James Helsby

LRE #50: The X-Men Anthology

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Little Red Envelope

In my mailbox this week:
X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class

Release Year: 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2011

Staring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender

A week long marathon, culminates in an epic review! A bit late.

While the Xmen movies can’t really be looked at as being one contiguous film series, they do represent two different sets of films that could potentially be one giant story arc. Maybe grouping them together will help in making sense out of the entire series. With the new Xmen: First Class now in theaters, I thought that no time was better to watch a good old anthology of some of my favorite movies.

Now, I wasn’t a comic book freak growing up. I had read my fair share, but it wasn’t until I reached my late teens that I finally started to read the series that I had always heard about. I started off pretty simple, with Hulk. It was right about the time that the Ang Lee Hulk film was being released, and despite the fact that even mentioning that film in the wrong crowd, could result in a serious pounding to my head, it never the less was my jumping off point.

We now sit 11 years after the initial adaptation of the X Men comic book series, into the realm of major motion pictures, and while it has been a roller coaster of a ride, with each incarnation we stray further away from the awesomeness that the original screenings brought with it. The entire series to date, has encompassed 5 movies; the original 2000 blockbuster, X-Men. 2003 brought X2: X-Men United, arguably the best of the series. 3 years later, and we got X-Men 3: Last Stand, seen as the worst of the bunch. 2009 brought us a reboot of sorts, where the ‘most popular’ character was given a back story, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And a new reboot, or even further back origin story was created with the 2011 film, X-Men: First Class.

The X-Men films are set in a world almost identical to our own, where we could believe that the events that unfold are secretly happening, and we are just unaware. A world where genetic mutation has granted a select few individuals special abilities. Some have amazing psychic powers, while others are able to manipulate their bodies or even their physical presence. Other’s still are able to harness external powers such as the air, or water, or fire, and manipulate them to suit their will. There are even stories of some, who can walk through walls…

Doctor Charles Xavier, a paraplegic British man, whom himself possesses some of these mutant powers, created a school where mutant children could learn and grow without facing the ridicule and scrutiny of a prejudice world. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, is what it says, but also has a hidden secret. Xavier knows that some times, a little more force is necessary to ensure the safety of the world, not only for those mutant children, but for the rest of humanity.

So was born the X-Men. An elite group of mutants who’s powers and abilities have been honed to the point of a razor. Who have learned to not only harness and control their powers, but to use those powers to accomplish specific goals. To protect, to defend, and to fight for what is good. And while a specific mantra was never revealed, they seek ‘the peaceful coexistence of humans and mutants.’

When the comics were penned, there were originally 5 X-Men.

  • Doctor Charles Xavier, code name ‘Professor X’
  • Hank McCoy, code name ‘Beast’
  • Scott Summers, code name ‘Cyclops’
  • Robert Drake, code name ‘Iceman’
  • Warren Worthington III, code name ‘Angel’
  • Jean Grey, code name ‘Marvel Girl’

But that was in 1963, and over the course of 40 years a great number of things change. But largely, these original characters have always been the core of the X-Men comic book series. In the mid 1970 the series received a small reboot. The reprinting of many of the story arc’s from the first 7 years of runs, was modified to introduce new characters. In 1975 the most popular character (and the basis character for the new films) Wolverine was introduced. Professor X created a new group of X-Men, to now include:

  • Ororo Munroe, code name Storm
  • James “Logan” Howlett, code name Wolverine
  • Kurt Wagner, code name Nightcrawler
  • Sean Cassidy, code name Banshee
  • Piotr Rasputin, code name Colossus
  • John Proudstar, code name Thunderbird
  • Shiro Yoshida, code name Sunfire

And over the course of some 530+ comics, the plots, characters, villains, and powers of all of the characters have been heavily modified to suit anything that the artist desires. Marvel Girl, became Ms Marvel, and then Jean Grey, and the Phoenix. Characters came, went, died, or just disappeared. Recreated as different entities, recycled as it were. The entire series was rebooted, and re crafted a few times, and eventually brought to the big screen to fill the desires of a huge swath of comic book fans, and action movie fanatics.

In order to try and write this review, I will do the following; First, I will address each film individually, and sequentially. Then I will try and tie them all in together, and see just how well they fit. or, if they can be made to fit together at all.

