Saturday, August 10, 2013

X-Men [A Fat Jesus Superhero Franchise Review]

We all know of the X-Men at this stage in human history. At least I'd hope so. Whether living under a rock, an avid comic book reader, and even those who just watch movies. The long (and still current) running Marvel comic book series, was adapted into a cartoon series in the 90s and made into a live action movie franchise starting in 2000. The comic books and various story-lines have been published since 1963. X-Men, as a whole revolves around a group of mutants, people who have the "X-Gene", as they are referred to as. Led by a telepath, Charles Xavier, the mutants, are taught how to use their powers for good. How to contain and control their powers while still functioning in society. This doesn't come with risks and trails, as you'll see as this post winds on. Xavier's group, the X-Men, are often opposed by a league of evil mutants, led by Magneto (Xavier's friend who has the power to manipulate and control magnetic fields), called The Brotherhood. Xavier is constantly preaching harmony, while Magneto is condemning those who are not like him. This is the ever constant struggle in the X-Men's universe, and it's pretty unwavering not matter which way you get into the series. 

You know of Charles Xavier and Magneto, but there a ton of other X-Men that comprise the "main cast" if you will. I'll list off a few here, starting with Wolverine. Logan to the world, is a man with a tortured past, who has regenerative powers, an Adamantium skeleton with retractable claws. Cyclops is another staple of the series. Scott Summers as he's otherwise known as is a top mutant at Xavier's. He must wear some form of sunglasses at all times, as he has the power to shoot devastating laser beams out if his eyes. Another notable mutant is Storm, aka Ororo Monroe. Like Summers, she is an elite mutant with Xavier and she can manipulate the weather to her pleasing. Dr. Hank McCoy, aka Beast, is one of Xavier's oldest friends. He has intelligence that far surpasses any human, along with ape-like strength, speed and agility. Rachel Summers, or as you may know her as Jean Grey, Phoenix or Marvel Girl, is a mutant who in a relationship with Scott Summers (or is an alternate reality daughter to him, depending on the story arc). She is one Xavier's earlier students, and has extremely powerful telepathic and telekinetic powers. Anna Marie, aka Rouge, is a girl with the powers to "steal" another mutants powers if she is touching them. Mystique, otherwise known as Raven Darkhölme, is most always on the villain side of things with Magneto. Childhood friend of Xavier, she has the power to shape-shift into any human likeness. Emma Frost is also one of the X-Men's most prominent villains, as she as the ability transform herself into diamond, as well as being a powerful telepath. 

Other X-Men of note would be Remy Lebeau aka Gambit, Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler, Bobby Drake aka Iceman, Warren Worthington III aka Angel, Piotr "Peter" Rasputin aka Colossus and "Kitty" Pryde aka Shadowcat. With other notable Brotherhood members being, Cain Marko aka Juggernaut, Mortimer Toynbee aka Toad, Victor Creed aka Sabertooth. As well as Mastermind, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

Now that you have a tiny little bit of the history of the X-Men and a basic knowledge of some of the main heroes and villains, I think it's high time I jumped into what I'm writing the post on. The X-Men film franchise. The first movie being in 2000, the X-Men series will be at a whopping nine movies by 2017, once X-Men: Apocalypse and Wolverine 3 come out. Apocalypse will be a sequel to Days of Future Past while Wolverine 3 is pretty obvious. You could bump that count to 11 if both X-Force and Deadpool go into production. So far we have a, I'd say at least, complete trilogy in X-Men, X2 and X-Men 3: The Last Stand. We also have an ongoing origins story of Wolverine which includes X-Men Origins: Wolverine as well as just released The Wolverine. Also there's a complete origins story, if you will, of the X-Men and The Brotherhood forming in X-Men First Class. We now have a combination of the trilogy and First Class with Days of Future Past releasing this past Friday. This has been an extensive series, with mega highs and terrible lows over the last decade or so, but it's produced a ton of good superhero movies. X-Men is an expansive universe, and while Marvel has other plans for their "phases", the X-Men series has been a quietly good addition to their hero catalog over the years. Producing three amazing movies (X-Men, First Class and Days of Future Past) and one that reserves the right as one of the best superhero movies of all time in X2


