Hello, my friends. With 2020 at an end, it also marks the conclusion of a long-running superhero film series helmed by a historic studio that’s now a major imprint under the House of Mouse. Because this flawed, yet fun string of movies was a part of my life growing up, I figure that I’d throw in a bonus article and pay tribute to this cinematic franchise that has a wonky continuity, but still means something special to me. As such, I present to you a…
That’s right! Even though there were 13 official entries released over the course of two decades, some of them had certain scenes that were added or reinstated and ended up effecting their story in a unique way. For the purpose of this list, I’ll be ranking these movies based on my overall scores that I gave them on the reaction app known as Stardust. For anyone who uses it, my profile name there is “StoryWatcher4” and in the build-up towards the last entry, I looked at these films for my own event called “X-Rewind”. Now, I’ll be sharing where each entry ranks on my list, as well as some expanded thoughts that’ll be exclusive to this site. With that said, let’s hop aboard my Blackbird jet and take flight towards my opinions.
16. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Kicking things off is a movie that’s arguably considered the worst entry within this entire series. This fourth outing from the film franchise sees James Howlett a.k.a. Logan a.k.a. Wolverine growing up in combat following the discovery of his signature claws. Because he and his half-brother Victor Creed a.k.a. Sabretooth have Healing Factors, they’ve remained youthful enough to fight in several notable wars over the decades. Ultimately, this attracts the attention of Mj. William Stryker who recruits them into his covert mutant squad called Team X. After several missions however, the constant ruthlessness of the unit (as well as Victor’s ever-present bloodlust that has grown over his life) has Logan deciding to step down. Six years later, he’s living within Canada with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox. However, the past has come back to haunt him when Sabretooth is going around and slaughtering their former teammates. When James discovers that Victor has apparently killed Kayla, William eventually returns and offers to help him out with an experiment. As such, Logan agrees to volunteer for the procedure as his skeleton gets bonded with Adamantium. After overhearing Styker’s intention to wipe his memories in order to become his own personal weapon, Wolverine escapes before he ultimately decides to go on his own vengeance quest against William and Victor. Before I delve into its grave problems, here’s what I actually enjoyed about this deeply-flawed entry. Liev Schreiber’s performance as Sabretooth was actually really good, especially since his character had far more breathing room to work with as opposed to Tyler Mane’s portrayal from the first X-Men film. Because Victor is allowed to be vital to this narrative, he displays a confident cunning, a savage ruthlessness and a unique presence that’s felt by both Logan himself and the audience. While the rest of the supporting cast doesn’t really stand out too much, Ryan Reynolds was the exception. His portrayal of Wade Wilson has a certain level of snark, wit and humorous banter that he would go on to perfect in a solo movie that gave far more respect for his character. Also, this was during a time when he was mainly in less-than-critically received projects, especially when it came to comic book films. Side Note: We’re looking at you, Blade: Trinity, Green Lantern & R.I.P.D.! As such, it’s nice that he delivers a unique energy that he would build upon for his character’s break-out film seven years later. Also, Hugh Jackman is still committed as ever to his signature role. This was in the middle of his 17-year tenure as the familiar Canucklehead and he elevates the less-than-stellar material as best as he can. However, the action is only decent at best and doesn’t stand out too much. Among the worst of those is when Logan catches up to Victor after Kayla was supposedly murdered and gets beaten up by him. During that fight, a one-two punch of bad modern action filmmaking rears its ugly head as that brawl is dimly lit and suffers from several quick cuts. As for the special effects, there’re also just OK. However, the most infamous detail comes when James has escaped from Stryker’s facility and is hiding out at the Hudson’s house. Specifically, it’s the part where he examines his Adamantium Claws in the bathroom. Unlike the physically real claws from the original trilogy, these came off as synthetic and unneeded. In the end, what truly dooms it is the story. Not only does Wolverine’s memory loss come in a less-satisfying way during the climax (as opposed to the comics where he was given false memory implants during his time with Team X), but the narrative is hardly interested in exploring his backstory and is more focused on a basic revenge tale. Not to mention, Gambit gets his only appearance within this series here and he hardly factors into the plot. While changing the Blob’s origin on his near-impenetrable girth was just bizarre (instead of his mutant ability forming while he was a sideshow attraction in the comics, he just gets his power here out of an eating disorder), particular fans were especially irked when Wade got transformed into Weapon XI for the final battle and was branded as Deadpool. Not to mention, it actually begins with a historical error by starting off in the Northwest Territories in 1845. As Roger Ebert pointed out in his review (the same one where he says that after seeing this film, he “wouldn’t even walk across the street to meet Wolverine”), Canada wasn’t even formed until 1867 and the Northwest Territories came about three years later. As such, it comes off like the people making this flick wanted to see Howlett and Creed fight in the Civil War as well as the rest of the most notable foreign conflicts. Either way, the movie suffers from making a lot of choices that differ from its comic book sources with less-than-ideal replacements that bogs the story down and makes this entry far less than what it could have been. When not even its grand opening title sequence (which is nice) can do much to sway me into the overall positive, I’m left to give this low point an average score (2.5/5).