X-Men (2000)

The first film in the series was met with great anticipation; not just from me but from rabid fans. The X-Men comic book series has seen it’s share of adaptations, but until 2000 they had all been confined to either character stories or cartoon animations (although, there are some foreign ‘adaptations’ that could be argued as being film versions. Let’s not get into those.)

The story can be argued to be focused around 2 different X-Men; Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Rogue is a young girl, who recently discovered that when she touches people, their life force is drained. She accidentally puts her boyfriend into a coma, while the two share an intimate kiss. Unable to deal with the pressures that result, Marie aka Rogue, takes flight and soon finds herself in the Canadian Rockies.

As she takes shelter in a bar, she witnesses a cage fight between Wolverine and other bar patrons. Wolverine, with his mutant power to heal from almost any injury dominates the fights. The added benefit of having a metal skeleton and retractable claws doesn’t hurt any either. As Wolverine leaves the bar after being ostracized for his abilities, Rogue hops a lift. But soon the pair are happened upon by Sabertooth, a villain who is trying to capture one of the two heroes. But Sabertooth is fought off by Cyclops and Storm, just in the nick of time.

The story continues to evolve, and reflects that the changing attitudes towards mutants is approaching a climax, and that new legislation is being introduced to license and register each and every mutant, and to catalog those mutants individual unique powers. Having lived through the Jewish Holocaust, Eric Lehnsherr (aks Magneto) says enough, and begins a revolt against the entities in power. By capturing the figurehead of the mutant registration movement, one Senator Kelly, Magneto seeks to level the playing field.

The original X-Men is a classic. Yes, it has been over 10 years since it was introduced, and there are times when the story is a little weak, but overall it is a fantastic movie. It’s one of those films from which you see a story being brought to life, a story that you have always known. As I said before, I wasn’t a comic book nerd. But I understood more than enough to get right into the movie, and pop a virtual chubby that first time that you see Wolverine’s claws extending out from his hands.

Visually, the film doesn’t hold up to well. The special effects do seem a little dated, and the acting can be considered over the top. Particularly by the two whiniest characters in the show, Rogue and Cyclops. They were infuriating to watch, but the interaction between Wolverine and Cyclops, and the not so hidden attraction Wolverine has for Scott’s wife, Jean Grey (Famke Jensen) is a lot of fun. The verbal exchanges come off as a little rehearsed but they are still worth watching.

The true stars of this film are obviously Magneto, Professor X, and Wolverine. Ian Mcellen is an incredible actor, and apart from his pantomiming the gestures of magneto, gives an excellent performance. Patrick Stewart as Professor X is perhaps one of the most perfect casting in a film, of all time. Perhaps a benchmark, by which others can be measured. You close your eyes, and are described a professor X (Middle aged, bald, gentle but tough demeanor, and a powerful presence) and Stewart comes right to mind.

And then there is Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Jackman only had 1 significant role prior to landing the iconic part (Curly in a production of Oklahoma). Jackman brought his A-game, and because he did such an excellent job, became a very well respected and noted actor. Future rolls of Wolverine, and other movie projects have kept him working, and even to this day he turns out excellent looking films (Real Steel, I am looking at you!)

X-Men was a great film, and an awesome start to a fun and exciting film series. If you haven’t seen it, you probably should watch it. Yes, it has aged and some of the elements are a little dated, but overall the film should stand the test of time. As a launching point for the series, you can’t really ask for too much more.

X2: X-Men United (2003)

This was the one we were waiting for. Lots of fighting, lots of struggle. Internal drama, and introduction to some of the more interesting characters. While the original focused much of its attention on Rogue, the focus of X2 is pretty much square in the butter zone. Wolverine and Jean, Magneto and Mystique, and then.. William Stryker.

The story continues right where the last one left off. Magneto has been imprisoned inside of a plastic prison, unable to gather enough metal to manipulate in order to break himself free. William Stryker, who developed the prison, has secretly been using a mutant whose brain secretions are a powerful toxin, that renders the victim very susceptible to suggestion and manipulation.

Strykerwants all mutants dead. No if, ands or buts. While we think that he seeks his goals to protect the country he lives in, it may in fact be for more nefarious reasons. Stryker is more than willing to use and control mutants, as long as it helps him reach his goal. And after having used the neural drug on Magneto, Stryker finds out all he needs to know in order to bring down the Xavier school.

