Friday, July 5, 2013

X-Men Franchise in review- Part 1: The trilogy

One of Hollywood's most enduring franchises since 2000, Fox has churned out an X-Men film every two or three years. This year sees the release of The Wolverine, a stand-alone feature directed by James Mangold telling the story of Logan's  (Hugh Jackman) quest for death in Japan after the events of The Last Stand. And then next year sees the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which continues the story of First Class. So with all this X-Men hitting theaters in the near future, I figured that I would look back at the previous films in the X-Men franchise. Here we go, starting with X-Men (2000):

X-MEN

Year: 2000
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Tyler Mane, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn, Ray Park
Director: Bryan Singer
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $296 million

This is the one that started it all. X-Men was not only the first film to put the mutants on screen, but it also rejuvenated the superhero genre after it fell to the Joel Schumacher Batman films. However, looking at X-Men today is not the same as looking at X-Men back in 2000. The film has not aged very well, and not only that, it's just a messy film. There is a lot of exposition, a lot of setting up that takes place over the first hour and then it makes the jarring switch to the final battle. It's the weakest of the X-Men films, but it will still provide you with some mild entertainment. 

X-Men tells the story of how Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin) ended up at the Xavier school for mutants. It also sets up a lot of political turmoil as the public is just learning about these special mutants. Add that to the fact that Magneto (Ian McKellen) wishes to stop the humans from imposing any special rules on mutants and you've got yourself a battle. 

X-Men is a messy film. There is a lot of boring exposition and plenty of setting up the plot. It pays off well in the superior sequels, but in this film, it can be kind of boring. Add that up with a LOT of different plot strands going on at once, and there's a really messy film waiting for you. But if you can not think too much, X-Men is enjoyable. It kind of represents an age when superhero blockbusters didn't use so many special effects and relied solely on practical action and good actors who fit perfectly into the roles that they play. But still, the messiness of the whole film and the boredom of the set-up, in addition to the jarring switch of tone and plot halfway through the film, is just too much to be ignored. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  C+

X2: X-MEN UNITED

Year: 2003
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Bruce Davison, Aaron Stanford, Shawn Ashmore
Director: Bryan Singer
Worldwide Box Office: $407 million

Sometimes, I just love sequels. I know that the general consensus on the internet sometimes is that sequels are bad and that they are annoying with the overabundance and the fact that they have completely taken over the multiplex. But sometimes, every once in a while, can right the wrongs of the original and make a better, more superior film. X2 is one of those sequels. It's not a great film. Far from it. But it is a much better film than X-Men and it's cleaner and has a better goal. It still has the general Bryan Singer flaws that are practically in all of his movies, but it is much more focused than X-Men. 

X2: X-Men United follows the reaction of society after an attack on the White House by a mutant named Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming). The President hires William Stryker (Brian Cox) to deal with the mutant "problem". When the school comes under attack, the X-Men-led by Logan, Jean and Storm have to go on a journey to stop Stryker on his quest to destroy all mutant-kind. 

Writing this review, I realize that this is without a doubt the best film of the first X-Men trilogy. Once again, it has the Bryan Singer problem of putting in too many plot threads in the whole thing, but it is much more clear and much more focused than the first film. The action is bigger, the plot is more entertaining and the film is better. It's the first really good superhero movie and despite being bland and generic in its style, it is a good film and one that you certainly won't regret watching. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+



X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

Year: 2006
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Rebecca Romijn, Ellen Page, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammar, James Marsden, Aaron Stanford, Shawn Ashmore, Vinnie Jones
Director: Brett Ratner
Worldwide Box Office: $459 million

This is it. The third film. It's what makes or breaks a trilogy. The great ones cap off their trilogy with style and ferocity, putting the trilogy among the greatest of all time. Think about Toy Story 3, Return of the King, or The Dark Knight Rises. Then think about the failures. None come to mind for me personally, but I know that Spider-Man 3 is one that a lot of fanboys hate. And so is X-Men: The Last Stand. I will say this: it doesn't reach the heights of the best of the trilogy (X2), but it is the most epic of the three films and despite being a little too bland at times in style, is a worthy end to the trilogy.

X-Men: The Last Stand tells the final chapter in the saga of the united mutants. With the discovery of a cure to the mutant X gene that gives the mutants their powers, the world sees the mutants divided. The war suggested in the first two films is finally coming to fruition. Now it's down to Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Logan (Hugh Jackman) and the rest of the X-Men to stop Magneto (Ian McKellen) and the Brotherhood of mutants from destroying the humans and stop a force even more powerful than Magneto and his army.

Although not everything makes sense in The Last Stand (why exactly are the mutants trying to stop Magneto when they too are against the cure), it still is a satisfying and gutsy finale to the trilogy that I suspect may not be over. The Last Stand suffers from the typical X-Men problems. Too many plot threads, too many characters, no clear villain, plot holes. However, I thought that it was the most entertaining movie of the whole trilogy despite X2 being the far superior title. The Last Stand is epic in scope and in the stakes and unlike most blockbusters, isn't afraid to kill off characters. X-Men: The Last Stand isn't perfect and neither is the trilogy as a whole, but it still is a satisfying blockbusters that brings the action goods and goes in some messy, yet interesting directions.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B



That concludes part one of the X-Men franchise in review: check out part two: the prequels and spinoffs, closer to the July 26 release date of The Wolverine. And read the review from The Movie Guru's blog on July 26.

No comments:

Post a Comment