15. Dark Phoenix
Next up, we reach the 12th & penultimate entry that sees the X-Men take their final bow for this franchise while trying to atone itself for a past cinematic mistake. Unfortunately, its attempt fell far below of its intended goal. Set in 1992, Charles Xavier’s team of merry mutants have become much more beloved by the populace and have even gotten some Presidential backing as well. However, things take a turn for the worse when a rescue mission to save the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavor goes awry as Jean Grey gets blasted by a cosmic solar flare, which she ends up absorbing into her own body, before getting saved by her teammates and brought back to Earth. Because of this otherworldly anomaly, it has enhanced her own mental powers and has even shattered the psychic barriers that Charles placed on her as a child in order for her to be relieved of the horrific memory of accidentally causing her parents to lose their lives in a car accident. Meanwhile, a group of alien entities called the D’Bari have arrived on Earth. Led by Vuk, they intend to reach Jean in order to access this cosmic-level power (which was the destructive cause of their home planet, by the way) for themselves in order for their race to stabilize itself by conquering Earth. Now, it falls upon Xavier and company (with even Erik getting brought into the struggle) to get her back, all the while she struggles with the personal and powerful turmoil she finds herself in. In terms of what worked for me, I did like how the movie attempts to portray Professor X in a somewhat shady light. By that, I mean his noble intention having a horrifying potential. He meant well with helping Jean ease her traumatic pain, but he didn’t realize how much this past would come back to haunt him when he tried to block the memory out instead of allowing her to remember it and grieve in a healthy way. There’s an attempt at female empowerment when Xavier confronts Grey and Vuk convinces her that he was controlling her through said action, only for Jean to take her on in the climax. Sadly, it doesn’t really work. While that theme is there, it’s vaguely present and isn’t a driving force throughout the narrative. Thankfully, there is a great acting presence here with Sophie Turner. Because the movie essentially sees her as the central focus, she delivers the best emotional range and carries the story upon her shoulders. Of course, she was already known as Sansa Stark in the hit HBO show “Game Of Thrones” by this point. As such, she’s able to make the most out of the mediocre material that she ends up working with. What ultimately drags this entry down however has to do with the “villains” of this piece. Vuk and the D’Bari come off as a generic alien group who’re able to shapeshift (an ability they never had in the comics) with an endgoal that comes off as weak. After all, alien beings attempting world domination has been done so many times in fiction by this point and their motivation needlessly turns them from initial victims of the Phoenix Force to bad guys with delusional intentions. Not helping this film’s cause is the fact that Quicksilver gets needlessly sidelined following a confrontation, Jennifer Lawrence’s now-infamous aphetic effort towards her part of Mystique and a dour tone that looms over the majority of the movie. In the end, it’s a weak final note for Xavier’s finest to go out on and proves that this film franchise’s glory days are long gone. Even with my favorite mutant Cyclops getting his least amount of shafting since the series’ inagural entry, it doesn’t do much to elevate itself past an average score (3/5).
14. X-Men: Apocalypse
For this ninth entry, the world’s first and age-old mutant has arrived to make his presence felt within this reality once again. Oh, if only it had come with a much grander presence. During the historic time of Ancient Egypt, En Sabah Nur ruled over the land. Never was that truer than with his own process where mutants were sacrificed to him so that he would gain new abilities and become immortal. Following a coup staged by his traitorous followers, he ends up falling into a deep sleep for many millennia. Then in 1983, he’s awoken by his occult worshipers and learns how the world has changed during his absence. Dissatisfied by what mankind has done over the years, Apocalypse proceeds to recruit Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto as his new Horsemen before setting out to reshape Earth within his own image. As such, it falls upon Professor X, Mystique, Beast and the rest of the X-Men to stop this from happening. In terms of what worked for me with this entry, it felt confident in several aspects. Bringing in younger actors to play familiar roles helped with delivering a particular freshness towards the series, especially when they get plenty to do for this tale. For the most part, the action and special effects were nicely handled as nothing seemed gravely out of place in those aspects. Also, Oscar Isaac was as good as he could be in the titular antagonistic role, bringing as much intimidating presence as he can in order to help his character have a particular presence reserved for top-tier comic book villains. Sadly, the film gets undercut by other aspects. While Isaac does all that he can to make En Sabah Nur as threatening as possible, the script doesn’t do too much in helping him reach that much-needed level of absolute terror. Not to mention, Josh Helman’s version of William Stryker returns and is only included here so that we could ultimately have Wolverine come in to cameo as Weapon X and unintentionally help our main group escape with convenient uniforms & a jet. Out of context though, I do admit that I dig the detail that was made into faithfully recreating the look Logan had during his time in the program. However, I’d be remissed if I didn’t talk about Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. For the most part, she’s perfectly fine during her third go-around as Mystique. Unfortunately, the sign of her growing tiredness with the role became apparent to me during the climax when she and Quicksilver are talking to Magento. With a massive and hectic event going on around them, her line delivery there lacked the necessary energy & concern that was absolutely vital. It also didn’t get much better during the last scene when she’s prepping the team for their practice session in the Danger Room, since her vocal performance there was only slightly better. In the end, this was simply OK at best. While it thankfully doesn’t sink into the low-end levels of being narratively inept or tonally morose, it doesn’t present itself in a stand-out way and ultimately settles its presence in an above-average level. (3.5/5)
