In the battle of comic book fandom it is usually between the MCU and DC (mainly Batman and Superman). That dynamic usually leaves Fox’s X-men movies as the forgotten cousin of the debate.
Not the case in my world! The X-Men films are actually my favorite comic book franchise by a large margin. Sure they have their misses like all the franchises but even those I’d take over the misses from the other franchises.
The thing I like about the X-Men movies is I think the dynamics of social politics is an interesting layer. When they are discussing mutants rights and the treatment of people that are different it has a heft to it you don’t normally see in the genre.
Also, the casting is first rate. In the X-Men movies we have Oscar nominees/winners like Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page. As well as other strong actors like Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, James Marsden, and Kelsey Grammer.
Bryan Singer has made pretty much all of the good X-Men movies and he knows how to direct entertaining layered films that look nice and have strong emotion. The X-Men movies have great characters like Magneto, Wolverine, Mystique and Professor Xavier. To me these are more interesting than any other franchise characters.
I know some of you disagree with me but I stand by my belief that X-Men movies have the strongest female superhero characters by far. Characters like Rogue, Mystique, Jean Gray, Shadowcat and even Storm are way better than the token female we get in other movies usually for sex appeal or to be the ‘tough girl’.
Anyway, like I have done with Batman, Superman and Marvel Phase 1 and Phase 2, I will give my thoughts on each of the X-men films except for Deadpool, which I will not be watching. I have also selected my ‘best shot‘ from each film. This is a shot that I think captures my favorite part of the movie. I hope you enjoy my picks and are anxiously looking forward to X-Men Apocalypse like I am!
Our first introduction to the X-Men directed by Bryan Singer. This film holds up incredibly well. What makes it strong is we see the beginning of Magneto in the concentration camp and how he was treated. This gives a weight to his choices later on. You understand why he is doing what he is doing and why Professor X disagrees. You also have great emotion between Rogue and Wolverine. They are fighting and trying to understand their mutant powers. Their bond grows in a believable, moving way and the events of Ellis Island are exciting and emotional. I picked this shot between Rogue and Wolverine because it was a tender moment especially when you consider Rogue’s fears of human contact. Beautiful. X2
An extremely entertaining second entry in the series with Magneto taking the center stage. Colonel Stryker wants a genocide of all mutants. He drugs Magneto and uses Mystique to manipulate. What’s great about this movie is the good and bad characters are constantly shifting. One moment Magneto is the enemy and then Stryker and others. The idea of the Cerebro is fascinating and beautiful. I love how vulnerable all the mutants are and how each character gets their moment to shine. There many great scenes like Cyclops and Jean Grey fighting or the fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike. You never know who is being controlled or what their motives are. It keeps you guessing and actually has something to say about faith, friendship and loyalty. Nightcrawler s a great addition to the cast and it’s just overall entertaining. I picked this shot of Jean Grey making her sacrifice because it is beautiful, moving, gripping conclusion to the film.
X-Men: The Last Stand
A semi-decent premise of a ‘mutant cure’ is hampered by clunky dialogue and cheesy fight sequences. It seems every punch is accompanied by a ‘I’m the wrong guy to play hide and seek with’ or some other lame one-liner. I still think it is better than the bad movies from other franchises. It’s way more watchable than Batman and Robin or Superman 4. It isn’t a bad watch in my opinion if you are just looking for a dopey fun comic book movie. Ian McKellen seems like he is having a blast as Magneto so I picked a shot just before he destroys the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn’t like the way they messed with Jean Grey after her beautiful moment in X2.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Now X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a movie worth putting at the bottom of the comic book movie barrel. I think it is far worse than Last Stand. Hugh Jackman tries his hardest with the material but it’s a mess. I think a character like The Blob is supposed to be funny but it falls flat and then the film is very violent at times but not in a compelling way. What is most bizarre is how bad the special effects are. You know an Xmen movie is bad if they can’t even get Wolverine’s blades to look good. It’s not fun or silly just boring and dumb. They introduce characters like Deadpool and Gambit but really just to fight with for a few minutes- not any real character development. I picked this shot because it is a semi-decent explosion with Jackman on a motorcycle. That’s really the best this movie has to offer.
X-Men: First Class
I’m not the biggest fan of Matthew Vaughn’s new style to the X-men world. It’s too James Bondish for my tastes and a bit garish with skimpy costumes and stylized action. Also January Jones is very weak as Emma Frost. However, the rest of the casting is outstanding with Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, James McEvoy and more. I really like seeing the evolution of Magneto especially with an actor as good as Fassbender and it is kind of cool to see the X-men as a true team, not divided like the previous films. My best shot shows this sense of teamwork.
Even though I love Wolverine as a character for some reason I had missed this film, and I’m here to tell you it is way underrated! I really thought it was a great superhero movie. The action by director James Mangold is really well done with a martial arts flare to it. I liked starting at WW2 and Logan’s experience in Japan and then the infection of Viper makes him more vulnerable than in other films. The relationship with Mariko is standard girlfriend superhero stuff so I am willing to forgive that. The dialogue is intense with moments of humor but not as out of place as First Class. Overall it’s very entertaining movie and reminded me a little bit of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy the way he combines martial arts style fighting with superhero story. There is a sequence on a train that was amazing so that is where this shot comes. Jackman is totally up for the physicality of this film.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
I love this movie! Not only does this brilliant film take away most of the damage done in Last Stand and Origins but it combines all the great actors from all of the films. Through the Terminator-like time traveling set-up we get a story that is action packed, full of emotion and also very funny. The plot centers on a sentinel uprising that is wiping out our favorite characters in the future. Using Kitty Pryde’s abilities Wolverine is sent back in time to 1973 where he must gather Xavier and Magneto to convince Mystique to not assassinate the maker of the Sentinels Dr Trask. I love a movie with a message of hope and that’s what you get in the end with Mystique’s decision. She chooses hope for the future over cynicism and it’s very moving. Even Xavier says he has renewed hope. I love all of the actors, script and everything else. Picking a shot is really hard. Do I go with emotion, or dazzle? Emotion is hard to capture in a shot so I’ll go with Dazzle. I love Quicksilver and his scene helping to free Magneto. It’s hilarious with terrific special effects (and music).
So there you have it my friends. I have finished my dive into superhero movies for the year. Boy what a journey it has been 16 Superman/Batman, 12 MCU and 7 X-Men movies since Februaryish. 35 superhero movies and there have been highs and lows. After I see Civil War and X-Men Apocolypse I will do a retrospective on the experience of 37 movies. Craziness… Ha.
I hope you have enjoyed my little efforts and let me know what you think of the X-Men movies and my thoughts/best shots on each film.