X-Men Movie Grades
After years as being one of the hottest properties in comics, the X-Men finally made the transition to the big screen during the 2000’s. Their feature film debut was arguably the biggest factor in launching the superhero movie explosion we are currently in. That being said the X-Men franchise has experienced some definite highs and lows during it’s run. With Disney’s purchase of Fox bringing the Merry Mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe fold the future of this franchise is uncertain (though they will definitely be in movies in some fashion) let’s take a look at the X-Men movie franchise so far.
X-Men: In 2000 Fox Studios did the unthinkable and manage to distill a comic property with 100’s of characters and decades of backstory into a single film which won over diehard fans and newcomers alike. Director Bryan Singer was chosen for the unenviable task, and against all odds he successfully transitioned the X-Men to the big screen in a way which truly took them seriously and launched the superhero movie boom. In a star-making performance by Hugh Jackman, the mysterious Wolverine takes it upon himself to protect the young mutant Rogue. In the process he finds himself falling in with Professor Xavier and his X-Men; Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm. He joins the X-Men in their battle to stop Xavier’s rival Magneto (who is far less evil than Bryan Singer) from launching an attack on humanity.
X2: X-Men United: While X-Men laid the foundation for the franchise, it was X2 which showed just how epic an X-Men movie could be. An assassination attempt on the president from a scene-stealing and brainwashed Nightcrawler unleashes a chain of events which sees soldiers storm Xavier Mansion. With the team divided they are forced to join forces with Magneto and his allies in order to stop General William Stryker from manipulating Professor X into committing genocide. Stryker, however holds a trump card over the X-Men with his knowledge of Wolverine’s past. X2: X-Men United proved that the success of the first film was more than just a fluke and that the mutants were here to stay. To this day this movie ranks among the best superhero movies and is considered the highlight of the X-franchise.
X-Men: the Last Stand: On the precipice of giving fans a cinematic version of the ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’, director Bryan Singer left the movie series he had launched. Taking his place was hack filmmaker Brett Ratner to make a movie which tried to combine multiple different plotlines. The main storyline seems to be that Warren Worthington was inspired by his mutant son Angel (who is largely wasted in the movie) to create a cure for mutations. At the same time this is going on, Jean Grey has returned as the Dark Phoenix and joined forces with Magneto who has escaped from prison and built an army to destroy the facility making the mutant cure. X-Men: the Last Strand throws a ton of characters and plot elements at the audience in very quick fashion and very little of it has time to really stick. Many characters who had been in the background were thrust unexpectedly into the spotlight to mixed results, granted few can deny how perfectly cast Kelsey Grammar was as the Beast. (Read my commentary/recap of this movie HERE)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: The breakout star of the X-franchise has easily been Hugh Jackman as everyone’s favorite badass, Wolverine. Given that his past has been shrouded in mystery, this film was made to explain his past in the worst way possible. After living through years, with his friend and rival Sabretooth, Logan has seen struggle and heartache plenty of times. This leads to the clawed-mutant becoming a part of the secretive Weapon X program setting him on the path to being the best he is at what he does. At time it feels like X-Men Origins: Wolverine exists solely to see how many X-Men cameos they can fit in, from; the Blob to Gambit to a bastardized version of Deadpool. The worst thing about this movie, is that despite having a budget listed at well over $100 million, the entire thing looks very cheap with shoddy production values and lackluster special fx.
X-Men First Class: In rekindling the X-Men franchise, the series original helmer Bryan Singer was brought back as a producer and fan favorite filmmaker Matt Vaughn entered the director’s chair. X-Men First Class took a look back to the swinging 60’s to see Professor X and Magneto meet for the first time and assemble a team of mutants. Sebastian Stan and the mysterious Hellfire Club are plotting a series of events which would ignite a nuclear war. Having just learned of the existence of mutants the government charges Charles Xavier with stopping him. Along the way he befriends Magneto and the forge a powerful friendship which turns into a rivalry by movie’s end. Having no Wolverine for the first time (aside from a fun cameo) this installment in the series was built on the backs of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender and these two actors prove to be more than enough. The two share an obvious chemistry in their partnership which keeps audiences entranced. They are joined by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, who is caught between the ideologies of these two mutants. Great performances and action combined with a fun 60’s aesthetic First Class proved to be a shot in the arm for the X-Men.