The first X-Men trilogy follows the stories of the X-Men as it relates to a power struggle of the mutants on earth. Between Magneto (Ian McKellen) recruiting, Xavier (Patrick Stewart) teaching and the Government wanting to "normalize" them, the mutants in this trilogy go through a lot. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is introduced very early on, as is Rouge (Anna Paquin) as they form a bond of sorts of the course of the movies. Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is also introduced early on as her and Magneto have a healthy villain relationship throughout the series. 

X-Men follows the story of the X-Men, most notably Professor Xavier, Wolverine, Cyclops (James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry). They're trying and stop The Brotherhood, consisting of Magneto, Mystique, Toad (Ray Park) and Sabertooth (Tyler Mane), from using Rogue's powers, to turn the population of New York into mutants along side them. X2 (aka X2: X-Men United) builds upon the relationships and story-lines teased in the first movie. Introducing more mutants into the universe and giving us one of the best, I think, superhero movies of all time. Though the Brotherhood has been stopped, in the first movie, there is a new threat to all mutants on the earth, in William Stryker (Brian Cox). He's been extracting intelligence from the captured Magneto, which helps lead to the capture of Xavier and Cyclops. This also triggers a raid on Xaiver's Home For Gifted Youngsters, in which some of the mutants are captured. Though Wolverine, Pyro (Aaron Stanford), Iceman (Shaun Ashmore) and Rogue as well as Colossus and a group of kids escape. Jean Grey and Storm were elsewhere at the time. It becomes an all out war with Stryker to save Xavier as he may be used to destroy the mutants on earth. Finally to end the trilogy we have X-Men 3: The Last Stand. Taking place after the events of the second movie, we find out that Jean Grey is no longer able to control her immense powers. At the same time Magneto has escaped and is rounding up the brotherhood. This time without Toad and Sabertooth. Instead he's grabbing Multiple Man (Eric Dane), our very own Jean Grey, and Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones). The Brotherhood wants to wage war on the humans as they have found a cure (or so they think), that will turn mutants back into humans. Heeding the all the advice that Xavier has given them, the remaining mutants left, at a now shut down school, band together. They must stop the Brotherhood and save the earth from a group that wants to do more than just stop the spread of this "vaccine".

I still love this trilogy, despite the third movie being a bit lack-luster and confusing. The acting by this ensemble cast is fantastic. You can't go wrong with Ian McKellen or Patrick Stewart. Anna Paquin, even as a young actress does well as Rouge. Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman are on screen firepower as well. The writing at times is pretty cliche, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying these films. The story flows well between the movies. As I've said may a time already in this, X2 is probably one of the top five superhero movies in terms of story-line and writing. There's a lot of green screen and the use of wires for fighting in this series. As you probably expected, the mutants do fight each other. While it's much more noticeable in the first movie, the opening scene of X2 will make you forget about all that you saw in X-Men. Even with all that though the fights are fun and action packed. There's also a ton of character development that you really notice as you watch these films. Especially if you watch them very close together. There is bad though and it mostly comes with the third movie. I never understood the need to mindlessly kill off characters. Not just little ones, MAJOR ones central to the X-Men universe. Sure you can spin it that, they aren't really dead, or that it's a comic book movie, they'll just bring 'em back. All of that is plausible, but these are still feature films, and killing off characters is just some that always irked me about the third film.

It pains me, and I'll keep it short here, but in a moment you'll be reading abut X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I'm so so sorry.