13. The New Mutants
Coming in at #13, we have the (ironic) thirteenth and final entry that aims to blend superheroics and horror before closing out the series for good. As for how it accomplishes that, I’ll be the judge. Following a massively destructive event that went down on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Danielle “Dani” Moonstar a.k.a. Mirage finds herself within a special hospital alongside four other mutants: Rahne Sinclair a.k.a. Wolfsbane, Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik, Samuel “Sam” Guthrie a.k.a. Cannonball and Roberto “Bobby” De Costa a.k.a. Sunspot. While under the watchful eye of Dr. Cecelia Reyes, our five main mutants must learn the true reason of why they’re all here as well as face their individual fears in order to finally escape from this facility. This film faced a long-and-winding road in order to finally be seen by the general public. After being green-lit in 2015, having its script worked on while assembling its cast in 2016 and getting filmed in 2017, it was originally intended for a release on April 13, 2018. However, it got pushed back to February 22, 2019 in order for it to avoid conflicting with “Deadpool 2”. It then got delayed until August 2 so that it wouldn’t bump heads with “Dark Phoenix”. Afterwards, it wound up getting forced back to April 3, 2020 due to 20th Century Fox getting bought by Walt Disney Studios. Finally, the Coronavirus came along to kneecap the year and force movie theaters to temporarily shut down. Thankfully, it finally got to see a release on August 28. Unfortunately, it wound up with mixed reviews from critics, mainly leaning towards the negative. As for what I thought of it, I will say that it does have some genuinely good things going for it. Unlike “Dark Phoenix” which was mostly dour throughout, it does have some quiet moments for its character growth. While the young central cast worked nicely with each other, I was especially fond of the tender relationship between Dani and Rahne. Within the scenes that they share together, their chemistry feels genuine and heartfelt. While it did annoy me that Illyana was being a jerkface to Dani, it’s possible that it’s an emotional cover-up given her backstory. It was also weird that in this film series, she’s the one who gets Lockheed the Dragon instead of Kitty Pryde a.k.a. Shadowcat like in the comics. Despite that, it was finely implemented as her emotional-support puppet as well as the genuine article for the climax. Finally, the film’s attempt at genuine horror does come with some good chills. After all, most of the youthful team gets confronted by their own tragic pasts (whether Dani is accidentally using her illusionary powers as a result, I’m not sure since I’ve only seen it once at the time of this article) and it does make for some creepy thrills. With that said though, I felt like its true horror potential wasn’t quite met. If Dr. Reyes wasn’t the only one running the facility and had others probably manipulating Mirage’s ability while she slept unbeknownst to Moonstar herself, her teammates and the audience until the third act, then maybe the paranoid tension could’ve been brought to a suitable level. While it’s bizarre that a single soul is looking after five young adults, I should mention that Cecelia Reyes wasn’t a villain in the comics. The film does remember that she’s Latin American (Puerto Rico in the comics while Alice Braga is from Brazil) and that she generates force fields. However, she was mainly a member of the X-Men. Interestingly, she was also black and Rosario Dawson was originally going to portray her before she ultimately bowed out prior to shooting. Getting back on track with criticisms, my initial thought on the main group’s tragic backstories was that it didn’t have enough of a “show, don’t tell” vibe. The more I thought about it however, that seems to be less of a complaint in hind sight since the terrors the group face do seem to line up with their explanations. However, there is a bigger problem that I have in terms of its villains. While this is the third different film within this line to mention the Essex Corporation (the others being “X-Men: Apocalypse” & “Deadpool 2”), thus confirming that this series stopped short of ultimately bringing us Mr. Sinister, the biggest problem is with the Demon Bear. After all, it was a primary force within the initial New Mutants comic in the 1980s. Here however, it only shows up twice: First in the opening scene to ravage the Cheyenne Indian Reservation and then once more to maul Dr. Reyes before fighting our main group in a climactic clash. During the final battle, Dani became unconscious during the group’s confrontation with Cecelia. Once she’s comforted by her dad in the spirit world and awakens to face the great beast, she’s able to calm it down before it dissipates. As such, the climax was something of a letdown. Overall, this fell short of being a noteworthy final entry for this long-running film series. Fortunately, its flaws don’t really weigh it down too badly. Even though this is ultimately on the lower end of my list, it can be enjoyable to watch and I’m still glad that I saw it safely in my local theater. It’s an intimate movie for our cast of mutant characters and while the narrative still has its problems, there’s some entertainment value to mine here, thus making it an above-average experience. (3.5/5)
12. X-Men: The Last Stand
Serving as the third and final outing for the original trilogy, we have a medical facility’s noble-yet-flawed intention with a rebellion powered by the resurrection of a familiar psychic. How it juggles all of that is up to my opinion. Following Jean’s supposed death at the end of “X2”, it’s announced that Worthington Labs has developed an antidote that would allow mutants to “cure” themselves of their own powers. However, this is met with mixed reception upon the mutant masses as some are interested enough to go take it, while everyone else rejects it wholeheartedly. When it’s then discovered that it’s going to be used as a governmental weapon, Magneto begins to recruit new mutants in order to prevent the cure from becoming a mass-produced threat to his cause. He soon gains a dangerous ally for his side when Jean comes back from the dead, due to her Phoenix-based powers having completely manifested itself. With an all-out war looming on the horizon, the X-Men must gather their forces and prepare themselves for their greatest battle yet. Because this mainly serves as an adaptation of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men