Silver Screen Spotlight: Bryan Singer

Known to many as the father of the X-Men film franchise, kicking off the flawed but captivating series of colorful mutants and now head-spinning time-travel with 2000's X-Men, director Bryan Singer has since brought audiences a wide range of interesting projects. From classic neo-noirs like 1995's The Usual Suspects to gritty war thrillers like 2008's Valkyrie, Singer has made a name for himself beyond just big-budget superhero films like X-Men and Superman Returns -- even if that is what gets him the biggest paycheck. With the newest installment in the time-twisting X-Men franchise blasting into theaters, here's a breakdown of the sparse yet enjoyable career of director Bryan Singer.

Looking over Mr. Singer's career today, one might call him a man of many tastes. Once diving into neo-noir crime thrillers and unusual Nazi-centric projects like the 1998 adaptation of the Stephen King novella Apt Pupil, the acclaimed director has since explored not only his love for fantasy, but also his passion to keep the unique X-Men franchise alive and well on the big-screen. Knowing him most notably by his work on the superhero film series -- which successful ushered in my favorite superhero franchise behind Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe -- one of the first films I saw of Bryan Singer was the stellar 1995 crime thriller, The Usual Suspects. Becoming somewhat of a cult classic for fans of the neo-noir and crime genre, this brilliant combination of a morally-ambiguous ensemble cast and a tightly-wound caper plot made for one of my favorite crime films ever. Easily having one of the most memorable plot twists possibly in film history, Singer crafted one of his best films even before he struck gold (or at least silver) with the X-Men.

Following his venture into the crime genre, Singer then embarked on one of the most risky crusades of his career, bringing the acclaimed X-Men superhero team to the big screen. Kicking off the franchise nicely with two powerful entries in 2000's X-Men and 2003's X2, Singer quickly ensured fans that even in his limited knowledge of the comic-book lore, the series was off to a great start in his hands. While the first two entries in the franchise may have stumbled in more than a few areas -- including the team not having their traditional colorful suits and some characters not getting the screentime they deserve -- X-Men and X2 remain some of the best comic-book films out there today.

Following Singer's departure from the franchise after X2 released, the fate of the X-Men franchise was left in the hands of multiple directors and writers, some good (like Matthew Vaughn with 2011's X-Men: First Class), and some dreadful (like Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand). Suddenly offering up his direction to DC Comics, the next comic-book hero that received the Singer treatment was 2006's lackluster Superman Returns. Offering up a fairly dry Superman flick for that time, Singer's quirky and undeniably lengthy narrative of the DC superhero made for a forgetful debut for Singer in the DC Universe, following his great success with Marvel and X-Men.

Still on hiatus from the X-Men franchise, the next few years saw Bryan Singer both producing and directing a very short list of big-budget films. With his dynamic return to tales of Nazis and crime thrillers in 2008's Valkyrie, Singer ensured us that he could still make worthy films other than X-Men. With the tale of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg's plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in World War II taking on your generic action thriller mixed with a Tom Cruise-led war drama, Valkyrie may not have felt like the Bryan Singer we knew, but definitely didn't waste its time with its effective thrills and captivating story. While it may not be up to par with 2009's Inglorious Bastards, Singer's return to the thriller genre was greatly welcomed.

After a brief run-in with the fantasy/fairy tale genre in 2013's Jack the Giant Slayer -- lending little to nothing fresh to the genre of mythical creatures and magic -- Singer saw a phenomenal return to form with the release of 2014's acclaimed seventh film in the X-Men franchise, Days of Future Past. Oscar-nominated and full to the brim with time-travel, colorful new characters, and a fantastic array of visual effects, Singer's much-anticipated return to the superhero franchise changed much more than just the timeline of the films. Ushering in a new age of X-Men films, continued further with this month's X-Men: Apocalypse, Singer hopes to revolutionize the team he brought together in the 2000 film, retelling the classic comic-book stories as they should be. Whether Singer leads the franchise into further success, or rather takes a backseat to the action to reignite his other passions in film, one thing's for sure is that Singer's X-Men aren't going anywhere.

What's your favorite Bryan Singer film? Do you prefer him working with the superhero genre, or another genre entirely? Let me know your thoughts on the director/producer in the comment section below, and stay tuned this week for my review of Singer's latest entry in the X-Men saga, X-Men: Apocalypse!         

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