The first X-Men movie following the trilogy is this one, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Everyone, including myself, was mega excited for this to come out. Wolverine is pretty prolific and has arguably one of the best origins stories in all of the comic book world. With characters introduced such as Deadpool, Gambit, The Blob and a young Cyclops, this movie was primed to be a top tier superhero film. But, that was not to be as it critically bombed. It is also universally panned as not only a terrible superhero film, but one of the worst in recent memory. This is a spin-off of the first trilogy, and essentially, partly a prequel to it. I haven't seen The Wolverine as of yet, but I hear it's pretty damn solid and leagues better than what I'm about to talk about.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine follows the origins story of, you guessed it, Wolverine. We start with a flashback to the 1800s with Wolverine. As a kid he was James, and he is shown accidentally killing his father with three bone claws protruding from his hands. He flees with his brother Victor Creed aka Sabertooth (Liev Schreiber), as they begun, as brothers and mutants, living throughout the years and wars that the world have been involved in. After being sentenced to death via firing squad, and surviving, they are contacted by William Stryker. He asks them to become a part of Team X, consisting of Fred Dukes aka The Blob (Kevin Durand), Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), John Wraith ( and Chris Bradley (Dominic Monaghan). The group are mercenaries of sorts, looking for a specific item. James, leaves after learning of their disregard for human life. Six years later, James, now Logan, is happily living in Canada as a lumberjack living with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). Stryker again approaches Logan, asking him for help as members of Team X are being assassinated. Logan refuses, but after a series of terrible events, and losing his girlfriend to Sabertooth, he agrees. The Adamantium is fused to his bones and they story of Wolverine begins as he hunts down the brother he once fought alongside.

I think from that little synopsis of the film, I make it out to be an entertaining, action filled movie. Right? But I can assure you, past the point where Logan becomes the Wolverine we know and love, its a mess. Full of asking yourself "Why?" and noticing every scene has terribly done special effects and green-screen CGI. The action even for a superhero movie, is over the top. The acting is mostly fine by Liev Schreiber and Hugh Jackman, but that's not enough to save this. If you get used to a character here, they'll probably die. Even the HUGE ones introduced, like Gambit and Deadpool, feel forced. Deadpool is not the Deadpool comic fans have come to know and love. While Gambit feels like a plot device, more than a character. Not only that but most all of the other acting feels uninspired. It doesn't help that with this script, anyone other than Wolverine was hard to pull off. There is so much bad, it's a wonder a script, that has SO much detail to work with, can come across so awful. The start was fine, felt like an origins movie, but once you get done with that, you'll find yourself wanting to never have to see this ever again. Don't worry, as soon as I see The Wolverine there will be a review up, in full detail like all my other ones, so look forward to that next week.

This is easily the weakest of the X-Men franchise, but things are looking up (with The Wolverine). Also next comes a different type of origins story, so to speak, as we focus on the leaders and the veterans on the X-Men and Brotherhood in this second spin-off. Complete with a completely different feel than this trash of a film.


Ever since I had seen X-Men Origins: Wolverine I had a bad taste in my mouth. As did I think 100% of people who saw it. So when they announced X-Men: First Class and we started to hear more and more about it I was pumped. This was going to bring the franchise back into the plus. Completely separate from the previous films, this is an origins story of sorts (as well as a prequel for the entire series). In the sense that we don't see some of these "veteran" mutants get their powers. What we do see is the formation of the two biggest factions of the X-Men universe and it sets up any and all future movies, while keeping the comic book lore intact. This is before the X-Men and The Brotherhood, but directly leads into the creation of them.

X-Men: First Class follows the story of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Erik Lensherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and they follow separate paths in life leading to stopping the first "real" super villain in Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Flanked by childhood friend Raven Darkholme aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Xavier begins helping the CIA. The reason they were contacted, is because on a covert mission, CIA Agent Moria MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) sees Shaw and three other mutants, who turn out to be Emma Frost (January Jones), Azazel (Jason Flemyng) and Janos Quested aka Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), bullying a US Army Colonel. Xavier saves Erik, as he is hellbent on killing Shaw for what he did to him and his family during World War II. They start gathering young mutants with the help of Dr. Hank McCoy, aka Beast's (Nicholas Hoult), invention Cerebro. They recruit stripper Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz), taxi driver Armando Muñoz aka Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Army prisoner Alex Summers aka Havok (Lucas Till), and Sean Cassidy aka Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones). They also approach Wolverine, who tells them to screw off, putting it nicely. These are the mutants of the future, being trained by the mutant expert in Charles Xavier. But, they have to band together as a unit to stop a world war from happening again, by stopping Shaw and dealing with their own inner demons.

