-by-atom, by a rather enraged Jean Grey, it’s no surprise that we’re going back in time. Patrick Stewart’s mysterious, team-building Xavier was the selling point of the original trilogy (bar the perfectly-cast Hugh Jackman as good old Wolverine), and it’ll be entertaining to see Vaughn and Goldman dig into his roots a little more. Hopefully they won’t mess with the formula too much – with great power…

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