It’s Raining X-Men
A little misnomer- I’m writing this before I see X-Men: Days of Future Past. There is the distinct possibility that my feelings on the movie, and the franchise as a whole, could be altered, erased, or some other thing between now and the time I see the flick. I doubt it, but we’ll see.
First and foremost, when is Fox (the studio holding the film rights to X-Men) going to just do what they want to do and rename the franchise Wolverine and Those Other People? Ever since the first movie back in 2000, which I’ll get to in a minute, the self-healing, cigar smoking, a-hole everybody loves has grown in popularity and received his, the lion’s, and Professor X’s share of the screen time in these films. Hell, he is the only character up to now to get his own movie(s), which I will also get to in a minute.
The fellating of Wolverine is one of many things fanboys have been upset about with the X-Men movies, upsetting them even to the point of boycott. Though, fanboys are usually all talk as box office grosses will suggest. There are many issues fans have with the cinematic version of the uncanny mutant force, but I’ll get to that in a minute (I am making a lot of promises here).
The X-Men’s page to screen transition was a looooong one. Though the notion of a movie came along before my time, I can remember as a wee teen nerd, conjecturing in the early 90’s about who could play who in a silver screen romp. I am going on record as saying Patrick Stewart was ALWAYS my (and most nerds’) choice for Charles Xavier. Though, he was everybody’s choice for every bald character. He could have been a great Mr. Freeze. Mel Gibson was a popular choice for Wolverine, Winona Ryder for Jubilee, Angela Basset as Storm, and Michael Dorn for Bishop. I was taking my cues from the X-Men lineup of the day, and the very popular cartoon. My ace in the hole for the cast? Sean Connery as Magneto.
But my dream team wasn’t meant to be, and neither was the movie at that time. Development Hell is called just that for a reason. The X-Men was a nut that many people tried cracking, but just couldn’t get it done. Most of it came from a price tag that would, at the time, be unheard of even for a gamble. Special effects weren’t there yet, either, and it’s probably a good thing a movie didn’t get made because it might’ve looked like that Fantastic Four movie we shall not speak of. It wasn’t until 2000 that the first X-Men movie premiered to the masses. Patrick Stewart was Charles Xavier, of course, and an unknown was playing the part of Wolverine after actor Dougray Scott had to drop out to do reshoots on Mission: Impossible 2 (I bet he’s still kicking himself in the ass on that one).
From the very beginning it’s being a very “meh” relationship with the X-Men movies. I got excited about them all, and enjoyed them very much to a certain extent. But most of them I kind of get bored with watching them now. Even X2: X-Men United, which was the top tier when it came out, and set the bar for all to follow. Its reign as supreme didn’t last very long really, especially seeing as how the age of the comic book movie is only 14 years old, relatively young for a relatively young art form. But here we go with a short manifesto chronicling the mutant movies over the last 14 years. These are not ranked or measured for greatness or lack thereof, but rather done by the order of release. So here are my impressions of the Peliculas de X-Men.
Like I said, this movie was a big deal. Not only were the X-Men finally making it to the movies, but comic book flicks up to then had been jokey cartoons that didn’t make a whole lot of money unless it starred Christopher Reeve or was about an orphan who dressed like a bat to avenge the death of his parents (though Batman and Robin had already buried Batman by this time). It wasn’t until Wesley Snipes starred as an R-rated vampire hunter named Blade that Hollywood Studios felt comic book based movies were a viable source of revenue- don’t kid yourself, it has nothing to do with artistic integrity. Oddly though, most people weren’t aware Blade was a comic book character, and very few comic book movies (mainstream, anyway) would ever be R-rated, so the logic is very flawed, but that’s Hollywood thinking for you.
X-Men made people look twice. Here was a director (Bryan Singer) who had directed The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil, starring Shakespearean actors like Patrick Stewart, and started the movie during the Holocaust. Elements like this allowed the mass audience to see what comic book fans had known all along- here was a great story about a dynamic and compelling group of outcasts, a metaphor for any human rights movement, who protect the very people who shun them.
Not going to lie, the movie was a tad disappointing. The villains attempt to make humans like mutants seemed to go against his ideology of being superior, and doing it with a giant glowy-thingy was pretty hokey. Plus, they cast Halle Berry as Storm. The lady has about as much acting chops as a piece of drift wood, and I say that feeling bad about slamming drift wood. That being said, the movie did its job, and paved the way for more, including….
X2: X-Men United (2003)
…A far superior sequel that was to me what that God-awful Spider-Man 2 was to everyone else. With the exposition of what a mutant is, and who these characters are and what they can do out of the way, Singer returned with his writers to focus on story. And it was a great story. The movie introduced us to William Stryker, played by Brian Cox, as a military man with ties to Wolverine and Xavier’s pasts. Stryker was well aware of mutants, and what side of the debate he was on. The guy went so far as to invade a school full of children. He was met with resistance by Wolverine, who pulled out his adamantium claws to stab people here and there and everywhere after fans complained his attitude was good in movie one, but he lacked the kick assery he’s known for.
Wolverine also started taking the spotlight in this movie. Where he and Rogue had been the audience’s window into the world of mutants in the previous flick, Rogue becomes a supporting player here so we can talk about Wolverine’s past (which the filmmakers do for like the next five movies). Other characters start to shine a little bit. Mystique being one. While Magneto is a major player in any X-Men story, including movie one, his plan was sort of stupid in the first outing. Here, we get a much better Magneto- who is he, and what he is willing to do. The moment in which he turns Stryker’s Cerebro around to kill all humans is a level of genocide unheard of. It’s a chilling moment even now.
