The X-Men Films: The End of an Era

With Logan set to be released worldwide today, I wanted to take a look back at the X-Men film franchise that has been going strong for 17 years.  Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have made it known that this will be the last time they embody the roles of Logan (Wolverine) and Professor Xavier so this truly is the end of an era for the film series that with the exception of the Batman films is largely responsible for creating the film landscape that we live in today. I’m going to do my best not to judge the films too harshly and I’m going to run through them in chronological order as FOX has messed with the continuity so much that it’s hard to know what order they would actually go in, or if certain film events even exist in the current time line.

X-Men (2000)

The one that started them all and finally brought the team that had been delighting comic fans since 1963 to the big screen. X-Men kept certain aspects of the comic intact, but also borrowed heavily from the animated series that had been a success for FOX in the 1990’s in terms of choosing which characters would be featured. Rogue, with the exception of her absorbing power, is vastly different from her character in the comics. WE get a nice introduction to the current crop of X-Men, which features Storm, Cyclops, and Jean Grey along with the Brotherhood of evil mutants Magneto, Toad Sabretooth and Mystique. The story isn’t spectacular but it sets up the world that the rest of the films will take place in nicely.

X2 (2003)

The tradition of Wolverine driven stories started with X2. I think many fans much like myself were hoping that we were going to get a bit of the Weapon X story here and they hinted at it, but we didn’t get quite the visuals that we expected. What we did get was another X-Men plot around trying to kill all mutants. This resulted in a team up of the X-Men and the Brotherhood to stop William Stryker from using his mutant son to wipe out all of mutantkind. The thing that got most X-Men fans up in arms was the way that they decided to introduce the Phoenix character. Jean Grey sacrificing herself for the team is key to the Phoenix storyline but the idea that we left out the whole comic force element is something that many fans were not happy with.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

We’ve officially jumped the shark now. Considered by many to be the worst of the X-Men films, The Last Stand’s plot is based around a “cure” to being a mutant and Magneto/The Brotherhood’s hatred of this idea, while at the same time Rogue sees the cure as a way for her to finally be with Bobby (Iceman). The biggest problem I think people have with the film is the use of the Phoenix character. Jean is corrupted by Magneto, kills Professor Xavier and ultimately Logan has to kill the woman he loves to save the day. We get a tease in the end credits that this probably isn’t the last time we will see these characters.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

When comic fans think of Wolverine’s origin many would say that they think of Weapon X. That isn’t what we got here. For some reason, not sure what, FOX seemed like they didn’t want to pull the trigger on the Weapon X story. For me the best part of the movie is the beginning credit sequence where we see Logan and Victor growing up and fighting in every major American war, until eventually being recruited by William Stryker. There are cameos in the movie for Deadpool (god they ruined that one), Blob and Gambit (wasn’t too bad). The movie starts with  Logan with bone claws fighting with an elite unit to being convinced to rejoin them and going through the adamantium process that would give him his trademark claws, but we don’t exactly get the Weapon X look.  The ending is really bad with Logan fighting a horrible version of Deadpool on top of a nuclear cooling tower. Did I mention Deadpool can’t talk, has swords similar to Wolverine’s claws, can shoot lasers out of his eyes and have the ability to teleport. Stryker shoots Logan in the head with an adamantium bullet causing him to lose his memory, which is a bit of a tie in to the original trilogy.

X-Men: First Class (2011)

I often wonder when I watch comic-based films if the people who wrote them have actually ever even read the comics. Ask any X-Men fan who the original X-Men are and they should be able to tell you Iceman, Beast, Angel, Cyclops and Jean Grey. What this movie wants you to believe was the first class was Beast, Mystique, Professor X, Magneto, Havok and Banshee. They try to recruit Logan but get turned down in a nice cameo. We’re introduced to the idea of the Hellfire Club, not totally accurate and Sebastian Shaw as well as Emma Frost. Professor X teaches his first group of mutants how to use their powers effectively. Oh BTW he has been best friends with Mystique since they were kids. After watching this it became clear that Mystique (played by “it girl” Jennifer Lawrence) was going to be the focus on any future X-Men films. Oh yeah, they stop the Cuban Missile Crisis from being a bigger thing and Magneto is the reason Xavier becomes paralyzed.

