From 2000’s X-Men to this year’s Logan, over the past 3-4 weeks I have completed a marathon of 20th Century Fox’s most prolific superhero film franchise.
TRIVIA: Logan is the only X-Men film that I have watched in the cinema.
Initially, Mumsy possessed the desire to watch Days of Future Past, though she had not previously watched First Class, or properly watched the original trilogy; however, she had seen the trio of Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine and Logan. Obviously, I suggested watching First Class – which is very good – but remembering that she had not properly seen the original trilogy, I then embarked upon a quest to scope-out the best way to watch all of the X-Men films. I found the answer at Den of Geek , where this is a feature of variable ways to watch the franchise, and ultimately, I selected their Internal Chronology, thus we began with 2011’s hit-prequel, X-Men: First Class.
Was First Class first class? Yes!
First Class is an intriguing superhero picture in the way that it successfully transcends from a dark or glum tone to that of a conventional contemporary superhero blockbuster aka pure popcorn – of course, the cinematic darkness perfectly accompanies the seriousness and legitimate darkness of Nazism, whereas the popcorn feel is a reminder that superhero movies should be a fun, wild and exciting fantasy.
Casting-wise, the biggest surprise was Kevin Bacon’s heel role as Sebastian Shaw. Yes, Bacon has been the baddie in the past, but for the Hollow Man legend to excel in a villainous role in the current decade is a truly mesmerising spectacle.
Ultimately, whether you like the prequels or not, First Class re-legitimised the X-Men film franchise in an era dominated by Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-12) and Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-), whereas by 2011, the X-Men film franchise had been on its mutant arse since 2006.
Well, this was not a great time. Fun at times? Yeah. Good overall? Nope, bang-average. As previously mentioned, the mid-to-late 2000s was not a good time for the X-Men franchise. There really isn’t much to say about this one, as it was gash, though more so the second half in comparison to the first – though Liev Schreiber’s Sabretooth character removing will.i.am’s character was more than acceptable. Regarding halves though, Origins: Wolverine really is a tale of two halves, which is an even bigger shame as the better half was the first half of the film, thus the second was a total disappointment.
Return of the Videotapes
On home video, I have every X-Men film except Apocalypse, though the original two are on VHS, whereas the subsequent releases are all on DVD – my fondness for continuity is obviously on par with 20th Century Fox’s.
If any of you can remember the year 2000 in film, X-Men was MASSIVE. At some point in 2000 in the still-new-ish Trafford Centre, my brother and dad watched X-Men whilst Mumsy and I watched, I think, Thomas and the Magic Railroad… be cool, I was 6 years-old – back then the cinema in the Trafford Centre was a UCI, and tickets were small yellow squares. During those days of my childhood, most of my love was for Batman, though I did enjoy watching the Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons, and eventually, I did acquire both X-Men and X-Men 2 on VHS – I liked ’em both, but not as much as Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 – but that was the general consensus, right? So, to re-visit these films on VHS was nostalgically special.
Notably, I suggest X-Men to be the genesis of the “ensemble character/team superhero movie” of which there was not an equal or superlative picture until 2012’s Avengers Assemble – essentially, X-Men was ahead of its time, though watching the film in the current climate of overbearing superhero cinema, the franchise-starter does sometimes appear to be slightly dated, but that’s because it’s not over-the-top and 99% CGI.
X-Men 2 is something else though – easily the best of the original trilogy (and first six or seven releases), however, the tone is slightly lighter at times, though I believe that is because the 12A certificate lightened the tone of films in comparison to 12-certified films from 2002 and prior.
“The third in a trilogy is always the worst.”
On Letterboxd, I produced the following: “Watered-down and an interesting story/concept not used correctly. Reeks of bang-average mid-2000s superhero cinema (excluding Batman Begins, obviously).” Am I wrong? No, obviously. After a sequel is gash, it can be normal to presume that the next film will be good as the producers or whoever will recognise their mistake(s) and produce a film closer to original or whatever, that was actually good. Did that happen? NOPE. Sadly, The Last Stand was the start of five sore years for the X-Men franchise.
Released two years after First Class, The Wolverine is the second within the Wolverine-lead “spin-off” series, and the film is actually good, thus two (good X-Men films) in-a-row!
Two very admirable things about The Wolverine: Japan setting and it’s not an overblown superhero film. The initial concept of Wolverine having an antagonist in the form of the Yakuza was cool because his opponent wasn’t just another overblown baddie or supervillain, instead opposing the Yakuza meant combat with something that actually does exist (or did) in the real world. Sadly, however, The Wolverine cuts its claws off by actually pitting Wolverine against overdone antagonists and potential supervillains, thus I was very disappointed with the final third, though can you really have a superhero film without supervillains? Ultimately, The Wolverine is good, just not as good as the original two, First Class, Days of Future Past and Logan.
Days of Future Past, Apocalypse and Logan shall feature in the sequel to this post.