Of course, like all second movies, there is a Wrath of Khan moment with Jean Grey, and we get a foreshadowing of the Phoenix storyline. Which is picked up in…
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
…The third in the series, with a title that suggests trilogy (why does everybody have to make an effing trilogy??) Phoenix is explained as a dark corner of Jean’s mind in this flick, directed by Brett Ratner after Singer went to go make the most expensive and shitty Superman movie. A bunch of people die, including Cyclops, probably because they didn’t know what to do with him like the last two movies so they just killed him off instead of putting forth any effort. Professor X also dies by being broken down into molecules or something, and giving a smile like he’s being pleasured in his nether region.
The main plot centers around a cure for the mutant gene, the ice guy and the fire guy fight at the end with really bad quips, Magneto moves a whole bridge because he doesn’t have money for a boat, and Frasier makes a pretty good Beast. Of course, Wolverine saves the day and learns to be a part of the team, because the movies are all about him…learning…to be a part of…the team…that the studio…doesn’t care about? Anywho, I actually thought this was a pretty good action flick despite most nerds really bashing the hell out of it. I don’t see it in such a bad light, I guess. Give me the choice between this and the first, and I probably choose this one.
This movie also has a Sentinel head in it when the team is practicing in the Danger Room, the only instance of either comic mainstay being glimpsed to this point in the series.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
This was supposed to start off a bunch of films charting the lives of X-Men before they became part of the organization- either for good or bad. Fox announced Wolverine (who else?) and Magneto as getting their own films. The whole Origins concept would all but be abandoned (all but Wolverine), and much of the script for Magneto’s movie would be absorbed into what would later become First Class. Seems that material fared far better, because this was a mess.
I concede having a few cocktails before I saw this one, but after seeing it sober I can stand behind the sentiment that I wasn’t that impaired, but it wasn’t all that bad either. The movie is one of the worst examples of continuity issues in the series, which I don’t really want to go into for length and sanity reasons. But there were also too many characters, too many stories, and none of them were developed fully. It was just kind of a jumbled mess, better appreciated with far more alcohol than I had apparently consumed that night.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
This breath of fresh air in the stale mutant climate was directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake- great movie), and was heads and tails above any of the movies before it. Set in the swinging sixties, our favorite geezer leaders Charles and Erik are young men who haven’t even met yet. Katniss Everdeen plays Mystique and does a great job because she’s awesome in everything. Kevin Bacon is a sinister baddie who torments Erik throughout time, ultimately pushing him to become Magneto. The characters, cast, and plot are fantastic, but unfortunately the flick suffers the forget-ability of its predecessors. I don’t remember much about it except enjoying it.
What I did like about it was that it seemed like a reboot of sorts. While it was produced by Bryan Singer, the universe these mutants occupied would be different from the one that had existed before. Then Hugh Jackman had a cameo as Wolverine. Because Hugh Jackman must be in every X-Men movie. I do admit that I enjoyed the cameo. But his presence, and other things, firmly put this movie in the same universe as the other flicks. Thus convoluting the timeline of the movies more.
Despite very little memory of this new old X-Men, I was very much looking forward to the series continuing. Perhaps they could go every decade and touch on how mutants affected, and were impacted by, historical events. It sounds like that might be what is going on, too, which is good news to me.
The Wolverine (2013)
After the much maligned Origins flick, Fox knew they couldn’t dupe the public in making another shitty Wolverine movie a huge hit. And since the rise and success of Marvel Studios, the attempt to make a large connected universe of characters was a tempting opportunity for Fox. So, they learned from their mistakes and let the creative team behind this movie do their thing without much of the reported interruption and interference that bogged down Wolvie’s first solo outing.
This movie went to Japan with the story, borrowing heavily from the ideas of Chris Claremont, one of the modern godfathers of the X-Men. Claremont also helped with the movie a bit. That, along with the hands-off approach, created a much better movie. Once again, however, pretty forgettable for the most part. Which you shouldn’t be able to say about a movie with a giant Silver Samurai.
The end of this movie had its very own stinger- an end credits scene to the lay person- that reintroduced Picard- er, Xavier, despite the whole being dead thing. Seems he and Magneto, who is also in the scene, are back to bosom buddies and need Wolverine’s help (shocking!).
All that leads to Days of Future Past. This will be a marriage of the modern day cast and the First Class class. It is a time travel story taken from the comic book of the same name, with Wolverine (changed from Kitty Pryde in the books) going back in time to make Professor X give a shit again and stop the evil Sentinels (really big robots) from destroying mutants and then moving on to everyone else.
What am I looking forward to? An awesome scene between James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart, another great turn from Michael Fassbender, Halle Berry hopefully getting as little screen and dialogue time as possible, Sentinels, and Peter friggin Dinklage.
What’s scaring me? Unresolved continuity errors (Professor X DIED), Bryan Singer once again directing the most expensive comic book movie to date (money does not a good movie make), Halle Berry getting more than one word of dialogue and one minute of screen time, Quicksilver (though from what I read I might be wrong about him), and putting the emphasis on Wolverine yet again.
In the end, does it really matter? The movie is going to be huge. Which is good for Fox, because they’re banking on an Age of Apocalypse movie, finally getting Deadpool his own flick after the character was shit on in Origins, an X-Force flick which hopefully has Cable in it, and Channing Tatum as Gambit in something. I’m guessing there’s no chance the rights will ever go back to Marvel, Bub.