In the early 1990’s I was the exact right age to get sucked into the Fox X-Men Animated series. Needless to say I became a pretty big fan of the series. I bought toys, comics, video games and watched all the cartoons I could. I loved X-Men. Imagine my excitement when I am reading the latest issue of Wizard magazine and they are showing off images from the set of the upcoming live-action feature film starring my favorite mutants.
Throughout the years the X-Men have continued to star in nearly a dozen feature films following that first masterpiece from 2000. It was the perfect film to transition comic book movies from the dark days of the 90’s into the golden age of comic book movies were are experiencing today. I was still the right age to be excited for the movie when it released. I was 18 when it released and finishing up high school. I vividly remember going to the theater and then being so excited to see it again, and again. I couldn’t wait for the next film in the franchise.
Now nearly 20 years later there is a new X-Men themed hit tearing up the box office right now and another mutant fest right around the corner. I decided this was a good time to finally get caught up on the films. I watched Days of Future Past earlier today. This had been the last of the primary X-Films I hadn’t seen yet. It was a good thing I did because I actually had a great time watching this movie. It was a dream come true seeing the stories I used to be mesmerized as a child coming to life in a new medium.
Here is a breakdown of the X-Men films so far. I am not counting the Deadpool movies or Wolverine films. First, I haven’t even seen them yet, and second I am not really a fan. I will keep this to the primary X-Films until I can get around to watching the spin-offs.
Looking back on it now I still think this was a brilliant way to kick off the franchise. While it does boast a modest budget and reasonable special effects, for the time, it’s clearly more focused on the story. The best part of the film is the casting. These actors easily bring my favorite comic book heroes to life in a manner that is consistent with my liking. The characters are the heart and soul of the X-Men and although they choose to center it on a very small cast, it’s a great selection of characters.
The action isn’t over the top like later films. I actually like this on repeat viewings. It doesn’t really seem tame as it does reigned in. The movie gives the characters a chance to breath while leaving enough to the imagination to build up to the next film. It’s obvious they were trying to repeat this pattern with the flawed Fantastic Four films, unfortunately in that case it didn’t quite resonate with audiences.
X-Men 2 (X2 X-Men United)
Removed from time this movie remains one of the all-time greatest super hero science fiction films ever produced. Even with all the modern spectacle of Avengers films, this movie continues to amaze me with the way it present the mutants powers. It’s not excessive like others in the series yet it is far more refined than the first. It’s obvious the first movie was used to test the waters while this movie was given the freedom to do what it needed.
Story wise it’s a direct continuation of the first movie. The characters have real heart and start to really come together as a team. By the end of the movie the stakes are real. The deaths are gut wrenching and the mood is somber. It perfectly sets up the third film in what was originally to be a trilogy.
X-Men 3 The Last Stand
I remember the anticipation for this movie was very high for me. I was heartbroken at the death of one of my two favorite X-Men characters in the previous film. I suspected she would return as Phoenix because that’s the way they did it in the source material. I wasn’t entirely on board with how it turned out but I still enjoyed this movie tremendously, considerably more than the vocal fanbase who has condemned it for reasons I have yet to determine.
X-Men The First Class
This movie came out around the same time as the first Wolverine movie. By this time super hero movies were in full swing and the X-Men were starting to get played out. This was the first of the series I didn’t see in theaters. It wasn’t because I had any problems with the prior film it was more the market was now saturated with big budget sci-fi spectacles and suddenly X-Men movies weren’t as interesting.
I did eventually see it years later. I thought it was pretty good. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first three films but I did enjoy it still. The character selection was a little odd. I would have preferred they stuck with characters I was more familiar with, I still liked the way the story unfolded. The new Mystique was also a pretty good choice in casting. By this time audiences had grown to expect more out of special effects so the use of the super powers increased significantly. I liked the movie but not as much as the others.
X-Men Days of Future Past
This was the last one I saw previews for and was actively excited for. The trouble was there had been so many new movie franchises rise to prominence by this time I was more into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I ended up skipping this movie. I finally got to see it today and I have to say I was a little disappointed. Not in the film, it was fantastic. I was disappointed I let myself go this long without seeing this movie. In fact I enjoyed it so much I am starting to get excited for the next film in the series.
This was the first dud in the franchise as far as I am concerned. By this time Disney was dominating with their MCU films. The story was fine, the characters were all right but the issue was in the execution. The movie felt a little bloated. It seemed to be the first movie to stray too far from the source material in terms of story for my liking.The movie was entertaining enough it just felt like they were trying too hard with the effects this time.
I have seen two of the three Wolverine movies. I haven’t seen The Wolverine yet and I also haven’t seen either of the Deadpool films yet so I will evaluate those at a later date.
Over all I still think the entire X-Men franchise has been consistently good. There have been a couple bumps in the road.