@Thief12, have you seen any further X-Men films since your most recent post?
For what it’s worth, I’m a fan of the X-Men franchise. I went into ‘X-Men’ (2000) cold, never having taken notice of Marvel’s mutant heroes before, and was completely won over. Indeed, the first X-Men movie showed me that superhero fiction can be a lot more sophisticated than what I remembered from reading comic books as a pre-teen and that superheroes can work as a metaphor for real life topics. To put it another way, ‘X-Men’ rekindled my interest in superhero comics in general and I have consequently developed a certain fondness for the X-Men. I have since read a lot of comic books and particular X-Men comics, so if you’re interested in the opinion of a (mild) fan boy, here are my two cents:
I would argue that ‘X-Men’ (2000) marked the beginning of the ongoing modern age of the superhero movie and should therefore be considered as a landmark movie and genre classic. ‘X2’ even improved on the first film with better characterisation and action set pieces, although I must admit that the plot doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Since you’ve seen both films, there’s no need to elaborate any further.
The third film of the original trilogy, ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ is much-maligned, but it’s actually not that bad. I believe that it took some flak just because it wasn’t directed by Bryan Singer but by journeyman director Brett Ratner. The direction isn’t really the problem, though, the movie’s writing is. The biggest challenge for the franchise is to juggle the large cast of characters, which the filmmakers have generally solved rather well by casting recognizable actors even in small roles, which renders the distinctive primary-coloured costumes unnecessary. However, the third X-Men movie introduces too many classic characters from the comic books – Angel, Beast, the Juggernaut, Multiple Man – and none of them have enough room to breathe. The film also suffers from trying to cram in too many storylines from the comics (the Dark Phoenix story, Joss Whedon’s run on the Astonishing X-Men), which makes for a confusing plot. This actually happens quite frequently in superhero movies (‘Spider-Man 3’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, ‘Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’). That being said, there are some nice set pieces and the ending is remarkably dark (post-credit scene aside).
‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ is deserving of the critical slating it got. It really is a mess of a movie and best forgotten. It also exists outside the franchise’s continuity, so there is absolutely no reason to see it. ‘The Wolverine’ (2013) is basically a stand-alone adventure, adapting the Frank Miller-scripted Wolverine adventures in Japan. It makes some reference to the events of the third X-Men film, but you don’t need to have seen that. I like that ‘The Wolverine’ is a fairly low-key story – there is no bombastic character origin or cataclysmic event, which would threaten the end of life on Earth. If you like Hugh Jackman’s Logan, the true star of the franchise, you should like ‘The Wolverine’.
‘X-Men: First Class’ reboots the whole series with a prequel/origin story. You might be despairing of those, but Singer does a pretty good job of reimagining the characters and of placing them in real-life history (the backdrop is the Cuban Missile Crisis). If you are a continuity freak, you might be frustrated that it doesn’t quite gel with the original trilogy, but this kind of thing (“retconning”) is actually very common in comic books and particular X-Men related titles, so I thought that it reflects its source materials rather well. I also liked the cast very much – Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and others. My main reason for recommending ‘X-Men: First Class’ is that it is necessary in order to enjoy its sequel ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, which is a genuinely good superhero movie with an original and interesting time-travel plot. It is also quite ingenuous in how it connects the first to the second trilogy and I think it’s on the same level as the first two movies.
Disregarding ‘Deadpool’, which also takes place in the X-Men movie universe, but is just too far out and pretty much its own thing (but well worth watching and recommended as well), this brings me to
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
En Sabah Nur – Apocalypse - was the first mutant and ruled Ancient Egypt as a god-king, assisted by his super-powered “Four Horsemen”, before being overthrown and buried by tons of pyramid rubble. Indeed, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ is second only to ‘Gods of Egypt’ when it comes to the destruction of ancient temples and pyramids on screen. Alas, being buried by tons of rubble has never kept an arch-villain down, so in 1983 – ten years after the events of ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ – Apocalypse rises again, recruiting a new quartet of mutant Horsemen and laying waste to civilization. At the same time, Magneto resurfaces after having been in hiding for ten years, prompting his former ally Mystique (now a radical liberator of mutants) and frenemy Charles Xavier (running his school for gifted youngsters) to go on a search for him.
I never liked the X-Men villain Apocalypse and, although Oscar Isaacs gives it a good go under layers of prosthetics and make-up, the cinematic incarnation also makes for an uninteresting foe. This is a bit of a problem for a movie, which is named after the character. I am also not very impressed by superhero battles in front of a background of mass destruction signaling the impeding end of the world. Of course, that is part of the genre as much as horses and six-shooters are part of Westerns, but, personally, I would very much appreciate it if somebody just took some superhero characters and allowed them to have a simple adventure, in which they don’t have to avert the end of civilization.
These reservations aside, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ is pretty good. The characters’ individual stories are developed rather well and Magneto’s narrative arch is excellent, not least because Michael Fassbender gives a really good performance. I liked the (re)introduction of “new” characters and there are some brilliant superheroics – even although we have seen Nightcrawler, Quicksilver and Wolverine doing their signature moves before in the course of the series. The tone is also consistent to the other films of the series, including some nice humour, and there are a few interesting visual ideas as well.
As a fan of the series, I thought that ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ was a good movie, but it won’t make much sense for newcomers. 7/10