TATM Classics #163: The X-Men Movies

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X-MEN *** (2000)

It depicts a world in which a small proportion of people are mutants, whose possession of superhuman powers makes them distrusted by normal humans. The film focuses on the mutants Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin) as they are brought into a conflict between two groups that have radically different approaches to bringing about the acceptance of mutantkind: Professor Xavier’s X-Men, and the Brotherhood of Mutants, led by Magneto. Xavier is played by Patrick Stewart and Magneto is played by Ian McKellan. The film also introduces other famous characters from the comics including Storm (Halle Berry), Cyclops (James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Sabretooth (Tyler Mame), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), & Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos).

The movie does a great job of bringing all these characters from the comics to life on the big screen especially Hugh Jackman, who perfectly resembles Wolverine from both the comics and the 90s cartoon. He creates a memorable character on the level of Christopher Reeve in Superman and, yes, even Michael Keaton in Batman. They originally wanted Russell Crowe for Wolverine but he dropped out due to salary issues which was probably a good thing because I don’t see Wolverine in Russell Crowe. And here’s one screwed up casting job, they were close to getting Keanu Reeves to play Wolverine. Really? Keanu Reeves as the bad-ass Wolverine? Obviously, that casting director got fired once his name was considered because of how stupid that sounded.

Everyone else looked like all the characters from the comics and did the job that the comics assembled the characters to be like.

The movie also found a way to give us a good origin story without using the sentinels, who play a big part in the origin of the X-Men story. Although, they were in the early drafts of the screenplay but Tom Rothman, the head of Fox at the time, thought the idea of sentinels was stupid and didn’t want it in the film. Which begs the question why do they show up in X-Men 3?

Some of the faults of the film come into some of the one-liners which range from being really corny to just not making any sense, and you know which line I’m talking about…

I mean, seriously, what the hell does that even mean? That line makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. And I checked, there wasn’t any writers’ strike that happened around that time, so that means that was just a line that somebody threw in there because they just didn’t care about their job and nobody else bothered to examine the line before they decided to film the scene.

One of the other flaws is that some of the characters really got on my nerves. Such as Rogue, who if you watched the cartoon saw that she was a bad-ass southern belle. But if you watch her in the movies, she’s very whiny and she screams way too much. In a way, she’s more like Jubilee from the cartoon rather than Rogue. Thankfully, the future movies in the series gave her character a much needed boost and in X2 & X-Men 3, she becomes her own character again and we begin to like her again, unlike here where she becomes really annoying.

X-Men has a lot of problems with it but as a film goes on a whole, it’s a really excellent movie. There’s a lot of great action, the story works really well, the actors make their characters their own, it’s a great superhero movie that eventually led to a renaissance of superhero movies that continues to this very day.

X2: X-MEN UNITED **** (2003)

The plot, inspired by the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, pits the X-Men and their enemies, the Brotherhood, against the genocidal Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox). He leads an assault on Professor Xavier’s school to build his own version of Xavier’s mutant-tracking computer Cerebro, in order to destroy every mutant on Earth.

X2: X-Men United is the best of the X-Men movies in my opinion.

All of the problems that were in X-Men are completely fixed here.

The characters all have a purpose to be their and we get good character development on everyone involved, including Anna Paquin’s Rogue and Halle Berry’s Storm, who were the two weakest parts of the cast but here, they went from being bland in the first film to becoming more likeable in this film.

The newer characters each offer something new and unique to the film including Brian Cox’s William Stryker and Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, who shared a close resemblance to the character in the comics.

The action sequences are incredible to watch and there’s a lot of great tension in these action scenes and you don’t know how it’s going to end or who’s going to come out as the victor.

The plot and story are also more concrete and more understandable. Unlike Daredevil, you know what’s going on, you know what’s at stake, and you know why they have to stop the threat.

At 133 minutes, X2 does run a bit too long, that’s my only major flaw with the film is that it does run a bit too long especially towards the end.

That being said, X2 fixes all of the problems that plagued the first movie, all of the characters have a purpose, the new characters offer up something new to the table, there’s a lot of tension in the action scenes, the story is more concentrated in this film, it’s the best movie in the X-Men series in my opinion.