Wolverine, has been off trying to find his own back story. Wolverine remembers only tiny little flashes of who he was before his body was lined with adamantium, the metal which gives his a nearly indestructible frame and claws, but as Wolverine returns home to Xavier’s school, the school is raided by special agents under the employ of Stryker. Tasked with capturing everyone possible, children included, Wolverine and some of the more advanced students put up a valiant fight to protect the school. But they are ultimately defeated, and forced to flee.

Since Professor X has been captured Stryker, and is being forced to use Cerebro, the uber-powerful psychic computer, to hunt down and kill all the worlds mutants, the X-Men and Magneto’s team of mutants must join forces in order to stop Stryker. And the truth to Stryker, might shed some light on Wolverines past.

In perhaps one of the best scenes, Bobby (aka, Iceman) has a confrontation with his parents, in which his parents ask if ‘he ever tried, just not being a mutant.’ A very clear reference to the persecution that many homosexual’s have been subjected to. This scene alone received significant recognition for helping Gay Rights.

But let’s not sway from the point. X2 is AWESOME. It is exactly what you would come to want from an X Men movie, and over the series of 5, X2 stands above the rest as being the high point. It gave you just enough of everything you wanted. Excellent action sequences, perfectly choreographed fight scenes, the right kind of representation of mutant powers, well blended CGI mattes and special effects, and even dialog and plot/story are head and shoulders above the first. X2 was the right X Men movie at the right time, and brought the life to the series that it still rides upon today.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)

For every mountain, there must be a valley. Perhaps the ride was too high, and the roller coaster just needed to reach the low. Regardless, for everything X2 was, X3 was not. It was almost like they said, ‘Ok, everything that was in X2 times it by 10.’

10x the mutants, 10x the fighting, 10x the blah blah blah. Well, we also got 10x the crap. It was just too much. And while I can understand what they were trying to say and do with it, the results were medial at best. It’s a delicate line, one one side is not enough of something, and on the other side is too much. In the case of X3, I think the problem really stems from having too many unnamed and named mutants.

X3 continues where X2 left off, with Scott brooding his bloody red eyes out about having lost Jean to a tidal wave at Alkaline Lake (spoiler, sorry.) and Wolverine tries to comfort him by telling Cyclops that he wasn’t the only one who lost somebody that day. Scott goes all emo, and hops on his motorcycle and drives some 5000 miles in an afternoon to the site of Jeans demise. And after a rage filled eye-explosion, Jean rises from the ashes of her death, reincarnated as the Phoenix. Well, sort of.

Meanwhile, Worthington labs, has used a mutant boy’s (Leach) special abilities to synthesize a ‘cure’ to mutation. Leach’s powers suppress other mutants powers, within a finite distance from himself. Hank McCoy, aka Beast (Kelsey Grammar) goes to make sure that everything is on the up and up at Worthington labs, and finds his own blueish appearance repressed by Leach’s powers.

Magneto, is much less impressed. During an attempt to rescue Mystique from a mobile prison, she is hit with a weaponized version of the cure, and turned into a normal human being. Magneto, ultimately outraged by the weaponization of the cure into something designed to target mutants so specifically decides that enough is enough, and gears up for a war against the humans. Meanwhile Jean suffers from split personality, and can’t find the balance between Jean Grey and the Phoenix, a nearly uncontrollable source of physic power. In a visually awesome fight scene, a key character is killed and Jean decides to join Magneto to his own ends.

Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men must make ‘a last stand’ against Magneto as he tries to destroy Leach and stop the source of the cure weapon. And so Magneto unleashes a few hundred random mutants to fight against 5 or 6 X Men.

Over the top. Too many characters, and not enough time invested in any one person. And too much time on the insignificant ones. X3 started off on a strong point, explaining a little back history of Jean Grey, Charles and Eric, when Jean was being recruited. Some cool use of CGI to digitally youth-enize the ageing professor X and Eric. But from that point, it just starts going down hill. The plot gets hazy, and there is WAY too much time invested on whiny characters. I seriously wanted to punch my screen each and every time that I saw cyclops. I just started to wonder if his tears could be real. Wouldn’t they just vaporize?