story arc “Gifted”, it does serve up some interesting commentary on humanity’s attempt to help others and whether or not it’s entirely justified. It takes its time to present its argument about the topic and leaves it up to the audience whether it’s best for mutants to get rid of their powers in order to peacefully live among humans or if they shouldn’t be forced to suppress the powers that they have since it’s part of who they are. In terms of new additions, bringing in Kelsey Grammer (a.k.a. Dr. Frasier Crane) to portray Beast was stellar casting. Here, he’s part of the Presidential Cabinet as the Secretary of Mutant Affairs before things start to get very hectic within the main plot that he ultimately steps down from his governmental position and rejoins the X-Men for their grand battle. Also, Kitty Pryde a.k.a. Shadowcat is finally allowed to be a part of the main narrative after spending the first two installments as a minor character and played by two different actresses. Here, Ellen Page (known nowadays as Elliot Page) gives a genuine performance and even shares a touching moment with Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman who comforts her following the death of Charles Xavier by helping her ice skate upon the outside fountain. Plus, she’s put to good use in the climax when she’s evading Cain Marko a.k.a. Juggernaut in her attempt to save Leech (who is actually the source of Worthington Labs’ cure, by the way). Sure, she doesn’t have the same presence level as Beast, but she still makes a memorable impact upon the plot. However, I’d be remised if I didn’t address the major faults that lie within this flick. During the first two movies (especially “X2”), we’ve established Iceman and Rogue as a budding couple. Given what we’re seen here, Marie is made unreasonably jealous of his noble kindness towards Kitty. Sure, she’s been dealing with her own ability that prevents her from making physical contact without absorbing the memories (and in the case of mutants, briefly gaining the abilities) of whoever she touches. However, she comes off as unnecessarily bitter in her ultimate decision to take the cure. As such, she’s among a certain set of characters that’re mainly shoved to the side for the sake of the narrative, as well as its cast size being already overly-crowded as it is. For me, a personal blow was made when Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops got his biggest shafting when his resurrected girlfriend obliterates him with her new Phoenix-based powers. Regardless of your feelings towards Xavier’s signature field general in either the comics, any animated series or within the movies, it saddened me when he got this grim fate. Not to mention, this is coming off his X2 shafting where he’s knocked out and absent for a good amount of time until he pops up in a mind-controlled state. Charles could also be lumped in there, not just for him getting disintegrated by Phoenix during the main narrative only to find a way to cheat death in a post-credits scene (though it was set up). Magneto personally sees this happen to his longtime friend/enemy, only to then think that bringing Jean onto his side is a good idea. Either way, that’s some massive egg on Erik’s face when he realizes too late that this was a bad idea. Also, the massive cast size is also problematic. Loads of familiar characters from the comics are introduced and are ultimately given little to do. Angel is set up to be important with his pre-title card scene, but hardly factors into the main plot as a young adult. Magento gets several new mutant allies to his cause. While Juggernaut becomes memorable (even if for an infamous meme-worthy line), others like Arclight, Kid Omega and especially Psylocke hardly have much to contribute with. Finally, Dark Phoenix is brought in just because it was set up in the previous movie. While it does a nice job in showing a mentally-unhinged Jean and her power set was somewhat overwhelming to our main heroes, it lacked a certain scope that it should’ve had as the central focus. Not to mention, Phoenix is out of action for a while following the confrontation at her old house before she makes her presence again during the climax. Despite its grave faults, it still has some good performances from our central group of characters, the effects have mostly held up and it has some of the most energetic action scenes of the whole series. While this is a rocky conclusion to the original trinity of films, it’s still brimming with enough entertainment value to warrant an above-average score from me. (3.5/5)
11. Once Upon A Deadpool
Before we get to my Top 10, let’s get to our favorite Merc with a Mouth as he makes the first of several appearances on this list. For this PG-13 take on “Deadpool 2″, we have Wade Wilson kidnapping Fred Savage and placing him in the familiar bedroom setting from “The Princess Bride”. Within this framing device, we watch the tale of how Deadpool and his girlfriend Vanessa are looking to start their own family. Unfortunately, a thug that he failed to catch from a recent venture returns and ends up killing his beloved woman. With this tragedy weighing heavily on him, it emotionally affects him during his X-Men trainee scenario as he winds up imprisoned alongside a young mutant named Firefist. The youthful lad tries to befriend him, but Wade rejects his efforts. Meanwhile, another mutant named Cable is grieving the loss of his family at the hands of a grown up and villainous Firefist. As such, he travels back in time to slay the would-be murderer. When Wade learns that he has to become a better man in order to be with Vanessa in the afterlife, he gathers his own rag-tag group (which includes the abnormally-lucky mutant named Domino) in order to prevent both Firefist’s descent into evil and Cable’s attempt to execute the troubled boy. This is the last of three different cuts of the film and it shares some strengths & weaknesses throughout. For this section, I’ll just talk about what worked for me with this version and what didn’t. The added framing device was a nice touch, since it’s very detailed to how it was shown in the 1987 classic. There’s some nice exclusive banter here between Wade & Fred, especially with a personal standout where Savage quickly delves into Cable’s comic book backstory and you realize that the movie version isn’t entirely like that. Not all of their witty conversations entirely work, but the exclusive post-credits scene was utterly hilarious as a reminder of Deadpool’s lovable jerkface nature. As for the main narrative, it takes some scenes that were used in the theatrical cut and some that were kept in for the extended cut. It handles this process in a commendable way in order to avoid being too inappropriate for younger audiences. Unfortunately, this decision ultimately harms the movie in two ways. 1. Because some of the more harsh curse words had to be removed in order to get a PG-13 rating, the way it’s handled is the equivalency of watching a mature flick on an accessible channel like AMC. As such, the dubbing over the more provocative swear words makes this film feel like a TV cut at times. 