To follow up my review of X-Men: First Class, I thought I’d do a brief rundown of all the X-Men films thus far.
For the uninitiated, X-Men is an epic, action-packed sueprhero franchise that can be seen as a metaphor for the civil rights movement, gay pride, and a lot of other important social issues. It boils down to this: due to some scientific BS involving genetic mutation, superheroes are appearing in the population. Normal people are afraid of these mutants and the government is taking steps to protect people from these mutants. Some of these steps could be seen as civil rights infringements. For example, kidnapping a bunch of kids out of their beds and taking them off to be murdered.
There’s two old guys, Charles Xavier and Magneto, who each have a different way of dealing with the situation. Xavier wants to convince the humans that the mutants really are pretty chill people, once you get to know them. Magneto just wants to kill everyone and take over the planet.
X-Men grabs your attention right away, with a strong, dark, dramatic opening offering a glimpse into the backstory of the film’s villain, Magneto–turns out he discovered his powers when he was parted from his family in a Nazi concentration camp. The next half hour or so focuses on two characters, Rogue (a troubled young woman who ran away after nearly accidentally killing her boyfriend), and Wolverine, a bdooring ex-soldier with a mysterious past. Though the angst concentration may be a bit too high, the interaction between the two characters is great to watch. We get to see a bond subtly develop between them.
The rest of the movie fails to live up to the opening. As soon as Magneto activates some CG-looking machine designed to transform people into mutants by altering their DNA, it becomes pretty darn hard to take it seriously. The campiness of the second half of the movie seems at odds with the serious, dark tone of the first half hour. Still, the fight scenes are flashy and fun, the mutant powers are cool, and strong performances from IanMcKellen and Hugh Jackman make this an above-average superhero action flick.
Without a doubt the best of the X-Men films, with the most suspenseful plot and possibly the best action scenes in the franchise. The movie is called X-Men United because this time, we get to see arch-enemies Magneto and Charles Xavier working together to face the threat of William Stryker, a bitter, hate-filled army commander with a great backstory and a plan to wipe out all mutants. But it turns out Magneto’s got a hidden agenda of his own. This movie does a good job of exploring the series’ themes about prejudice, fear, and acceptance without being heavy-handed about it. The last thirty minutes make for one of the most exciting climaxes in a superhero movie.
X2 has some pretty cool scenes, mostly involving the two mutant villains, Magneto and Mystique. My favorite has to be how Mystique helps Magneto escape from prison by seducing his guard and injecting him with iron. The results are…fantastic.
X-Men 3: the Last Stand:
A mixture of hits and painful misses. X3 has a lot of great ideas, but it can’t quite figure out how to weave them together into a single coherent story. We get a whole subplot about how Jean Grey, a character from the other two movies, is actually the most powerful mutant in the world. Much of the story revolves around both Magneto and Xavier attempting to win her over to their side. Unfortunately, the director and/or screenwriters couldn’t seem to think of anything for her to do in the climactic battle scene except stand in the background and look sexy. A love triangle involving three characters called Rogue, Kitty Pride, and Iceman similarly sucks up screen-time fails to pay off. Also, Halle Berry’s acting as Storm in this movie can be pretty painful to watch. X-Men 3 suffers from too many characters that end up being little more than shallow eye candy, since there isn’t enough time to give each one the attention he or she deserves.
Still, it does manage to achieve a certain level of epicness, with the help of awe-inspiring effects, some key dramatic scenes, good action, and a sweeping orchestral score. Also, unlike all the other movies in the franchise, this one actually has the balls to kill off some of the main heroes. Though fans may be upset by this, the movie IS about a giant superhero war, and it is called the Last Stand. If there weren’t any casualties it would feel like a Disney movie.
X Men Origins: Wolverine:
Wolverine is basically an example of all the mistakes you can make when doing prequel. Its story is so mind-numblingly tedious, uninvolving, forced, passionless, and cheesy that I don’t know where to start. Baisically the story goes like this:
Wolverine and his brother work for a creepy army dude but Wolverine doesn’t like the dude’s creepy methods, so he leaves. His brother gets pissed at him for walking out on them, so he comes back and kills Wolverine’s wife.Wolverine goes to the creepy army dude and ask for help so he can kill his brother. But then it turns out his brother is actually working with the creepy army guy, and they wanted Wolverine to go to him for help so they could put metal claws on his hands as part of some weird experiment to learn how to create the ultimate mutant assassin of death. Also, it turns out Wolverine’s wife isn’t dead, she is also working with the creepy army dude to trick Wolverine, and she never really loved him, she was just using mind control on him and manipulating him the whole time. Except she actually still loves him, and he loves her after all. Honestly, folks, I don’t understand it, either. Let’s just say that it kills the spirit of a revenge movie when you find out halfway through that the thing the hero is trying to get revenge for never actually happened. I guess this movie takes the award for the most needlessly complicated bad-guy plot of all time. The movie’s plot really brings up a lot of questions. If they needed to experiment on Wolverine so badly, why didn’t they just nab him of the street and chain him up? How did they know shooting Wolverine in the head would erase his memories? How come cutting Wolverine’s head off can kill him but shooting him in the brain can’t? Where is Stryker’s son (the one they talked about so much in X2) in all of this? How come in this movie Sabertooth is a short, dark-haired guys with claws and healing when in the first movie he was a big blond guy that roared a lot and had no claws? Did they think we wouldn’t notice the difference? Or was that a different Sabertooth? Or–ah, **** it. I give up.
This movie also gets really lazy with the action scenes. Half the move seems to consist of Wolverine fighting someone, and yet in all that fighting there’s not a single action sequence that’s half as exciting or memorable as anything from X2. He fight helicopters, he fights a magician with a stick, he fights a dude with katanas coming out of his arms, he fights his brother three (hundred) times. He even fights some big fat bloke for no real reason at all. Oh, also, the black superhero dies. Just like in X-Men: First Class. Seriously, does someone involved with this franchise hate black people?