And there is one character, Arclight. I couldn’t tell for the life of me if she was the ugliest woman on the planet, or the ugliest feminine man in existence. If it weren’t for the bra under a mesh t shirt, I would have been left confused, but that kind of lack of attention to the physical appearance of a character just left me confused. While I understood that Jean was fighting against the Phoenix the entire film, Famke Jensen looked more like she just couldn’t be bothered to get the make-up before that day’s shoot. Each and every day.

The saving grace, if it could be called that, was Wolverine. Still bringing his A-game, he was as strong of a character in X3 as he has been in any of the other films. This time, a new group of X Men has been assembled to assist him, Beast, Iceman, Kitty Pride, Storm, and my personal favorite, Colossus round out the crew. Rogue has gone all whiny and decided that the fact she can’t wear gloves all her life has made her life unlivable, and does something stupid. Honestly, I couldn’t care less.

X3 sucked, in comparison to the rest of the series. Each film has it’s own problems, but none of them are as clear and present as the story in X3. The choice to focus on the Phoenix seemed like trying to make a mole hill out of a mountain. While we sort of get the fact that she is this all powerful entity, the closest we actually get is Eric saying ‘what have I done.’ On a plus side, at least being at the low point gives you vantage to look up. If you HAVE to skip one of the series, this is it. It was still decent enough to watch, but just isn’t as good as the rest.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

X3, was a success, in that it didn’t flop. It generated just over 2x it’s cost to produce. The panning largely came from the critics and the fans, but the general population largely liked what they saw. As of this writing, it generated the highest box office totals for the entire series, with X2 coming in a close second. Adjusted to the cost of production, X3 just barely made 2x the production cost, vs nearly 3x for X2 and X-Men.

But with a relatively high cost (~$200M) the decision was made to tone things back a little bit. The working premise was that each of the main X-Men characters would get their own back story production, where they could be the focus of either a new singular movie, or perhaps a small film arc. The obvious candidate was the most well received character in the entire series, Wolverine. The second character to receive the treatment would be Magneto. That will be discussed in the X-Men: First Class section.

But Wolverine. We know somethings about him, but outside of having read the comic book series, much is still grey. We know that he is former military, and that he has had some advanced training. His mutant powers of recovery, were augmented by Stryker (see X2) by grafting Adamantium onto his skeletal structure. The combination of Metal and healing made Wolverine an almost indestructible soldier.

But in the current day and age, Wolverine remembers only a small bit of who he is, and how he got there. Origins: Wolverine is this story. It starts off with the very day that Logan discovers he has a mutant power. Set in the 19th century in Canada, James (aka Wolverine) is struggling with a fever. James’ father, is soon killed in a fit of jealous rage by the grounds keeper, Thomas Logan, another James’ best friend Victor watches. With his dying breath, Thomas reveals that he (and not the man whom James thought [played by Jackman]) is actually his father. James goes running off into the woods, after his mutant powers manifested during the rage attack. Victor comes with, and both of them decide to live life on their own.

During a truly epic montage, we find James and Victor fighting along side each other in battle after battle. Fighting in the trenches in WWI. Storming the beaches in WWII, Battling the Vietcong in Vietnam. We quickly learn that both Victor and James are unaging, and contain not only mutant powers, but their own personal demons. Victor, unable to control his own rage is always brought to the brink, before being rescued emotionally by James.

Eventually, James and Victor are recruited by William Stryker in the form of the Team X program; a group of mutants who operates with questionable morals. When one particular fight goes south, James says enough and leaves. He leaves behind everything, including his brother in arms, Victor (Liev Schreiber). A number of years later, Logan (James’ new identity) is living his his girlfriend on the edge of a Canadian mountain, working as a lumberjack. Happy. Until Stryker comes to collect him, and tell him that someone is killing all the members of his old team.

Logan is recruited to undergo a very experimental procedure to graft a rare and almost indestructible metal onto his skeleton, in order to give him enough strength to stand up to Sabertooth, his brother Victor. But as we know from X2, Stryker is wicked, and the truth of the Weapon X program comes to light.