2. This iteration of Deadpool was introduced as a far-more raunchy, potty-mouthed and bloody take on the character. In fact, it’s the reason why movie studios are far more willing to take chances on adult-oriented superhero flicks. As someone who’s familiar with this iteration, it felt like an unnecessary taming of what makes this Merc with a Mouth unique. Also, I’m aware that Ryan Reynolds agreed to do this if a portion of the movie’s profit was donated to charity, especially since it went towards fighting cancer. Despite the neutering that it went through in order for younger viewers to see Wade in action, it’s still backed by good performances, some familiar jokes and nice action. Even though this isn’t the definitive version of Deadpool’s sophomore outing, there’s still plenty of entertainment to be had here that elevates it into slightly-above average territory. (3.75/5)
As we head into my Top 10, we’ve now reached the inaugural entry as the fight for mutant-kind threatens to harm humanity’s rulers in the name of personal payback. Through Sen. Robert Kelly, Congress is seriously considering passing the Mutant Registration Act, thus forcing all of America’s mutant civilians to reveal themselves and their powers to the government. During all of this, two mutant loners named Logan and Marie come across each other before the X-Men bring them onto their side. As Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants prepare to use a powerful machine that will mutate the gathered World Leaders over on Ellis Island, the X-Men discover a fatal flaw with the process and must stop this act before it’s too late. This film came out during a time when the superhero movie genre was starting to regain confidence with general audiences. Even though 1998’s “Blade” was a foundational start, it was this flick followed by 2002’s “Spider-Man” that helped made these films popular again and helped set things in motion towards bigger things to come. As for how this movie holds up, it’s got plenty of good things going for it. First, it has Hugh Jackman in his star-making performance of Wolverine. He brings a raw, cocky and gruff personality that he would continue to refine over the next 17 years, even if he gained too much spotlight attention at the expense of his teammates. Even still, he gets to share his charm and wit alongside his castmates who also manage to get plenty of things to do. Another standout among the heroic band of mutants is Anna Paquin as Marie D’Ancanto a.k.a. Rogue. Even though her version is radically different from her comic book counterpart, I think that this was a nice way to start her off. After all, her mutant power of absorption via skin contact became active at a young age and it’s frightening to her since she risks potentially killing someone if she touches them long enough. As such, she runs away unsure of what to do or even where to go. Yes, her prequel comic shows the events that occurred in between her opening scene and her arrival at the Lion’s Den bar in Canada, but having her struggling to find herself before she becomes the instrument of Erik’s potentially destructive device was fairly well-handled. After all, I liked the emotional journey that she went on throughout the film and how she attempted to cope with everything going on around her. In terms of villains, Ian McKellen was absolutely wonderful as Magneto. Not only does he interact really well within the long-time & rocky friendship he shares with Charles Xavier (who’s skillfully played by Patrick Stewart), but the motivations for why he wants to carry out his master plan makes him understandably sympathetic. After all, he was enslaved by the Nazis as a young boy and his parents were executed by them. From there, he plans on protecting mutants by using his machine upon the head representatives of Earth’s various countries and turn them into mutants themselves. Earlier, he had tested it on Sen. Kelly not too long after Mystique kidnapped him. After Robert escapes & reaches the X-Men, the forced mutation ultimately does him in. As such, Erik gets warned about this, yet he refuses to back down. Whether or not he actually thought it was a ruse, it feels like he wants to punish humanity for placing him within the harsh hands of uncaring people who’re at the head of governmental rule. In the end, the only things that prevents this movie from earning higher marks comes down to two things. 1. The pacing can feel erratic at times. While it never gets too severe or jarring, it does rush through a few scenes. 2. Some of the CGI hasn’t entirely aged well. While some of the effects still hold up, there were other moments where it looked a bit too synthetic to have stood the test of time. Even still, this flick helped get the series off on the right note with good performances, well-handled action and a racial debate & setting that continues to feel prevalent within our ever-chaotic world. This humble start is a nostalgic joy to revisit and is more than worthy of being X-Ceptionally good. (4/5)
9. The Wolverine
As we continue my personal countdown, we’ve reached our sixth outing as we head to the land of the rising sun where our familiar Canucklehead finds himself in a personal struggle that literally deals with life and death. On a quick side note, I’m aware that there’s also an extended version of this film. However, I only have the theatrical cut on both DVD & Blu-Ray. As such, I can’t comment on whether or not the longer version makes more or less of an impact than what was originally shown. Taking place seven years after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand”, Logan is no longer with the X-Men and has retreated into the Canadian wilderness, forever haunted with having to kill Jean Grey in order to save mankind. However, a particular figure that he once saved from an atomic bomb blast has come back into his life and has sent Yukio to take him to Japan. From there, James gets reacquainted with the man behind his summoning, Ichirō Yashida, who offers to relive him of his Healing Factor, but Logan initially refuses. During his stay, he meets Ichirō’s granddaughter Mariko and her father