X-Men

 

Average Star Rating (ASR): 3.08 ★'s

X-Men

Marvel is arguably the biggest film brand in the world right now, but before the MCU or even Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, there was X-Men. When it premiered in 2000, X-Men was merely the 5th Marvel movie ever made (it followed 1986’s Howard the Duck, 1989’s The Punisher, 1990’s Captain America, and 1998’s Blade), so considering the context, I’d say X-Men is a rather impressive film. It introduced a multitude of classic characters with ease and it birthed the first big Marvel movie star: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Despite some obvious narrative shortcomings, X-Men is a film that is anchored by its rich lore and committed performances (particularly from Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart). If nothing else, X-Men serves as a solid jumping off point for what would become Marvel’s first true cinematic universe. ★★★

Best Part: For a mediocre superhero film, the themes of prejudice and discrimination are pretty complex

Worst Part: The clunky 3rd act battle at the Statue of Liberty.

X2: X-Men United

Though it’s noticeably tighter than its predecessor, X2 is far from perfect. The Logan/Jean/Scott love triangle is tired, the new mutants (Deathstryke and Nightcrawler) don’t make much of an impression, and the franchise’s most interesting character (Charles Xavier) is sidelined for the second time in a row. When the movie actually gets around to letting Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan do their “superhero Shakespeare” routine, it can be quite intriguing… it’s just a shame the creators didn’t care to focus on their franchise’s greatest assets. Still, the tentative team-up between Xavier and Magneto’s teams and continued exploration into their complicated past is enough to carry the movie through its less exciting moments. ★★★

Best Part: Charles Xavier and Magneto’s relationship.

Worst Part: All the Nightcrawler stuff didn’t really work for me.

X-Men: The Last Stand

While many may rank The Last Stand as the weakest of the original trilogy, I actually think it’s the best. Sure, there are some dull bits sprinkled in there— Ben Foster was seriously underutilized and the execution of the Phoenix plotline was mediocre— but the reason this film ranks above its two predecessors is that it actually has stakes. The deaths of Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Charles Xavier hint at a darker, and more interesting, version of the franchise. When the film was released, the question of whether the franchise would continue this trajectory (and whether those characters really stay dead) had yet to be determined, but for its time, The Last Stand marked a worthwhile conclusion for the first iteration of the X-Men. ★★★½

Best Part: This is the first X-Men movie with a really good 3rd act battle. 

Worst Part: The trilogy ends just as it was starting to get interesting. 

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

The origin story of our favorite clawed crusader begins quite promisingly. We discover that Jimmy Logan was born in the 1820s and that he took part in every major American armed conflict from the Civil War to Vietnam with his brother, Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber). Based on the first fifteen minutes, this should have been a slam dunk. But everything that follows the first big action set piece is confusingly bad. The movie centers around a generic revenge plot and the new additions to the cast (Taylor Kitsch as Gambit, Ryan Reynolds’ first turn as Deadpool, and for some reason Will.i.am) just feel unceremoniously shoved in. Despite being given the golden opportunity to improve upon an already inconsistent cinematic universe, the creators of X-Men Origins: Wolverine did just the opposite— they created a movie that runs itself so far into the ground that it’s basically not canon anymore. ★★

Best Part: Sadly, it’s the opening credits montage. Either that or Troye Sivan.

Worst Part: What to choose, what to choose… does “everything they did with Deadpool” count as a “part”?

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X-Men: First Class

The first movie of the franchise to feature the younger X-Men also happens to be one of the best. Sure, it loses some of the only things that made the X-Men movies worth watching in the first place (mainly its three stars— Jackman, Stewart, and McKellan), but sometimes you have to kill your darlings. The result is a rather fun 60s-style superhero flick that does a decent job balancing fan service and actual plot. First Class delves deeper into the relationship between Charles and Erik by actually showing us what it was like to meet, team up, and slowly break apart. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s one of the few films in the franchise (up until this point) that is actually fun to watch. ★★★½

Best Part: Without a doubt, Kevin Bacon.

Worst Part: Some of the new characters are legitimately killed off between movies, which sucks. They underestimated the power of Caleb Landry Jones for sure. RIP Banshee.

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The Wolverine

It may not be as outright ridiculous as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but James Mangold’s first X-Men movie is one of the most boring and pointless superhero movies ever made. The plot centers around a sad and suffering Logan who agrees to travel to Japan to say goodbye to a guy he met once during World War II because… uh, well… because that’s what the script said. I mean, is this even the same Logan that turned down the X-Men in the First Class? I know that was like fifty years earlier, but he’s even more damaged now than he was then. Okay, even if you take the whole set-up out of it, this movie does not get any more coherent. Logan spends most of the movie fighting the Yakuza and attempting to save the daughter of an evil tech mogul. Whatever. ★½

Best Part: The bullet train fight

Worst Part: I guess the idea of Ronin Wolverine is cool, but the whole premise of this movie is super confusing and kind of pointless to the overall franchise

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

Days of Future Past begins in an unlikely place— a post-apocalyptic Earth, where mutants are being exterminated by highly advanced robots with mutant-like capabilities. With their race on the verge of extinction, Charles Xavier and Magneto team up to send Wolverine back to the 70s to enlist the help of their younger selves in preventing Mystique from assassinating a mutant-hating tech genius played by Peter Dinklage. Despite having the most complex plot of any previous X-Men movie, Days of Future Past is easily the most coherent film in the franchise. It is a superhero movie of epic proportions, with ridiculously over-the-top action and drama, and it is the only X-Men movie that actually feels like a comic book… in the good way. ★★★★½

Best Part: This movie blows up the original X-Men timeline, and thank God.