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND ** (2006)

The film’s script is loosely based on two X-Men comic book story arcs, “The Dark Phoenix Saga” by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, and “Gifted” by writer Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday, with a plot that revolves around a “mutant cure” that causes serious repercussions among mutants and humans, and on the mysterious resurrection of Jean Grey.

When Bryan Singer directed the first two X-Men movies, you can tell that he understood the material and he was able to make a good first movie and an great sequel out of this story. When Brett Ratner took over, you can tell that he never understood the material and made a mediocre third film.

It’s not that the movie is terrible but goddamn, there are so many things that are wrong about this movie that make it so unwatchable.

First off, the movie doesn’t really take advantage of the comic book stories that they are adapting. It’s like they only read bits and pieces of both stories and just went with the stuff they read instead of reading the whole thing.

Secondly, there’s too many characters dying and being left behind for no reason whatsoever. I swear to god, there were so many characters being killed off for no reason whatsoever and I’m sorry, you need a purpose for all these characters to die. You don’t just kill them off for dramatic effect. There’s a scene in the movie where Mystique is hit with a shot from the “cure gun” and she turns back into a normal human and Magneto just leaves her even though she’s still on her side and this is halfway into the movie and she’s never mentioned again.

Lastly, the third act, which is suppose to be the epic finale of everything that’s been building up in the past three films, goes on way too long. This is one of the longest third acts I’ve ever seen, it’s almost an hour long and by the time we get to the middle of it, I got incredibly bored because nothing different was happening. And by the time, Wolverine tries to stop Jean Grey and everytime he gets closer, his clothes start ripping to show off Wolverine’s abs for sex appeal, I was done, everything I had liked about this movie quickly went away because of that cheap ploy to show Hugh Jackman’s abs.

And do I even need to say it…I’m The Juggernaut, BITCH!!!

There are so many things wrong with that one line of dialogue that would take me far too long to explain. First off, it’s a terrible line. Secondly, the acting on Vinnie Jones when he says it is shit. And, it’s just an unnecessary moment that was yet another excuse to be “edgy” and fail miserably.

So, with all that against the movie, was there anything good about the film? Yes.

I give the cast its’ credit for working with the terrible script. Hugh Jackman’s still bad ass as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are great as Professor X and Magneto, James Marsden’s great as Cyclops. The best character in the movie was Kelsey Grammer, who perfectly captured the character of Beast from the comics. I thought they did an incredible job on the makeup with that character and Kelsey Grammer perfectly captures who that character is and played it to a tee.

The action scenes are also very good. The first half of that third act final fight was great but again, it’s not until the middle where it goes on way too long and that stupid cheap ploy for sex appeal where it got bad.

X-Men: The Last Stand had the potential to end a great series of films on a high note but no, Brett Ratner didn’t bother to do his research and just made a lazy summer popcorn movie and threw in stupid dialogue, unnecessary death scenes, a piss-poor attempt at sex appeal, and decided to do no justice to the X-Men films and made a bad threequel just to get a paycheck.

Unfortunately, it also began a streak of less-than-spectacular threequels for Marvel which lead into the next movie we’ll look at.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE * (2009)

Directed by Gavin Hood, the film is a prequel to the X-Men film trilogy, focusing on the violent past of the mutant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and his relationship with his half-brother Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber). The plot also details Wolverine’s early encounters with Major William Stryker (Danny Huston), his time with Team X, and the bonding of Wolverine’s skeleton with the indestructible metal adamantium during the Weapon X program.

It’s amazing to see that even though the head of Fox loves the character of Wolverine so much, you’d think he have some control on how to play the origin story of Wolverine but no, this movie creates a totally fabricated story on how Wolverine came to be.

And that’s the biggest problem of the movie, it takes the origin of one of the most badass characters in superhero history and just dumps it and goes straight for a plot you’d see in a Universal Soldier movie. Hell, even Carlyle himself said “this was a Universal Soldier movie” when he reviewed the film.