Shingen. Not only that, but the elder Yashida has seemingly passed away. However, trouble has popped up during the subsequent funeral when members of the Yakuza attempt to kidnap Mariko. Even though James manages to fight them off, he suffers some wounds and is shocked to discover that his Healing Factor is somehow on the fritz. As such, he decides to go on the run with Mariko in order to hide out from their pursuers. Eventually, he teams up with Yukio in order to stop the true mastermind behind this massive conspiracy plot. After the third X-Men film and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, James was becoming stale as an on-screen movie character, especially since he was nearly indestructible to the point where hardly anything could challenge him. Through director James Mangold’s first go-around with the character, Logan deals with the personal pain that he must inevitably endure when he’s forced into hectic situations, especially when those opposing factors come to him in some way, shape or form. As the central focus, Jackman give a particularly committed performance that helps the audience get reinvested with his character. He also works really well with our main Japanese ladies. With Tao Okamoto’s Mariko, they relate to each other in the fact that they’re forced into precarious situations that’re out of their control. As they go on the run from their pursuers, Logan regains his heroic purpose & motivation by having someone to fight for as well as protect. As for Mariko (a role that Tao portrays as good as she can), she becomes confident enough to stand up towards the high-end members of her family, especially when the reasons and figures behind the conspiracy come into the light. Not to mention, they do have some nice chemistry between each other. After initially disliking each other, their venture sees them growing closer together and their relationship felt respectful. After Mariko gets kidnapped, it then shifts over to Logan’s professional partnership with Yukio. Now of course, she’s slightly changed from the comics. While she does keep her skillfulness in weapons combat (which is something even the anime did as well), she’s also a mutant. Here, she’s able to look into the future and see how a particular person will meet their grim fate. Like Mariko, she also helps James rediscover his calling as a noble hero, even calling him a “soldier”. However, she’s serves as a bodyguard of sorts as she looks out for him in both a physical and spiritual sense. They serve just enough screen time together, but they do work off each other to make their partnership solid for this venture. Not to mention, Rila Fukushima presents herself with absolute confidence throughout. Also, I’d be remised about the rest of our central characters, ranging from Ichirō & Shingen Yashida to Keniuchio Harada and Viper, all of whom were as nicely portrayed as possible. The only major problems that prevents this entry from reaching the levels of absolute excellence is essentially two factors. 1. While our true villains aren’t terribly executed and do fit nicely into the conspiracy plot presented here, they don’t really make too much of an impact to help them stand out. 2. The climax can be a bit clichéd with the use of familiar elements, while the final battle does somewhat suffer from some unsteady cinematography and shaky focus. Despite its faults, it’s still a nice entry that helps bring its title character back onto respectable grounds with a meaningful story, a fluid pacing throughout and some truly well-executed action. It loosely bases itself upon a titular 1982 mini-series in order to create a powerful feel all its own and propel itself into a top-end entry within this film series. (4/5)
8. Deadpool 2 (Theatrical Cut)
Next up, we have our first go-around with Wade’s sophomore outing for this 11th entry. As such, I’ll delve into the main positives and negatives that I have with this flick that’s also present within its other two cuts. Like before, we have Wade Wilson and his girlfriend Vanessa looking to start a family. Unfortunately, a goon that he failed to take down has immediately returned with some thugs to get back at him. During the fire fight unfortunately, Vanessa gets fatally shot. Despite Wade falling into a deep depression, Colossus offers him a chance to join the X-Men. In his first mission as a trainee, he confronts a mutant student at the Essex Orphanage named Rusty Collins a.k.a. Firefist. Despite subduing the young delinquent, Wade learns that he was abused by the staff and ends up killing one of them. As a result, both of them wind up in a maximum security prison. While they’re imprisoned, Rusty tries to befriend Wade. However, he’s too depressed and deflects his advances. Meanwhile, Cable time-travels from a future where Firefist grew up as a villain and murdered his family. As such, Nathan’s mission sees him attempting to execute Rusty before he goes down that dark path. After he escapes and learns that he must become a better man in order to be with Vanessa again, he forms his own mutant team called X-Force (which includes Domino) and sets out to save Firefist from a grim fate. Just like before, Ryan Reynolds is having a blast with the role. By this point, he’s fully-immersed as the titular character and has great interactions with his castmates. I also dug the arc that he goes through where he has to be even more of a hero towards others, especially since it ultimately becomes vital to him on a personal level as well as Cable on a chronological level. On a narrative perspective, it’s handled as nicely as it possibly can when it comes to showing some character progression. In terms of his cast mates, Zazie Beetz was a stellar addition as Domino. She brought the right amount of swagger, wit, confidence and comedic timing to her portrayal. Not to mention, the movie does a fantastic job displaying her mutant power of Probability Manipulation. This is especially evident during X-Force’s mostly-failed parachute drop towards the prison convoy carrying Firefist. Shortly after she safely lands on the street, it results in a hilarious sequence where every single thing around her crashes, tumbles and blows up while she just runs towards the transport and ultimately catches up. Also, Josh Brolin was really good with his portrayal of Cable. He mainly plays his part straight which leads to a nice comedic balance with the rest of our main players and even a few jokes for him to deliver along the way. As for Firefist, Julian Dennison expertly portrays a lost and troubled youth in desperate need of proper guidance, but has been neglected and shunned by everyone around him. As