This movie blew me away the first time I saw it and on a repeat viewing it was as good if not better. It was reminiscent of X-Men to me. As in this is a great superhero film and if they do this right, the sequel is going to be phenomenal. X-Men: Days of Future Past is already shaping up to be great, but let's take a little closer look at this film. The story great from off the bat. I liked them using the opening from the first movie, cause it works so well with the characters (Xavier and Magneto) that they were establishing. There were slow parts sure, unnecessary scenes, etc. But, aside from that Hugh Jackman cameo, there were no previous actors from the first four movies in this. They had to establish these guys as their younger selves. Which they did alarmingly well. Character development is key in a movie like this and everyone (at least the main group) got great screen time, without forcing them down our throats.  The action was great, mind you, a lot of it was training and not mutant on mutant (till the end), but it did well. We didn't need to see a ton of fighting, cause we got to see their skills develop. Plus the set pieces for this, aka the beach scene at the end, were great. Finally the acting, lead by the great Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and a very capable Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult and Rose Bynre, was spot on. The leads lead superbly and the support followed and never felt lost.


We open The Wolverine with Logan (Hugh Jackman) being imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki in 1945. After being freed in the wake of the atomic bomb being dropped, he saved an officer name Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) from the blast. Present day, Logan is living the Yukon, tormented by hallucinations of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). He is found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a mutant who is able to foresee people's deaths. Yukio was sent by Yashida (now CEO of a technology corporation in Tokyo) to get Logan and bring him to him, so that he may repay his debt. When Logan arrives in Tokyo he meets Yashida's son, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Yashida, who is dying of cancer, proposes that he transfers Logan's healing abilities to himself, giving Logan the freedom to live life until a timely death. Logan refuses and prepares to leave the next day. That night however Yashida's physician, Dr. Green (Svetlana Khodchenkova), puts something into Logan's body. Logan dismisses this as a dream. The next morning Logan finds out that Yashida has passed away. At his funeral a group of Yakuza gangsters attempt to kidnap Mariko. Logan saves her and is shot, but his wounds aren't healing like normal. Logan begins a journey to not only protect Mariko, but also to find out who (and what) he's become and why Mariko is in grave danger.

Let me start by saying, this movie, location and sometimes story-wise, is all over the place. We got Logan's head games, the Yukon, 1940s Japan AND present day Japan. With all of this scenery in this film, it's less of a jumbled mess than you would think it to be. On the flip side of that it can be confusing what's going on at times. Also the flow feels weird, disjointed at times almost. The action sprinkled in is fine, but the main story around it, feels pieced together like a torn piece of paper. While it fits together in theory, when you're adapting a movie every detail, moment, line doesn't have to translate. Also characters feel rushed. You get good performances out of Hugh Jackman, Wolverine, and Tao Okamoto, Mariko. But everyone else feels like they're just around. Jean Grey is a plot device and doesn't really carry the film. Yukio was is an interesting character that feels like she just drops off the face of the earth from mid-film to the end. While Dr. Green turned out to be one of the enemies that barely has any screen time until the end. All while Yashida is a nice addition and character, that felt bland to me and was highly forgettable. This is a long movie and to have so much that is seemingly forgettable, really brings down the movie. Also, the overuse of Japan can hurt this at times. From the traditional scenes in old style homes/palaces, to the Pancinko building and the Love Hotel. It's feels like they crammed in Japan just because it was the setting. While some of the more traditional places are fine, the bells and whistles are unneeded. Some things like said Love Hotel, jack it up to the umpteenth degree, and at times leaves you with that "Why did they do this?" feeling.

