As I mentioned in My Thoughts on the Avenger Films post, the animated series based on Marvel comics were staples in my childhood. The two that left the biggest impact, however, were the Spiderman and X-Men series. So you can probably imagine my excitement when I heard that there was going to be a live action film adaptation of X-Men and as a kid I thought it was awesome. Over ten years later, X-Men films are still being made and I keep seeing them. With X-Men: First Class due for release later tomorrow, I decided that I would give my thoughts on films released so far. This is the Illusive One's Thoughts on the X-Men Films.
When I first heard about this film, I damn near wet myself in excitement. It was released in an era when live action adaptations of comic books were rare and it was even rarer to find a good one. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about it. As soon as I could, I got my parents to take me to see it and I loved every second of it. But how well does it hold up today? Well, here are my thoughts.
It was released in 2000 and starred Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Holly Berry, Famke Janssen, and Anna Paquin. The film deals with Wolverine, (Jackman) when he first joins the X-Men and their battles against Magneto, (McKellen), while the leaders of the world try to decide on how to deal with what they call the mutant phenomenon.
On the positive side you had a lot of great casting choices. The best, yet the strangest, was Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. What do I mean by strange? Well, before X-Men he was a Broadway dancer and singer from Australia and here he was playing a badass Canadian mutant with amnesia living in New York. Very strange, yet they couldn't have picked a better actor for the part. To me, Hugh Jackman is Wolverine and I doubt anyone will ever be better or be able to replace him.
Despite this, there were many other great casting choices as well. Patrick Stewart was also perfect as Professor X and Ian MaKellen was great as Magneto. The rest of the cast were good in their parts but were outshined by the three I already mentioned. In the end, however, these were characters that you couldn't help but love and sympathize with. With them, you had a lot of underlying themes about being different and acceptance within society. These themes were well put into this film and wasn't preachy or in your face about it
There was also a lot of great interaction between the characters. It was great to see how Professor X and Magneto interacted with each other. It was obvious that these two were once friends, still wanted to be friends and want the same thing but were divided on how to get them. The best of these, however, were the interactions between Wolverine and Cyclops. These two just hated each other and argued with each other all the time. Sometimes it was over Jean Gray, over leadership, or just over who has the bigger set. Always bickering, always amusing, and always played well of each other.
By today's standards and compared to the other films, the action scenes are fairly tame but I still enjoy them. The fights between Wolverine and Mystique and Wolverine and Sabretooth on Liberty Island were the highlights of the films and I always enjoyed watching them.
On the negative side, there really wasn't much to the film then what I mentioned above. The first half was all introductions, bickering, and the second half was action. The story and plot structure just never struck me as being well developed. There isn't really anything in particular I can point out but it just seemed like the plot and events could have been better written. Finally, I have to mention Sabretooth. While I never read the comic books, I know for a fact that Sabretooth was Wolverine's longtime rival before he joined the X-Men. In this film, however, he just came off as being Magneto's button man, despite the fact that they never met in the comics or any of the early animated adaptations. It's something that didn't bother me at first, but now it just annoys me.
All around, this film did have its faults but I loved it. It's by no means a masterpiece and it could have been a lot better but it was a good start to the series, especially compared to all the other overrated first superhero films out there, (Iron Man I'm looking at you).
X-Men 2: X-Men United
Now were getting into the real good stuff. In my opinion, this is probably the greatest Marvel live action film ever made. Released in 2003, the film continued the story of Wolverine as he tries to piece together his forgotten past. Things get completed for the X-Men however, when a man named William Stryker captures Professor X and plans to use him and the Cerebro Machine to exterminate all the mutants. As the film progresses, Wolverine finds that he and Stryker have a history together and wonders if his past is worth knowing.
On the positive side, all of the returning cast members return and all are just as good. Brian Cox was great as Stryker and a worthy foe to bring Magneto and the X-Men together. Once again, it keeps Wolverine's past obscure and gives you little hits of what it contains while never telling you the whole story. It also showed Jean Gray losing control of her powers. At times her powers spiked then abandoning her completely and made for an unpredictable quandary. The interactions and dialog between the characters were even better then those of the first film. The tension between the X-Men and Magneto was obvious and made for a great uneasy alliance. All the themes evolved in the first film and animated series were still in play and much better used this time around. This time around we saw the radicalism in humans against the mutants and made for a welcome shift in the plot.
Then we have the action scenes and, my God, they were great. There weren't as many, but in this case less was more. The best one was when Stryker invaded the school and Wolverine went berserk on his soldiers. There was also a good fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike but the first fight was better.
On the negative side Professor X was Stryker's prisoner throughout much of the film and this annoyed me. Cyclops' involvement was also minor and they made minor characters more prominent in this film. Neither of these things were necessarily bad things for the film but they just weren't things I expected or cared for. There were a few little moments I hated as well but those are just nitpicking problems.
All around, however, this was the best of the X-Men films and probably the best live action Marvel adaptation. The action was good, the acting and interactions were great, and it brought a satisfying closer to Wolverine search for his past and leaves you hopeful for the future of the mutants but not entirely sure what will happen next. If they had ended the series here, I would have been satisfied. And now I really wish that had.
X-Men 3: The Last Stand
This was where the films started to go downhill. The third film begins as Cyclops is still grieving over Jean's death and a cure is found for the mutants. As you can imagine, this infuriates Magneto who builds an army to fight against what he considers a threat to his race. Not long after, Jean returns, having survived, but now has an uncontrollable power within her that has taken on a life and consciousness of its own.
