We’ve finished Bryan Singer years of the X-Men (for now) and what have we learned?
– Writing is the key to a good X-Men movie (really any movie).
– Casting goes a long way in creating memorable characters.
– Like the comics Wolverine will always be the star.
– Also like the comics Cyclops is kind of useless.
In 2004 director Bryan Singer (as well as two screenwriters from X2) left the X-Men franchise to direct Superman Returns. Which is a shame because from what has been leaked by writer Michael Dougherty (X2, Trick ‘R Treat) it would have ruled. After going through a litany of directors including Zack Snyder, Darren Aronofsky and Matthew Vaughn (more on him later) they went with Brett Ratner. While a baffling choice in hindsight (see Tower Heist) he was a hot commodity coming off the Rush Hour series and Red Dragon. Would the gamble pay off? Well…
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
I think the bigger question is which one? First there was the Dark Phoenix storyline which was absolutely butchered. Instead of having Jean as the Dark Phoenix as the main focus she was shoved in the background for the Magneto storyline. Based on Joss Whedon’s “Gifted” storyline a cure for mutants is found and Magneto will have no part of it and goes to stop this. Then there’s the Iceman/Rogue/Kitty love triangle subplot that makes Iceman look like a douche. And the Angel subplot that goes nowhere. Yeah the plot definitely isn’t the strong point of the movie. Shame because this does affect other aspects of the movie.
I have good news and bad news. Good news, Beast is introduced and he is awesome. Portrayed by Kelsey Grammar he is everything you expect Beast to be on the big screen. I also think Storm having an increased role worked out pretty well. Wish I could say the same for the other heroes. The worst offender being the above mentioned trio of Iceman/Rogue/Kitty Pryde. Iceman comes off as a massive douche, Kitty is just kind of there and Rogue is forgotten around halfway through the movie. Which is a shame because Rogue debating whether or not to get rid of her powers is a great subplot by itself. Cyclops doesn’t come off much better somehow getting less lines than he had in X2. Seriously he has one line in this movie and had at least three the last movie. But really the main focus are Wolverine and Professor X. As usual Jackman and Stewart deliver in the roles I just wish they had better dialogue.
I guess we can rejoice that Cyclops does something in this movie. He dies but hey that’s something.
Dark Phoenix should have been so much cooler. Heck I thought some of the things we got were cool. But instead of the world dominating force she should the focus was on Magneto. While I love McKellen in the role we didn’t really get anything new with the character and he feels kind of unnecessary. It doesn’t help Phoenix when 3 or 4 random henchmen are added for no particular reason. While some have decent powers for fight scenes (Calisto in particular sticks out to me) they are fairly interchangeable until the final battle.
Of all the movies this has the most “X-Meny” action scenes. Seeing the fastball special or Beast jumping around really feel like a comic book come to life. This aesthetic really helps make the final battle at the end seem like a bigger deal than its poor build up warranted. We also get some things we’ve wanted to see for a while like Bobby going full Iceman against Pyro. While I can’t say it has the best action scenes I do think they were done pretty well.
It just hit me that I forgot Angel. He was useless. Moving onto the overall, I like this movie. I realize that I complained about things but here me out. While the narrative is all over the place the pacing is just as good as the last few movies so it’s never dull. Another thing that I think is overlooked is that there are a lot of cool little things. Like when Jean kills people as opposed to burning or whatever they literally disintegrate like her power is too much. It’s especially cool when she’s doing it to Wolverine and he keeps regenerating. Or the military coming in on Magneto’s camp but the large group turns out to be Multiple Man. Moments like that are badass and make the movie fun. I can’t defend the movie as a great movie or the best of the X-Men series. But for me personally it makes for a fun summer blockbuster.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
It’s 1962 and the world is in chaos. With the Cold War in full swing and the world on the brink of nuclear war things get tricky with the emergence of mutants. Fate brings together Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr together. Tracking down Sebastian Shaw for very different reasons choices are made that will change the world forever. It was really smart to give the soft reboot after Last Stand. It gives us a chance to see characters we already love in a whole new light. Not to mention introducing us to some brand new characters.
Recasting Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart seems impossible but somehow they did it. I really dug James McAvoy’s version of Professor X. Not the tower of virtue we had seen before it was really interesting to see that while he was a good guy it was something he learned over the years. But the real star of the show is Michael Fassbender as Magneto. While vengeful he is portrayed as very sympathetic and comes off quite well. It really showed me that a solo Magneto movie as a Nazi Killer would have kicked so much ass. Mystique and Beast made for a great duo as two sides of the same coin when it came to finding a cure and could have benefitted from more screen time. The rest of the mutants are fairly bland to though. I mean it’s sad when a Wolverine cameo showed more personality than anything Banshee did. It’s a shame because showcasing new people like Havok could have been great.
To me this is where the movie falters a bit. I love Kevin Bacon, dude is awesome and I love Tremors. The problem is that while well written I could never get past that it’s Kevin Bacon. That’s all I saw. I really don’t think his cronies did any better. While they had some decent looks they had little to no personality. I’m not even sure if Azazel said a single thing. When Colossus has more lines than you something is wrong.
I know it shouldn’t be surprising given the time between movies and how fast effects advance but the action was pretty great. With slick directing and a wide variety of powers we got some of the best action of the series. I especially liked the big final fight at the Bay of Pigs. It’s odd be seeing the fight outside during the day was a refreshing change from all the fights being at night. It’s something I noticed and really appreciated. Definitely worth checking out.
This is almost the first movie done right. We get some amazing performances (particularly Professor X and Magneto) and a great reintroduction into the X-Universe. With that said as good as the writing is it didn’t exactly provide us with a memorable villain nor a good supporting cast. Don’t let that dissuade you though. This is definitely near the top of the heap when it comes to not just X-Men but superhero movies in general.
I hope to never hear “Mutant and proud” ever again though. God was that corny.