such, his dissention towards potential villainy feels very well-handled until Deadpool is able to complete his character arc and finally be the positive model that he’s been sorely lacking. While this movie does have a lot of good things going for it, it does have some problems that prevents it from being a complete package. First off, it does attempt to repeat some of the jokes that the previous installment made. While some of them are some nice evolutions, others do feel like a retread. Also, the CGI does show some of its synthetic skin at certain moments, though it never gets too severe for me. However, my biggest beef comes from the movie sidelining Vanessa. While her death does ultimately motivate Wade towards his character arc, she gets far less to do when compared to the previous entry. As if to say sorry for that act, she gets saved at the end. At the time of this article, a third Deadpool movie will be getting made over at Marvel Studios (and will be allowed to stick to its Rated-R guns), so I hope that Vanessa finally gets her Copycat powers and actually gets involved in the main story. Either way, it’s still a fun watch with some nice song choices, stellar effort from the central cast and some thrilling, bombastic action scenes. While it’s not the “Maximum Effort” that it could have been, it builds off of its predecessor to let its raunchy nature run loose in a stellar way. (4/5)
7. Deadpool 2 (Super Duper Cut)
Now, we have my last go-around of Wade’s second solo outing. Even with its own quirks and problems, it’s my personal favorite version of this tale. Like before, we have our favorite Merc losing his love Vanessa via an uncaptured thug’s bullet. As a result, his depressive state botches his attempt to join the X-Men and lands him within a high-security prison alongside Firefist, whose friendship advances he dismisses. When Cable travels back in time to take Rusty out since Collins became a murderous fiend in Nathan’s period, Deadpool learns that he must become a better man in order to be with his girlfriend in the afterlife. As such, he recruits Domino and a few other ragtag mutants onto his newly-formed team called X-Force in order to save Rusty from a grim fate. It does make some additions and changes at certain points throughout this cut, but the best thing that this adds is injecting Firefist’s backstory and how he wound up in the initial standoff with Deadpool, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. With the other two cuts of the film, Rusty’s time within the Essex Orphanage is mainly shown in flashback. There are some other slight extensions, like the opening segment where Wade’s slaughtering of various goons around the world is a little longer and a bit more violent. In all honesty, there’s not a whole lot that makes this version of Deadpool 2 significantly better than its theatrical counterpart. It did feel a bit awkward hearing some different music choices, but that was mainly when the climactic fight was about to begin. I also came across some altered dialogue, but that didn’t hinder the narrative all that much. Aside from all of that, all of the positives and negatives that I brought up for the theatrical version largely remains the same. While I consider this the most definitive version of our Merc with a Mouth’s sophomore cinematic outing, it does keep some of the same hang-ups that prevents it from getting full marks. Even so, it’s still an absolute blast and worth hunting down for some Chimichanga-sized exploits. (4.25/5)
6. X-Men: Days Of Future Past (Rogue Cut)
Now, we’ve reached a massive cast of characters across the vastness of time and it’s also director Bryan Singer’s attempt to bring his original intention of this tale to his audience. In 2023, the world is in ruins. The Sentinels have not only imprisoned the majority of Earth’s mutants, but the human race is also under the malevolent might of these malicious machines. Fortunately, the remaining X-Men have set the stage for their last chance to prevent this dark future from happening. Wolverine learns that this doomed time period was made possible due to Mystique assassinating Bolivar Trask, where she was immediately captured following her murderous act and her DNA wound up injected into the Sentinels before they ultimately grew out of control. As such, Shadowcat sends his consciousness back to 1973 where he has to reach Charles Xavier’s younger self and convince the disillusioned mentor to help him out. After proving his situation, both of them alongside Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast enlist Quicksilver in order to break Magneto out. From there, Logan, Charles, Hank and Erik head out to prevent Raven from committing the act that dooms every living being on Earth. Not only that, but they must do so before the Sentinels back in the future locate our surviving X-Men and make the last glimmer of hope permanently extinct. I’ll delve into what I liked and disliked about the main tale over in the theatrical cut, since they’re mainly the same thing here. Aside from some added dialogue sprinkled throughout, the most notable addition is the scene in the future where Professor X, Magneto and Iceman fly out to the ruins of the Xavier Institute. It turns out that it’s been taken over by some devious scientists and that they’ve captured Rogue in order to do some experimentations on her. Even though this operation cost Bobby Drake his life, Marie is able to get brought back to the team’s hideout and gets to take over for Kitty Pryde after she was fatally slashed by Logan during his encounter with a younger William Stryker. This definitely has its positive and negative because while the theatrical cut keeps Kitty in her predicament and forces her to keep the connection open for some nice tension, this version allows Rogue to make peace with Shadowcat, especially after how Marie was gravely shafted in “The Last Stand”. Not only that, but it essentially allows Marie to become vital to the story in a way that she never got to completely reach throughout the original trilogy. However, an added scene that was rightfully cut out of the theatrical version was when Mystique came back to the mansion after Charles tried to telepathically communicate with her and convince her to “come home”. While it does further the relationship that she had with Beast back in “X-Men: First Class”, it turns out her only intention for returning was to damage Cerebro and prevent Charles from locating her during the final stretch of her mission. The theatrical version kept that portion of the plot streamlined and moving forward, thus allowing the story to continually unfold. However, that’s only a certain hiccup that prevents this from being the definite version of the film. As a whole, it’s still anchored by top-notch action, some genuine moments of comedy and some well-executed character arcs. If you already dig the theatrical version, then give this one your attention and decide for yourself where within your vast time stream this version holds up. (4.5/5)