This movie does improve on just about every aspect of it's predecessor. The action is fun throughout. Integrating ninja and samurai, are a little more inviting than the, "Look out, mutant attacks!", we've become used to with the X-Men franchise. The hand to hand combat is fun, Jackman is used well as Wolverine, as you'd expect. This isn't a R-rated film, but I like when a movie can feel brutal and real with fight scenes. The final battle, while clunky, is in a great location and delivers over the course of the battle. Like I said above the story can be confusing and jumpy, but it's a pretty good one. Again it deviates from the traditional X-Men like narrative. It really gives us a glimpse into what adaptions can look like when they use the comics in making a movie. This is excites me cause X-Men: Days of Future Past, is an adaptation and it gives me high hopes that is can be even better than this. I touched on this above, but they also did well for the character development on Logan/Wolverine. We've all gotten used to the gruff and tough, fight first ask questions later aspect. With this we get the softer side of Logan. Battling with his inner demons, and helping those in need selflessly. We finally get that much needed dimension to a character that sorely needed it. Another interesting character they introduced, and my or may not keep around going forward, was that of Mariko. Not a mutant, and not Jean Grey, she is the catalyst throughout the movie that helps Logan get past his issues. She's the pseudo love interest that never really feels like one, but never feels out of place as damsel in distress. They're the anchors of the movie and are played quite well by Jackman and Okamoto. This is a long movie, a little over two hours, so hunker down. At times it feels draggy, but if you can get through the bad, the second half is smooth sailing. The score and music are pretty solid as well, nothing distracting. With the more intimate or action filled sequences sounding fine. Finally, there's a pretty sick mid-credits scene that with get any fan pretty hype.

The Wolverine isn't everything that Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be. But, it does set any future stand alone Wolverine movie in a better place. The story is a little average, and the characters can be forgettable too. But this was a bounce back for Wolverine, and Hugh Jackman, in what looked to be an ailing series. Fun action and a couple of great performances add up to an interesting movie. This is not a power house in the superhero genre, or even within the X-Men franchise. What this does well is set up future movies while keeping one of the series biggest character fresh. Next up, X-Men: Days of Future Past. I'm ready for ya.


X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of those Marvel superhero films you can boast about loving, because it truly is good. You can make cases for movies like ThorCaptain America: The First Avenger or even Iron Man 3 being in the group but I beg to differ. I'd rather put this movie in the group of my personal favorites form Marvel over the years. This list includes X2Spider-Man 2Iron ManX-Men: First Class and even The Avengers. There's a plethora of things that can go wrong when you're mixing casts from different movies in a given franchise, not to mention this is a movie about time travel. Luckily for all of us, the source material was great, the screenplay worked to a tee and they brought back a veteran director of the series to add that extra little oomph to set it apart from the rest of the superhero movies flooding the market.

X-Men: Days of Future Past follows the story of the X-Men in the distant future. Bolivar Trask's (Peter Dinklage) is assassinated in the 1970s, but his creations, The Sentinels, have taken over a now dystopian earth. Once designed to only eliminate mutants, they grew to a point where they took out anyone standing with mutants as well, sending them all into hiding. A select group of mutants are still surviving, who with the powers of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), are able to evade The Sentinels. The group meets up with another group on the run, which consists of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). They devise a plan to stop the world from ever getting to this point of devastation. Using Kitty Pryde's powers they send Wolverine back in time to stop the assassination of Trask. With the help of young Xavier (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Wolverine embarks on last chance, cross era adventure, to save their kind and the world as we know it.