Wolverine was a great movie in its own right. The tighter focus on a single character really lends itself well to the show type. Pretty much a step back from the hodgepodge of characters that X3 suffered from. Add in the casting of a few great actors (Jackman, obviously. But also Liev Schreiber, Will.I.Am, Ryan Renolds, and Kevin Durant) and you get a really well played out movie. The special focus of the dynamic between Wolverine and Sabertooth is excellent, and the back story (while not necessarily true to the characters) was enough to be convincing. If nothing else, Wolverine created a new story arc, which will be further enhanced with the 2012 release of “The Wolverine” the sequel that follows a now amnesiac Logan and his journey’s around the world.

If there was any single element that could be considered to be great about Origins: Wolverine, it really was the focus on a single character. Everyone has a story, and by having too many people, those stories all get blended together. With Origins: Wolverine, we only see one story, and one story line. The story line plays out like it should, with a Hero, a villain, and a dilemma. Simple and concise. But they managed to throw in just enough of the awesome extra sauce to make the story compelling. Wolverine get’s it right.

It isn’t without its problems though. There are times where the action can get a little ridiculous. I mean, jumping a 1200lb Harley over a helicopter is pretty silly. The makup on Kevin Durant looks just about as fake as Wolverine walking away from an explosion. That said, there is one thing that I loved, which was a concept also incorporated into the First Class movie. Take a real event (in this case, the 3-Mile Island meltdown) and retell it. So that the story is true, but the circumstances are slightly different. What if 3-Mile was caused by Wolverine, and not by a faulty control valve? I loved this, and would love to see more films incorporate this ‘secret history’ type of approach.

Overall Wolverine was a win for me. It wasn’t as good as X2, but it can stand on it’s own legs. If this had been the first of the series, it would have been just as good. Oh, and Liev Schreiber kicks ass as Victor.

X-Men: First Class (2011)

Back to the drawing board. A reboot, perhaps. Perhaps not. An alternate time line? Not so much. It’s a little confusing to place First Class inside of the continuum that has already been created. If 1962 is the basic date for the film, then the characters should have aged around 50 years in linear time between First Class and X3. So if Charles was 30 in First Class, he should be around 80 in X3. Maybe we can make this work.

First class is the origin story for the entire franchise, we are supposed to believe that this is the start, and other than Logan’s back story there is nothing that occurs before this moment in time (within the X-Men universe). The first sequence in the film is a shot for shot recreation of Eric battle with magnetism against the gates of his concentration camp. A recreation of the original opening scene from the first X-Men movie, and a very power demonstration of how and when a mutant can manifest his powers. If it weren’t for some small and subtle differences, I would have through the entire sequence was recycled footage.

A jump in the time line later, we find a young Charles Xavier woken within his home to find his mother rummaging through the refrigerator. Charles, who has already manifested his powers and has learned a great deal of control over them, find that the woman in his kitchen is not who she says. A young Raven, later known as Mystique changes from into a young and nude blue child. Charles offers her his friendship, and we fast forward yet again.

Charles (James’ Macavoy) is now finishing his PhD at Oxford, and Raven has accompanied him to England posing as his sister. Charles is an attractive and somewhat conceited young man, who uses his mental powers to help manipulate situations that present themselves, but never lets them be abused. Raven, posing as an attractive blonde American girl of mid to late teens (Jennifer Lawrence) just wants to fit in, without having to hide her true self.

When the CIA agent Moira Mactaggart, stumbles across a secret deal between a underworld kingpin, Sabeastian Shaw, and NATO, she see’s things that she can’t readily explain. Namely Emma Frost (January Jones) turning into a human diamond. Moira seeks out Charles trying to gain more information of mutations, and how they may be changing humanity. The CIA covertly enlists the help of Charles and Raven to form a new special ops group, tasked with finding and stopping Sabatian Shaw. In the process, they happen across Eric who is singularly minded on the destruction of Shaw for the atrocities he committed during WWII.

Charles and Eric join forces to create a new group of mutants who can combat against the mutants Shaw already has at his disposal. Included in the group are Angel Salvadore, aka Angel. Armando Munoz, aka Darwin. Alex Summers, aka Havok. and Sean Cassidy, aka Banshee. Raven adopts the name Mystique, Charles is referred to humorously as Professor X, and Eric is dubbed Magneto, and the scientist Hank McCoy, whom is later dubbed Beast. Each has their own powers but spends a pretty decent montage sequence learning how to harness those powers.