The Wolverine (2013)

Years after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand Logan is living on his own in the wild when he is sought out because a man he saved when an A-bomb was dropped on Japan is dying and wants to see him one last time to thank him. By thank him he means transfer Logan’s healing ability to himself so that he can live forever and Logan can finally die. Logan doesn’t want this fighting ensues, in the end Logan wins in a fairly pointless film that has no real connection to any other X-Men films before or since. Wolverine’s time in Japan is referenced often in the comics and Mariko is/was his other major love interest. She also has a connection to the characters Silver Samurai, Sunfire and Sunspyre. We don’t see much of that in the film, with the exception of her grandfather taking on the mechanical body suit to become the Silver Samurai to fight against Logan. As this is the last movie “continuity-wise” in the series, I will be interested to see if anything carries over into Logan.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Hey, Hey the gang’s all here. What do you do when people aren’t happy with the way your original trilogy ended? Completely change the continuity of everything of course. Some time after X-Men: The Last Stand the world looks pretty bleak for the X-Men as sentinels are killing all mutants and only Storm, Wolverine, Professor X (Yeah he was killed in Last Stand but he’s alive here), Magneto, Kitty Pryde, Iceman and a few other mutants are still alive. Rogue is in the film as well, but most of her scenes were cut in the theatrical release. They decide to send Wolverine back to 1973 kind of, Kitty has the power to do this. Let me try to explain. His body is still in the future, but his consciousness is sent back in time to take over his body in 1973. There he has to make contact with Xavier and attempt to stop the events that caused the Sentinels to be created in the first place. While all this is going on in the past the Sentinels are trying to kill them in the future, so basically everyone is trying to protect Logan’s body. All right, Logan is successful and instead of Mystique causing an international incident that results in the Sentinels wiping out all mutantkind, in fact Mystique saves President Nixon from an attack by Magneto and the Sentinel program is cancelled. Logan doesn’t wake up in 2023 where he started the film, but rather in the Xavier School with all the X-Men from the original trilogy still alive including Jean Grey.

Going to go into a bit of a side note here. This film is probably the best of the new movies and may be one of the bests in the whole series. The problem, if you want to call it that is that it destroys the continuity and me as a viewer now has no idea what the hell is going on. It’s not terrible, but it essentially means that the events of X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand didn’t happen and potentially means that the events in Wolverine also don’t happen in the same way, but I guess they could since the old guy is still going to get cancer and want Logan’s powers. And my brain has just exploded so let’s move on.

Deadpool (2016)

I’m going to put this film in here because it takes place in the same universe as the other films and Ryan Reynolds appears as Wade Wilson in both this movie and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That being said, the Deadpool in this movie has nothing to do with the “Deadpool” we see in the 2009 film, in fact they go out of their way to poke fun at the 2009 movie with Wade picking up a “Deadpool” action figure. This film is amazing and shows what can happen when the creators actually care about the characters. We see Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead representing the X-Men and Deadpool makes a reference to Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy when talking about Professor X. We get a great origin story for Wade which follows fairly well with the comics, there are some problems but they are forgivable, and we meet the characters such as Weasel, Blind Al and Bob who comic fans know and love. By far this is the best film in the “X-Men” universe in my opinion. (Side note: Deadpool had the lowest budget of any X-Men film and made the most at the box office)

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

A great comic story doesn’t always translate into a great movie. Never been more true than in this case. We’re finally starting to get to the X-Men team that people know and love, i.e. Storm, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, Beast but we’re taking a roundabout way to get there and in the process rewriting how the group meets characters such as Nightcrawler to make them happen much earlier than they did in the original trilogy or the comics. Let’s talk about the good stuff. First, we finally get to see Logan in the Weapon X helmet after being teased time and time again. Second, the scenes with “Quicksilver”, while not as good as they were in Days of Future Past are still pretty awesome. Finally, we get a tease for Mr. Sinister. Now let’s look at the bad. Apocalypse looks terrible. Secondly the plot doesn’t really develop and the whole movie feels rushed. Finally, can we stop with the Phoenix Force. I’m sorry, if you want to use that story, that is fine, but it’s such an interesting story why the hell are they just throwing it away and making it look like Jean Grey has had these powers all along. Not a great film and even though it is supposed to be a sequel to Days of Future Past, who really knows if these events actually happened this way in terms of the current continuity. I feel like they probably did as at the end of the film the team from the original trilogy is all together but who the hell really knows.

As I said in the introduction Logan will be the end of the line for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, but it certainly won’t be the end of the X-Men films. Sophie Turner, who took over the role of Jean Grey in Apocalypse, has said that a new X-Men film would begin production soon and IMDC.com has X-Men: Supernova slated for release in 2018. All totalled the X-Men film series has brought in over $4.3 billion worldwide and FOX certainly doesn’t want to give up the rights to their “tentpole” franchise when there is still money to be made. I’m excited for Logan, which is something that with the exception of for Deadpool I haven’t been able to say about an X-Men film in a long time. I hope that it’s the swan song that both Jackman and Stewart deserve and that it clears the way for a new crop of X-Men movies to come that can create their own continuity.

That’s it from me. What do you guys think? What was your favourite X-Men movie? Are you excited for Logan? Let me know in the comments.

Image from www.foxmovies.com

 

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