Editorial: I’m A Fan Of The X-Men Movies
Admittedly, I’m a relative newcomer to the world of comic books. I only dream of having the knowledge of comic book characters and stories that my fellow writers and readers have. But that doesn’t mean my love of the characters is any less than theirs. My introduction to the world actually came in the form of the classic 1990′s X-Men cartoon. I used to rush home after school everyday as a kid and battle my brothers for control of the TV so I could watch the series (we didn’t have DVR’s back then kids). From there, I moved on to other cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series and its fellow DC toon Superman: The Animated Series and so on. But in 2000, a little film known simply as X-Men hit theaters and I was hooked. From then on, I’ve done my best to immerse myself into the world of comics and their respective movies. But it’s these X-Men movies that started it all for me and because of that, and the cartoon, that they will always have a place in my nerdy little heart. I even went so far to take on the name ecksmanfan, which I use as my twitter handle, if you want to follow a fun and interesting guy, @ecksmanfan. Now, I know that Fox and Bryan Singer have made some decisions along the way that are less than awesome, but I’d like to take a few moments to look at this franchise and break them down. What makes them bad and what makes them good.
Let’s start with the film that really ushered in the age of the comic book movie in X-Men. The film introduced the mainstream movie audience to the world of mutants and the ever-growing battle with humans. On one side, you have Prof. X, whose goal to to have a cohesive world where humans and mutants can exist as one. On the other, you have Magneto, who is hell-bent on mutant domination. This is honestly, and I’m OK admitting this, where things get screwed up. By not starting out with the original five members of the X-Men team (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Beast and Iceman), director Bryan Singer throws a wrench in the entire franchise from then on. Because of this, there are many story lines that have to be severely altered in order for them to work properly. That little tid-bit aside, X-Men was really the beginning of the onslaught of comic book movies that we see today and I think that is the reason Singer chose the characters he did, keeping it a bit grounded, but with a touch of the fantastical. One has to wonder that if he had gone with the original five if the film would have been successful as it was or if it would have been even more popular. The story line of the film is fairly straightforward, if not a tad cheesy, but I think it works. It was enough of a threat to pull the team together and force the new addition of Wolverine to join the side of good to make sure the good guys are triumphant. We also get to see the very beginnings of the epic Phoenix Saga taking shape, as well as one of the worst lines from any movie ever coming from Halle Berry’s Storm. Now we know what happens to a toad when it gets struck by lightning.
Moving on to the next installment, X2: X-Men United, this film is still among my top favorite comic book movies to date. I like the story, I like the characters and I really like some of the fight sequences. In the opening scenes of this film, Singer gives us one of, if not the best, scenes to ever be featured in a comic book movies. Alan Cumming, who plays the fan-favorite Nightcrawler, takes to the White House and single-handedly obliterates his security force in a matter of minutes. the sequence was a stunning piece of film and anyone who denies that is not a fan of comic book movies. But that’s not all. Fast forward towards the center of the film and you have Magneto’s now infamous break out scene, which is yet another stunning sequence; one that shows the true power and skill that the Master of Magnetism possesses. What I like about this film is that the threat is one that forces both sides of the spectrum to join together for the sake of saving their kind, though they each have a different end-game in mind. We get to see more team-work from the X-Men and some pretty cool display of power throughout the film, with one of the more underrated scenes coming from Pyro, the soon to be baddie. Just like the opening scene, Singer brings things to a close with a massive bang. All throughout X-Men United, Jean begins to lose control of things and after saving her fellow X-Men, before the credits roll, we see the Phoenix flying in the reflection of Alkali Lake, hinting at a shiz-storm of epic proportions. What I don’t like about the film is that, once again, Wolverine is the center of the film rather than the entire team. Had they kept his story as a sub-plot rather than the focus, this film could have been even more awesome.