As the film progresses we realize that the events are unfolding as a ‘secret history’ of the Cuban missle crisis, and that the truth was all constructed by Sebastian Shaw. And in a final confrontation, the fate of friends and now enemies is set into motion.

First Class was originally slated to be X-Men Origins: Magneto, a back story for Charles and Eric’s meeting and friendship, and eventual falling out. But as movies were drafted, and revised, First Class was made as a replacement to Magneto and not as a sequel to it. First Class shouldn’t be looked at as a reboot however, despite much of the mulling of that fact. Much that was in First Class can be seen to align with the other films, including an awesome cameo from Hugh Jackman.

First Class was enjoyable, and I give it a solid second place in my rankings of the 5 films. It wasn’t as good as X2, but it could stand up for itself. The acting was pretty good, McAvoy especially. The only caveat to that was more of a writing issue than anything else. How does one SHOW that they are using psychic powers to talk to another person? In this case, you use the cliche’ of the psychic telephone, and hold your fingers up to your temple. It got a little bit older, but was understandable. There was also a degeneration of ability towards the end, in that Charles at first would speak purely mentally to others. Towards the end of the film, this degenerated to yelling out loud.

Fassbender was also good as Eric. He had a strength and resolve in his character that was believable and powerful. The sound of his speech when in different languages was very convincing, and was excellently placed. However, when ever Magneto would use his powers to manipulate metal, Fassbender would take on this bizarre facial expression that was somewhere between passing a kidney stone, and an orgasm. Maybe more of an incredibly large bowel movement. You get the point.

Jennifer Lawrence was good as Mystique/Raven, although didn’t have that same sexual allure that Rebecca Romijn brought to the part. It was understandable, that perhaps Mystique just hadn’t learned that element of seduction yet.

The coup-de-gras was Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw. Perfect for the movie, his character might not be true to literary form, but his portrayal of the power absorbing ageless Nazi was stellar. I wanted more screen time. Particularly (unfortunately) during his cruel treatment of a young Eric, in the concentration camp. I say unfortunately, because it’s a touchy scene. Which, unfortunately had me laughing in fits at the end.

If you are paying close attention, Eric goes off on his rampage, ripping apart all the metal within the examination room. He throws his arms in the air, as he screams at the top of his lungs…. nein. Translated, ‘No!’. The sequence is a mock of the horrible Star Wars Episode 3 force-tantrum  Darth Vader throws. I laughed. Hard.

But then there is January Jones, aka Emma Frost. A lot has been said about her already by many others beside myself. I will agree, with everything about her being emotionless, cold, and boring. I will also add in the words, Fem-bot, and convincing… Perhaps, just perhaps, she did a good job. Was Emma Frost supposed to be cold as… Frost? Hard as… a Diamond? Perhaps. But maybe there were better ways of showing this lack of emotion than what was done.

Also, I was annoyed with the disposable characters. Particularly the guy who can make tornado’s. Did he even get named during the film? It wasn’t until that evening that I found out his name was ‘Riptide.’ Or how about Darwin. He can adapt to survive in any situation, except this one. Lucky guess Shaw. Lucky guess.

First Class gains my approval. If it wasn’t a reboot, then it was worthy enough to stand within the time line. As I mentioned a few things just don’t fit, but otherwise I will let it stand. It was good enough, that I wouldn’t mind seeing another movie set in between Wolverine and First Class. Maybe about the moon landing. Maybe about, well I don’t know. Nothing else interesting happened during the 70’s.

If you haven’t seen it, go out and check it out. It’s worth a matinee for sure, and for me it was worth the full price of admission.

The Anthology

Where do I start with the overall picture. We have had 3 different beginnings come around in the series itself, but only a single first movie. I think they best way to approach the overall picture is from the film-based chronological start. Wolverine.

Got you there, didn’t I. It’s true, the original mutant appears to be Wolverine, with his and Victors powers manifesting around the same time. While comic-wise there may be other mutants before him, we can probably consider Logan to be the first for the time being. But Logan has almost nothing to do with the rest of the time line; we see that he was born, lives, fights, and then in the period just before the Vietnam war (which marks the beginning of the Wolverine story) we have the First Class story.