Worst Part: While it may not be the only great movie in the X-Men franchise, it’s certainly the only great movie with the word “X-Men” in the title.

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Deadpool

In what is perhaps the most overrated movie in the X-Men canon, Ryan Reynolds trademarks his now-signature snarky guy routine with middling results. For a movie that sparked a rather viral Oscar nomination campaign, Deadpool is surprisingly underwhelming. Despite its reputation for being hilarious, there’s an unbearably long portion of the film (almost 45 minutes) dedicated to the Deadpool’s boring and derivative origin story. And then even when it is trying to be funny, the raunchy, tongue-in-cheek humor rarely lands. For the most part, Deadpool is just okay. It may be “different” than the superhero movies we’re used to, but it’s not better and it’s definitely not smarter. ★★★

Best Part: Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead are great.

Worst Part: The gratuitous and painfully unfunny holiday sex montage.

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X-Men: Apocalypse

Oh boy. This is a doozy. Coming fresh off the heels of the franchise-reviving Days of Future Past and the unprecedented success of Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse is more or less abysmal. What’s most infuriating about this movie is not the actual quality, but the ridiculously unnecessary changes to the universe and its characters. We get the introduction of young Jean Grey and Cyclops (whose chemistry is virtually nonexistent), a shoehorned Hugh Jackman cameo (because what would they do without him), and another Magneto-breaks-bad-and-needs-redemption plot line. Some of the action is fine, and McAvoy and Fassbender are just sort of doing their thing, but X-Men Apocalypse is so tedious. ★★½

Best Part: Honestly, it’s just the Quicksilver sequence. And it’s not even as good as the Quicksilver sequence from Days of Future Past, but it’s still easily the most exciting thing in this movie.

Worst Part: The way this movie feels haphazard, as it the people who made it had never worked on, or even seen, any of the previous films in the franchise.

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Logan

James Mangold’s bloody and brilliant Logan is not only the best movie of the franchise, but also one of the best superhero movies of all time. Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine is a careful balance of grit, action, and emotion. And with truly great performances from franchise veteran Patrick Stewart and breakout star Dafne Keen, it’s not hard to figure out why people fell in love with Logan. It seems that the most popular superhero films of the last decade have been quippy, colorful, and packed with CGI, but Logan shows us that superhero movies don’t have to make you smile— sometimes they can make you cry. Not since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight has a serious superhero film been so effective. The combination of Mangold’s directorial vision and stellar (Oscar-nominated) script makes Logan the perfect send off for Jackman’s beloved character. Oh, and just like Mad Max: Fury Road did a couple years back, this Blu-Ray comes with a killer black-and-white version. ★★★★★

Best Part: It’s Rated R.

Worst Part: We won’t see another movie like this for a little while.

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Deadpool 2

It may be overstuffed— with plot, characters, soundtrack, quips, everything— but it cleverly weaves its superhero surplus into a two-hour satire of the genre itself. Much like its predecessor, Deadpool 2 is not quite as funny, smart or irreverent as it wants to be. However, it does offer sporadic moments of laugh-out-loud humor, thrilling action, jovial fan service and real emotional depth, which is more than I can say for most other films in this franchise. This film proves that, should another Deadpool ever come to pass in this post-Fox landscape, it would behoove Disney to hang onto Ryan Reynolds and the competent framework this film has successfully built. ★★★★

Best Part: New additions Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, and Josh Brolin steal the show.

Worst Part: It would’ve been cool to actually get an X-Force movie.

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Dark Phoenix

The year is 2019, the X-Men franchise has been a part of the cultural zeitgeist for almost two decades, and Disney has just bought Fox. So what does this all mean? Well, it means we’re gonna get a rushed, quasi-remake of the Dark Phoenix plot line from X-Men: The Last Stand… oh, and it’s the final film in the franchise so let’s go out on a high note! In case you didn’t catch my sarcasm there, this film is really bad. The script feels like it’s a first draft, the acting is wooden, and the whole thing looks like it was shot on a budget. I know there were non-creative circumstances that drastically affected the outcome of this movie, so I’m not going to bash any one person for how bad this is. It just needs to be said that it’s bad. ★½

Best Part: I mean, I made it through the whole movie. So that’s a win.

Worst Part: So many to choose from… Sophie Turner’s acting? The fact that a twenty year franchises ends in such a spectacularly dreadful fashion? Jessica Chastain playing an alien named Vuk? The fact that they killed Mystique halfway through the movie BUT CHOSE TO SHOW THAT PART IN THE TRAILER FOR THE MOVIE??? I don’t know, take your pick.

 
 
David Merkle