This leads us to the third film in the franchise, X-Men: The Last Stand. This is arguably the point where things begin to go south. In the midst of pre-production, Bryan Singer opted to leave the project to take on the most mediocre comic book movie ever in Superman Returns. Fox was on the search to find a replacement as fast as they could. Originally, Matthew Vaughn signed on to helm the film, but he quickly dropped out. Brett Ratner eventually stepped in, after having dropped the Superman Returns project. Now, Ratner takes a lot of the brunt for the failure that is The Last Stand, and rightfully so, as most of the bad decisions regarding plot were made after he signed on to direct. But not all of it is his doing. There are so many bad things to list about this movie, but I’ll just stick with the big ones. First off, you don’t kill Professor X. You just don’t. But the slaughtering doesn’t stop there. Cyclops meets his untimely death as well, at the hands of his one true love. But wait, there’s more! In order to bring the mayhem to a close, Wolverine is forced to kill off Jean. Let’s not forget that both Magneto and Mystique lose their mutant abilities during the course of the film. But here’s the kicker, all of that mess, save for Cyclops, is retracted in the closing scenes, with Magneto shown to have gained his powers back (and we can make the assumption that the same happened to Mystique) and Charles Xavier’s “consciousness” showing up in another person’s body, as was hinted earlier in the film. Oh, and once again, Wolverine is in the middle of it all. Not all was bad, however, as we got to see Kelsey Grammer take on the role of Beast, which was awesome, and Angel made his first appearance, albeit a short and under-used one. Essentially, it was almost as if Brett Ratner was trying to one-up Singer on who could screw things up the most.
I’m going to skip X-Men Origins: Wolverine for obvious reasons, as no good came from that movie at all. Which brings us to X-Men: First Class. This was Fox’s opportunity to start things over and reboot the franchise and to correct the mistakes the made before and many fans, myself included, were hoping this was the direction they were going to take. This film is the result of combining the planned X-Men Origins: Magneto film that was planned, as well as a prequel that would have placed the original team as teenagers (which I’m very glad they dropped, as it sounded like a CW special). This go-round, Matthew Vaughn stepped into the director role and gave us a period piece that had touches of James Bond to it that helped bump it up to the next level. Rather than see the original team gathered, we got yet another random group of X-Men and villains that yet again ignores the previously set-up timelines (ahem…Emma Frost). But what this film did do correctly was set up the rift between Charles Xavier and the newly named Magneto. It certainly took some liberties with other characters and their relationships as well, such as Mystique and Xavier- where’d that come from? For all it’s mistakes though, First Class was a great film with a story that connects the characters to a real-time event, which makes for more effective story telling. We finally got to see a new villain with Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw, as well as the always cool teleportation abilities, this time provided by Azazel. All in all, a pretty solid film, with some great sequences and well-cast actors and a few not-so-awesome moments.
And we arrive to today, where we have our first official trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past (which you can watch HERE), a film that will combine the two timelines set up by Vaughn’s film and Singer’s previous films. There have already been a few changes made, namely the “resurrection” of Patrick Stewart’s Professor X. There is also that little tid-bit of Wolverine being sent back in time rather than Kitty Pryde, as it was written in the comics. Singer took over from Matthew Vaughn after he was forced to drop out and Singer looks to be going a bit darker route than we’ve previously seen. We also get to see the inclusion of some long-awaited characters like Bishop and Quicksilver, as well as Warpath, Sunspot and Blink, and a lesser known character in Ink. Singer has also hinted at other mutants showing up. We also get to see the inclusion of the famed mutant-hunting Sentinels and their creator Bolivar Trask. There is a lot to look forward to with this film, especially for X-Men fans like myself. Do I expect this film to be perfect? Certainly not, their’s no such thing. But I expect this to be a great showing of the powers these characters possess. The story that the film is based on is one of the most iconic X-Men comics and I can’t wait to see the end result. Now, if we can just keep Wolverine from taking the center stage of every X-Men film ever, that would be a massive improvement. What are your thoughts on the X-Men universe? Are you a fan of the films? WHat would you change to make them more cohesive and “uniform”? (see what I did there?) Sound off below!