There's a ton of things that can go wrong with a movie involving time travel or anything of the sort in movies, see Looper. This film manages to keep everything fairly straightforward and neat. There are couple of wonky spots, midway through, that you can certainly argue towards being bad. But other than that, they handled to time travel part of this film well. The writing is also good in the character department and really felt like they focused on the heroes (and villains) of  X-Men: First Class, of which we've seen less of, than the people from the first trilogy or even Wolverine. They developed Xavier, Magneto and Mystique even further, while giving us some more of Beast and even introducing Quicksilver. They also did great with the melding of the two sets of characters shown, if they both were on-screen. Like Xavier and Magneto for instance. You see both ends of  the spectrum for each. Seasoned and older, on-screen along with young and less experienced. It's cool to see both characters above, at such different places in time, working towards a what they think is best to change the world and it all plays out so well. The source material is hailed as great, but you have to give major props to the writers who did such a good job adapting it all to a movie screen. This leads me to the story itself which was really cool. Compared to the rest of the series this ranks up there as probably the best overall story told in a setting. With X2 and even The Wolverine to an extent, having good stories. The actors fit characters so well and really embody them at this point in the series. The overall story is set up quickly, giving more time for everything to unfold. There's shock, tension, emotion and humor all paced at the right time, making it all work. Stuff wasn't just through in to be in there or get a cheap reaction.

Speaking of the characters throughout that whole paragraph, the actors that played them did a really great job. I'm still blown away by how well James McAvoy plays Xavier, while Michael Fassbender is such a perfect fit for Magneto. Jennifer Lawrence was better as Mystique this time around, cause she was just kind there in the first film. Evan Peters as young Quicksilver was a great mix of charisma and comedic timing. The CGI scene he got was utterly brilliant to me too and probably one of my favorite parts of the film. The rest of the original trilogy cast was pretty fine as well. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen stepped back into their roles as Xavier and Magneto well. The bit of on-screen time Ellen Page had was fun. With Hugh Jackman's part in the movie being major, but not major at the same time. He was fine and got the story going, but once McAvoy, Fassbender, Dinklage and Lawrence took over, it was theirs to handle. Dinklage also added a sort of acting presence as well. As one of the bad guys he did well, probably one of the best acted characters, but I never thought that he was the true bad guy kinda thing. The CGI was also done pretty well in this, especially compared to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The biggest scene I noticed full of CGI was the scene involving Quicksilver and that scene was awesome to me. The rest of the film was done well and you can tell they didn't want to jam this film full of CGI, so when they had to use it, they made it look good. Felt very much like the CGI was used with the original trilogy members parts and they kept it more "real" for the newer ones from First Class. The action and set pieces were fun as well and I've really never had a problem with the action in a given X-Men film. Big props to Bryan Singer in part to this, as he brought a charm that the first two films had to one this late in the franchise. I really hope they bring him back for X-Men: Apocalypse. The music was pretty good throughout, the run time, of just over two hours, never felt long and scenes never felt draggy either. I love that in a film.

X-Men: Days of Future Past was a blast to say the least. It's one of those movies that just clicked on all cylinders for me. The story, the acting, the action, the humor, the characters, the visuals, just everything worked so well. I loved seeing both McAvoy and Stewart on screen a Xavier, as well as Fassbender and McKellen as Magneto. The rest of the cast did well and Hugh Jackman is still a good anchor as Wolverine at this point in the series. I'm highly excited for X-Men: Apocalypse and this is now the second time in the past few years a main X-Men movie has knocked it out of the park.


There's still a lot to be excited about if you're a comic movie fan, or just an X-Men fan in general. Having just watched all the movies, I can say that they all hold up pretty solidly and for the most part are good. Of course X-Men 3: The Last Stand was only okay, while X-Men Origins: Wolverine blew chunks, it was still fun to watch the progression. I highly enjoyed writing this, and hope to do more like this in the future. I love comic movies and a post like this really gets my creative juices flowing. I hope you have enjoyed this look at the first five X-Men movies and remember, 2016 we'll have the next installment with X-Men: Apocalypse.


No comments:

Post a Comment