Friday 26 July 2013

Rank the Films: X-Men

As any regular reader of feeling fuzzier will know, lists are pretty darn nifty. We have a profound appreciation for straight-up lists. This is the thinking behind Rank the Films, a regular feature that pulls apart the pros and cons of a series of films, ranking them in order of bad to good. 

In order to conicide with the release of Marvel's latest X-Men film, The Wolverine, I thought it was a good time to take a look at the franchise's back catalogue of films and settle upon which is the best and which is the worst.

5th - X-Men: Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Snick snick: Hugh Jackman is The Wolverine
Regarded by many as a lesson in how not to do a prequel, Origins is without a doubt a big misfire in the X-Men canon. Centred on fan favourite the Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman), Origins was a bit of a let-down after the stellar original trilogy of films. 

With many reviewers noting that the film had an overly complicated plot and numerous cameo characters that  added little to proceedings, the prevailing feeling surrounding Origins was that is was an unnecessary and fairly redundant addition to the canon.

Personally, I don't mind this film. Jackman is good in his fourth outing as Logan but suffers with a slightly flat script. Liev Schriber is forgettable as Sabretooth and the less said about Ryan Reynold's depiction of Deadpool, the better.  It isn't spectacular (very few prequels are) but it's an okay film if there isn't anything else on TV. 

One word that sums up Origins: Underwhelming.

4th - X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

The Brotherhood
Okay, I'll fess up; I quite like X-Men: The Last Stand. Pitched as a almighty smackdown between the combined forces of the Brotherhood vs. the X-Men is a mouthwatering one to say the least.

Thing is, it's a premise that isn't carried out effectively. The film suffered a messy pre-production saga that saw Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughan take turns in director's chair before Brett Ratner took the helm as well as different tact. 

Rather than including Emma Frost and Gambit (roles intended for Sigourney Weaver and Keanu Reeves respectively) as Singer had planned, Ratner instead focused on a story line that featured a cure for all mutants (taken from a Joss Whedon comic-book storyline).

However, couple this with other plot lines that include the 'Dark Phoenix Saga', the evolving relationship between Rogue, Iceman and Pyro as well as the 'death' of Charles Xavier and the film was very bloated. There was way too much all going on at once, across a massive cast that boggled the mind of the casual viewer. The ensemble cast spans in excess of 25 characters, making the whole thing a little bit too convoluted for the wider audience.

Also, that ending is pretty crap. If your going to give Magneto the cure and kill off Xavier (oops, spoilers), don't go back and pussy out in a closing scene that undoes it all. Stick to your guns; It just makes the film feel a little pointless if you don't. 

I can understand why the film gets a bad wrap, and that's why it sits down at number 4 on this list. It doesn't change the fact that some of the action in The Last Stand is kickass. I mean, Magneto moves the Golden Gate bridge. ALL BY HIMSELF. To a 13 year-old kid at the time, that was the greatest thing ever.

3rd - X-Men (2000)

The first X-Men film is a satisfying way in which to kick off a franchise; filled with big names like Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman and Famke Janssen, director Bryan Singer certainly worked with the philosophy of 'start as you mean to go on'. 

The X-Men
With that degree of talent to work with, Singer and co. effectively laid the groundwork for the rest of the franchise. Ian McKellan is particularly great as Magneto; you could say he brings a certain 'magnetism' to the role, heh heh. 

It also doesn't hurt that the action in the first film is some of the best from all forms of superhero films. Singer makes a deliberate effort to include each and every character's abilities, from Storm's weather-controlling powers to Jean's telekinesis and Wolverine's invulnerability. 

In a way, you could say that X-Men kick-started the noughties' obsession with superhero films. After a lull in popularity following the pile of elephant shit that was Batman and Robin (1997), X-Men made superheroes cool again and inspired studios to develop franchises for Spider-man, Batman, Superman, Hellboy, Iron Man and Fantastic Four. 

A solid and enjoyable set-up, X-Men hasn't aged badly at all; watching it back, it is hard to believe it came out thirteen years ago.

2nd -  X-Men: First Class

"Use the Force Luke"
Oh wait, wrong film
Released in the summer of 2011, X-Men: First Class was the kick-up the backside that the franchise needed after the critically panned X-Men: Origins

A prequel to the original film, First Class was a fresh take on X-Men with an entirely new director (Matthew Vaughan) and an entirely new cast that included hot up-and-comers like James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult. 

The youthful cast coupled with the funky 1960's vibe made First Class stand out from the rest of the series and get audiences interested in Professor X and his X-Men again. As with any film set in the 60's, First Class drew inspiration from historical events and centred itself on the Cuban missile crisis (at least it wasn't the bloody moon landing again. We're looking at you Men in Black 3 and Doctor Who).

Points are deducted from First Class reaching No.1 on this list for kind of screwing with the franchises' internal timeline (if Xavier is in a wheelchair at the end of First Class, how can he be standing and walking when he crops up in Origins?)

Whilst McAvoy was good as Xavier, the stand-out newcomer was Michael Fassbender as young Erik Lensherr, a.k.a Magneto. That scene where he takes down a bunch of guys in a bar by flinging around a knife with his powers was pretty cool, not to mention going off the deep end and putting Xavier in a wheel chair at the end. He almost made me root for Magneto.

What's even more exciting is the prospect of seeing this new cast team-up with the original cast in next year's X-Men: Days of Future Past. I'm a real sucker for anything that includes time-travel (Looper, Back to the Future etc:) so Days of Future Past is practically at the top of my list of most anticipated films for 2014 alongside Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Interstellar.

1st - X2: X-Men United (2003)

"Pew pew, blam blam"
Seen as something of a benchmark for superhero
sequels, X2 took everything fans and critics loved about the first film and improved upon it.

More action, more characters and more cools powers, X2 just pips First Class to first place on this list. 

From introducing Nightcrawler to taking the risk of 'killing off' Jean, X2 didn't pull any punches when upping the stakes and crafting one of the best sequels of all time. The cliffhanger leaves the audience clamouring for more and as well as subtly hinting at the franchise's future direction.

The talented cast are once again the star of the show with Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart leading the well-acted ensemble. We finally get to see the rawness to Wolverine's character and the sequence where he uncovers the room in which he was tested upon by Colonel Stryker is a really great character scene.

Another great element from X2 is that addition of Brian Cox as Colonel William Stryker as a common enemy for the X-Men and the Brotherhood to take on together - having Magneto work with Storm and co. to rescue the Professor from Stryker is a nice anti-hero touch to the narrative and kind of has you fooled into thinking he's not all that bad.

What is your favourite X-Men film? Did I make the right call or get it hideously wrong? Leave me a comment in the section below! Check back soon for my review of The Wolverine.


  1. Nope, first class is the best for me. :P But maybe that's because I haven't over watched it. Yet...

    1. It's hard to separate the two! They're both very good superhero films.



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