On the positive side, there was a lot of cool action in it, particularly the final fight where the X-Men go against the Brotherhood. I also felt that Vinnie Jones was good as Juggernaut but unfortunately, that's all this film had going for it.
Nothing about this film was as good as its predecessors. The acting was worse, the interactions were worse, and the dialog was worse. Even the final fight made next to no sense. Do you really expect me to believe that a hand full of X-Men and a few disorganized soldiers could take on Magneto's entire army of mutants? It just went way to over the top. Not only that but the themes involved were shoved in your face for about five minutes and then never mentioned again. Whereas the previous two films dealt with Wolverine’s past, this one ignored it completely. In the end, that sacrificed plot, dialog, and character development for more action. THAT pissed me off beyond belief!
Speaking of characters they killed some of them off way to fast. I don't mean to spoil anything, but Professor X and Cyclops were dead before the film was half way through. That's just wrong! Finally, there was the ending. Once again, I'm going to spoil something. Whereas the first two left the fate of the world ambiguous this one practically screamed it's already been worked out and, in the process, lost the realisms the first two films had.
Well, that made me sound like a pissed off fan boy didn't it? But in the end, when you compare it to the first two, it just sucks. I'm not saying that there isn't a good thing or two about but it was just a shitty action movie whereas the first two were intelligent, well made films as well as popcorn movies. I would be lying, however, if I said I didn't enjoy it. While it is a terribly flawed film and complete crap compared to the first two, it was a decent action movie and gave it an ok ending to the trilogy. It was cool to see the films go back to the X-Men vs. Brotherhood roots and the final fight was cool to watch on the big screen. But in the end, it's the worst of X-Men films.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
This is a film that is often been deemed to be the worst of the X-Men film, but I'm not entirely sure why. Think I'm crazy? Well, here are my thoughts.
Released in 2009, this film dealt with Wolverine’s story before he lost his memory and showed how he lost it and how he got his adamntium skeleton. In the process we learn about his troubled relationship with his half brother, Victor Creed, and how he and Stryker first met.
On the positive side the opening credits were great. It shows Wolverine and Victor Creed/Sabretooth, (although I'm sure this isn't the same character from the first film), fighting in different wars throughout the years, spanning from the Civil War to the Vietnam War, (I couldn't help but think that the two belonged their). The acting in this film was also good and better then the acting in The Last Stand. Hugh Jackman is once again great as Wolverine, Danny Huston was great as the young William Stryker, and Liev Schreiber was great as Victor Creed/Sabretooth. Taylor Kitsch was also good as Gambit, (a character I wish had been in the trilogy), Kevin Durand was good as The Blob, and I couldn't really find anything wrong with Will.i.am as John Wraith. Ryan Reynolds was also good as Deadpool, but the advertisements and promoters blew him out of proportions.
I also thought the action was good to and much better than that of The Last Stand and on par with the action of the first two films. It got back to the one on one death matches between the mutants and those are the things I loved about X-Men in the first place. I also liked the way the opposing sides went after each other in smaller numbers and never went to over the top.
On the negative side, all the themes from the trilogy were mostly non-existent. Although Stryker still plans the genocide of mutants he wasn't nearly as intelligent or as diabolical as he was in X2 and seemed to go about it in the wrong way. In fact, the whole plot seemed to take more inspiration from the comics themselves rather than reality. If the first two films hadn't taken themselves so seriously, this would have been ok. But because they did it makes this one stick out like a sore thumb.
The only other problem I had with it was the ending and the events in relation to the main films. It struck me as odd the way Wolverine just went lone wolf after he loses his memory. It just didn't seem like something anyone would do given the situation. Finally, like all prequels, there were next to no references to its events in the main films. It's a problem that all prequels suffer from and a problem that has always annoyed me.
After that, it's all nitpicking. A lot of people didn't like the fact that the film was a revenge story but I didn't care one way or another about it. A lot of people didn't like the dialog and I admit some of it was pretty cheesy, particularly involving the farm family Wolverine runs into. Speaking of which, it always struck me as odd that they didn't have much of a reaction to the fact that Wolverine somehow sliced their sink in half. There was also an action sequence where he jumped out of an exploding van into a flying helicopter. In the end, all of these little problems did dilute the experience for me but they didn't bother me enough to ruin the whole experience for me.
In the end, I liked this movie a lot more then The Last Stand. It's not nearly as good as the first two but as prequel, but I felt it was satisfying. It gave us a good, detailed background story of Wolverine and, while I felt it was unnecessary, it was well done. In the end, most of the problems are just nitpicking issues, and it's really not as bad as everyone says. It's nothing more than a popcorn film but still one worth watching.
And those are my thoughts on the X-Men films. The first film was a good start if a little underwhelming by today’s standards. The second was a masterpiece of the genera and I believe it's the best live action marvel adaptation ever made. I felt that the third was a shitty but satisfying film. The fourth one was as well but I liked it more the third. X-Men: First Class is due for release later this week and I really don't have much hope for it but I hope I'm wrong in this regard. It looks like it's going to go back to the themes of the first two films but also looks like it's going to be a popcorn movie as well. Let’s just hope it succeeds in being as intelligent and well made as the first two. So until next time, this is the Illusive One saying that every few hundred millennia evolution leaps forward.