The events of First Class, appart from the secret history elements play out without having too much of an influence upon the rest of the series. There are a few things that don’t quite line up, mainly with Hank Mccoy and Moira Mactaggert.

Moira was used in X3 as a doctor in Scotland who was working with a mentally devoid human body (no brain functions, just an empty shell). If the previous mentioned dating is correct, Moira would have been in her mid 50’s maybe 60’s in the X3 movie. Something that just didn’t seem correct, but could be explained easily at a later time by some sort of anti-aging situation.

Secondly, in First Class we find out that Hank built Cerebro, where as in the rest of the X-Men films, it was understood to be Charles and Eric. While I believe this was used to help explain how and why Hank is such a generous, I honestly thought it could have been pretty easily explained and done with about 30 seconds with Charles and Eric, sans Hank. But we get it, Hank is a genius. And he thinks that he feet are repugnant. Which is something I just didn’t understand. Other than his feet (which fit just fine in normal dress shoes) there is nothing physically distinct about him.  But Hank lines up with the rest of the story.

Charles lines up just fine, and you can almost see that McAvoy is channeling a young Patrick Stewart into his part. He got it, and I get it. I liked it. And Xavier is perhaps the best character throughout the series. Oh wait…. Xavier was supposed to be paralyzed at the end of First Class, but is seen walking around at the end of Wolverine (18 years later). We will let that one slide.

To McVoy / Stewart’s best, is Cyclops at the worst. There was nothing I cared for less throughout the entire series than him. Which sucks, because he was actually my favorite. Something about the leader.

Overall, and with just a few exceptions, I think that the films lined up really nicely. And I don’t really have a problem with thinking about them as being one contiguous story arc. Combined, the series has been a huge financial success, each film  (with the exception of First Class, at present) has surpassed cost of production to generate a rather significant profit.

  • X-Men cost $75M to produce, and generated $296M (294% above production cost)
  • X-Men 2 cost $110M to produce, and generated $407M (270% above production cost)
  • X-Men 3 cost $210M to produce, and generated $459M (119% above production cost)
  • X-Men Wolverine cost $150M to produce, and generated $374M (149% above production cost)
  • X-Men First Class cost ~$150M to produce, and has thus far generated $221M ($48% above production cost)

X-Men was by far the most financially successful, but has also had the longest availability time. X3 was far and away the least successful, only just exceeding a 2x return on investment (which is still pretty good.) But thinking about the whole, the franchise becomes a juggernaut (pun). Perhaps not as successful as some of the truely all time great film anthologies (Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Terminator) it’s very likely that we will be seeing more films.

And with the X-Men comic franchise reaching an end of production in 2012, but still representing some 500+ issues, you can rest assure that there is more than enough material to satisfy your entire life’s ambitions worth of X-Men.

So in conclusion, X-Men was a great series. Just like everything else, it has it’s ups and downs. But what doesn’t? No two movies can be just as good as each other. Even things like the original Star Wars trilogy had high (Empire) and low (Return) points. You just have to remember that if you want more of it, go buy it. Rent it. Watch it. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Bitch about how bad it is. Just keep an open mind in all things, that other’s might have different opinions.

How painful was it: Only near 15 hours worth of video, and I would gladly do it again

Rating: X-Men: 7 out of 10, As a launching point for the series, you can’t really ask for too much more.

Rating: X2: X-Men United: 9 out of 10, X2 was the right X-Men movie at the right time, and brought the life to the series that it still rides upon today.

Rating: X-Men 3: The Last Stand: 4 out of 10, if you HAVE to skip one of the series, this is it. It was still decent enough to watch, but just isn’t as good as the rest.

Rating: X-Men Origins: Wolverine: 7 out of 10, It wasn’t as good as X2, but it can stand on it’s own legs. If this had been the first of the series, it would have been just as good. Oh, and Liev Schreiber kicks ass as Victor.

Rating: X-Men: First Class: 8 out of 10, if you haven’t seen it, go out and check it out. It’s worth a matinee for sure, and for me it was worth the full price of admission.

The Wife’s Retort: 15 hours? Was it really that long? X-Men 2 was the best one of them, though. Yay, Hugh Jackman!

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