The script is filled with so many bad clichés that we’ve seen in action movies. We get the death of the lover whose not really dead, we get the government going after the hero, we get people walking away from explosions, it’s all here and it just shows the piss-poor effort they went to writing this film. You’d think that by 2009, we’d gotten away from those but nope, they drag them into this movie. But hey, I really shouldn’t have expected much from the writer of Swordfish and Hitman.

The action is so lazy and unnecessary, they feel like they have to throw in useless action for no reason whatsoever with no purpose or no conjuction with the story at all.

The sets in this movie also look bad as well, you look at some of the sets that they used to film this on and you think, “You’ve gotta be kidding me, this is a $190 million movie and these are the sets you come up with?” They all look so bad, they look like something out of a high school play production. With these sets looking as bad as they do, where the hell did $190 million go?

Also, my ultimate problem with the movie is some of the elements they bring into the story of Wolverine including trying to make him indestructible by making him destructible (yeah, I’m not sure how that works), having Wolverine make the X when he breaks out of Stryker’s lab (what was the point of that?), and the worst of all, having Wolverine spend time on a farm with a couple a la Superman.

That’s the biggest fuck you of the movie when you have to literally steal a major plot point from Superman, not even a comic book character from Marvel. You had to go to DC and rip off the Superman storyline. DC Comics has every single right to sue Marvel and Fox’s asses off for this.

The casting in this is really bizarre, Liev Schrieber as Sabretooth is really lackluster, Lynn Collins as Kayla Silverfox is incredibly bland, Danny Huston’s William Stryker is Saturday morning cartoonishly evil, and all the other heroes in the film including Taylor Kitsch’s Gambit, will.i.am’s John Wraith, Kevin Durand’s The Blob, Dominic Monagahan’s Chris Bradley, and especially Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool and Scott Adkins’ Weapon x are all completely pointless. There’s absolutely no reason why any of those characters were in this movie except for fan service.

So with all those problems, is there anything that’s worth while about this movie?

Only one thing, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is still awesome. Even with all this stupid BS that goes on in the film, Wolverine the character himself is still badass and god bless Hugh Jackman for sticking with the terrible script and not straying away from what we love about him as Wolverine.

Other than that, there’s absolutely nothing about X-Men Origins: Wolverine that works at all.

This movie just falters on all levels and was clearly made by people who had no intention on following the actual origins of Wolverine and just decided to throw in the most clichéd action plot ever into a piss-poor superhero movie that nearly killed the X-Men franchise for all times.

That being said, you’re probably wondering what I think about the trailers for The Wolverine, which follows the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller storyline in which Wolverine goes to Japan.

From what I’ve seen, I still have hope that they can make a great Wolverine movie and I’m seeing a lot of promise. Unlike the last movie, there’s not a big huge cast on board. The lone star of the film looks to be Jackman and with a more promising director, James Mangold, and really good writers on board, maybe The Wolverine can be a great movie. I’m hoping for it when it comes out on July 26.

In all honesty, it can’t be any worse than X-Men Origins: Wolverine was

X-MEN FIRST CLASS ** (2011)

Before Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants, to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-MEN. Now, unlike a lot of people, I was not looking forward to this movie at all. Especially after sitting through the ASS-ics X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, after those two films, I gave up on the X-Men franchise and wanted to forget that this movie was coming out. But then, the reviews came in and I decided to check it out. So, what do I say about X-Men First Class? It’s ok, not great, not terrible, just ok. The performances are really good from the young stars and the action sequences were all well done. The special effects were also well done most of the time but there were also times when the visuals were on the level of G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra. Also, I really felt the first half of the movie was not as strong as the second half. Throughout that first half, I was never bored but there were times where I didn’t feel thrilled or invested. Once the mutants attack the CIA, the movie picked up fast and the last action scenes were the icing on the cake. Overall, X-Men First Class didn’t wow me and I don’t consider it to be on the level of great reboots like Batman Begins and Star Trek but at the same time, it’s not horrible. It’s easily an improvement over the last two X-Men films but it’s not something I’d see again in a theater.

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