The Wolverine: The studio decided to bring out their most popular mutant for another spin, this time with accomplished director James Mangold behind it. Taking influence from the classic series from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, Wolverine travels back to Japan to tie up loose ends he left in that country. Seeking an end to his guilt-ridden life, Logan seeks out a cure for his healing abilities. While in Japan, the granddaughter of his old friend Mariko finds herself targeted by the Yakuza forcing Wolverine to onmce again be the hero he is meant to be and protect her. Mangold washed the taste of X-Men Origins out of fans’ mouths by approaching the Wolverine with a serious and thought-provoking style. The action sequences are also some of the best ever seen in an X-Men flick.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: With the series rejuvenated after First Class and the Wolverine, all the stops were pulled out for the next film; an adaptation of the classic story arc “Days of Future Past”. An ensemble combining the cast of the original three movies as well as the actors from First Class was assembled to tell this story. In a bleak future, mutants are being hunted to extinction by the Sentinels and former enemies Professor X and Magneto come up with an unorthodox plan to change the very timeline itself. With his ability to heal, Wolverine is sent back to the 70’s courtesy of Kitty Pryde’s powers in order to stop the chain of events which would lead to the mutant genocide. Logan has to convince a young Professor X who has grown jaded to get back into the fight and help save the world. Along with the thrill of seeing all of our old favorites returning, fans get to also meet new mutants most notably Quicksilver. At the end of the day there is something for every X-fan in this movie and is arguably the best of the franchise.
X-Men: Age of Apocalypse: Riding the momentum of Days of Future Past, the next X-Men film introduced the most powerful villain in their rogues gallery, Apocalypse. Having been awakened from his resting place in Egypt, Apocalypse seeks to conquer to the world with his Four Horsemen; Magneto, Psyclocke, Storm, and Archangel. Granted he is far from the intimidating powerful villain fans are used to in the comics. In order to accomplish his goals, Apocalypse kidnaps Professor X forcing his new class of X-Men to unite behind Jenifer Lawrence’s Mystique, who’s star power is exploited by filmmakers to an annoying level. The young cast taking over the fan favorite roles like those of Cyclops and Jean Grey are great in what they do. Unfortunately the big climactic battle follows the obnoxious Zack Snyder-philosophy of leveling so many buildings that audiences become numb to it.
Deadpool: When audiences first saw Ryan Reynolds as the beloved Merc With a Mouth it was an abysmal interpretation of the character. Despite this obstacle Reynolds fought to have Deadpool properly brought to the screen, and after the viral success of leaked test footage he finally succeeded. In a search to cure his cancer, Wade Wilson is brought into the Weapon X program where he is cured and given a rapid healing ability, at the cost of his physical appearance. He uses his newfound abilities to find work as a mercenary while offing those who experimented on him in hilariously violent fashion. In order to retaliate, Deadpool’s enemies bring his girlfriend Vanessa into the fray forcing him to team up with Colossus and Nega Sonic Teenage Warhead. Ryan Reynolds gave what is possibly the best performance of his career as the fan favorite antihero, and Deadpool became a surprise hit for Fox Studio.
Logan: Hugh Jackman has played the character of Wolverine for 18 years. In that time we have had: 2 Supermen, 2 Batmen, 3 Spider-Men, 3 Hulks, 3 Punishers and 2 Fantastic Fours; but all along there has only been one Logan and he has been there best there is at what he does. So when it came time to hang up the claws, only the best would do. In a dystopian future, mutants have been hunted to the brink of extinction and Logan has been reduced to eking out a living with Professor X on the fringes of society. His life changes when he crosses paths with a young girl who like he once was, is a feral warrior with adamantium claws and a quick healing factor. The grizzled world weary mutant is thrust back into the fight as he finds himself forced to protect this girl and the future of mutant-kind as well. Logan proved to be a hit among genre fans as well as mainstream critics as well as it was the perfect swan song for a much beloved character.
Deadpool 2: Of course with the runaway success of Deadpool a sequel was quickly greenlit. Within the opening minutes, filmmakers upset a number of fans by fridging Vanessa after her importance in the first film. Directionless and looking for meaning by joining the X-Men, Deadpool finds himself protecting a hotheaded young mutant Firefist from the time-travelling Cable. Deadpool assembles his own team, the X-Force in order to battle this threat. The humor and fast paced action from the first film are present, and the new character Domino absolutely steals every scene she is in. The biggest downside was that the irreverent tone which made the original such a blast is something which we as the audience are incredibly familiar with now giving Deadpool 2 a bit of a been-there-done-that feel at parts.