We’ve now reached my Top 5 and what better way to kick off this final stretch than with an entry that not only gave our favorite Merc with a Mouth some much-needed cinematic justice, but it also turned out to be a game-changer for the superhero genre. For the eighth installment of this series, Wade Wilson used to be a Special Forces operative before he was dishonorably discharged and became a mercenary-for-hire afterwards. In-between his assignments, he regularly hangs out at a shady tavern called Sister Margret’s with his bartending friend Weasel. On one fateful night, he meets a beautiful hooker named Vanessa Carlysle who shares a similar kind of tragic childhood and is also just as smart-witted as him. Through a single date & a lot of love-making, they end up falling for each other and even become engaged. However, tragedy manages to strike Wade as he gets stricken by terminal cancer. Despite Vanessa’s willingness to stay by his side and help him fight this disease, he has no interest in making her emotionally suffer. Then, a recruiter meets him at Sister Margret’s and tells him about a program that can help treat his cancer. Wilson ultimately takes him up on his offer, but soon finds out that he’s in a devious mutant-making-and-selling operation run by Ajax and his right-hand woman Angel Dust. Through a series of brutal and torturous tests (as well as getting injected with a serum), his mutant powers are ultimately brought out. Eventually, he escapes and creates his Deadpool persona in order to hunt down Ajax and force him to fix his disfigured facial feature so that he can be with Vanessa again. Without a doubt, Ryan Reynolds is in prime form as our titular character. Because of how Wade was done a severe disservice in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, his self-motivation to do the Merc right is shown in spades here. He brings a passionate drive & energy to the role and gives Wilson loads of rude, crude and witty personality in and out of costume. Not to mention, his relationship with Morena Baccarin‘s Vanessa is beautifully raunchy, yet wonderfully works as a couple. Despite only having a substantial amount of screen time, she still makes the most out of her scenes and even puts in some effort to help Wade out during the climactic fight. As such, Vanessa is made essential to the main narrative since she not only gives Wilson some romantic motivation, but she also calls him out for initially leaving her. While he also has some nice moments with Weasel, Blind Al and Dopinder, it’s his interactions with Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead that delivers some of the biggest knee-slappers. Piotr’s honorable gentleman approach to crime-fighting hilariously contrasts with Wade’s foul-mouthed, rough-and-tumble lone-wolf style, while N.T.W. doesn’t put up with Wilson’s witty banter to hilarious effect. Either way, both X-Men members get their moments to shine alongside our merry Merc. As for our villains, Ajax (or as Wade finds out, Francis Freeman) does serve as a nice polar opposite to Wilson. He went through the same program and developed his own mutant ability where he has enhanced strength, though at the cost of having severed nerve endings which makes him incapable of feeling pain. I do praise Ed Skrein’s performance and his effort to make his villainous role work as best as he can, even though he doesn’t become too much of a standout felon. Meanwhile, Gina Carano delivers a nice, intimidating presence to Angel Dust and makes her mixed martial arts background fit really well in delivering a physical threat to Wade & our two X-Men. While I do buy Wilson’s initial hesitation during his first attempt to reunite with Vanessa, his second go-around at a strip club (which is where she’s working as a waitress) is problematic for me since he does approach her, only to chicken out at the last moment. From there, it allows Ajax and Angel Dust to kidnap her in order to set up our climatic fight. For me, that part had an air of contrivance just so we can ultimately have our final showdown. Despite that narrative hiccup, this is a movie that makes the most of its moderate budget to deliver loads of confidence throughout its run time. The central cast played their parts to their hearts’ content, the pacing was well-handled throughout, the adult humor was beautifully utilized and the action was bloody good. It wasn’t afraid to make itself exclusive to an older crowd and it pays that bet off by making the R-Rated Superhero Movie fashionable once again. For that and for the freeing experience that it leaves you with, it’s a recommended watch that can be enjoyed with “Maximum Effort”. (4.5/5)
From here on out, it’s nothing but what I’ve decided are the best of the best. The trick here is that I must decide which one is truly deserving of being my personal favorite as I must “unite” my thoughts. Inspired by Chris Claremont’s 1982 graphic novel “God Loves, Man Kills” and Mark Millar’s 2001 Ultimate X-Men story arc “Return To Weapon X”, the plot of this second entry sees Col. William Stryker gaining executive approval to raid the Xavier Institute following a recent assassination attempt on Pres. McKenna. With Professor X, Cyclops and several of Charles’ students kidnapped, the remaining X-Men must join forces with the Brotherhood of Mutants in order to prevent Stryker from carrying out his devious end goal of mutant genocide. Right off the bat, we have Brian Cox delivering a deliciously twisted performance as he skillfully brings to life a corrupt military scientist who sees mutants as an abomination to humankind. His backstory starts off as mild disgust when he sent his son Jason to the Xavier Institute with the intent of “curing” him. When his hopes are immediately dashed, he and his wife would torment their kid. As a result, Jason would lash back at his hateful parents with his mutant ability as he assaulted them with illusions. While his wife committed suicide, William ended up lobotomizing his son into becoming a subservient pawn named Mutant 143. Nowadays, he uses a brainwashing technique to keep Lady Deathstrike as his silent-but-subservient right-hand lady and to even pry some key information about Cerebro from an imprisoned Magento. As a result, he becomes an even worse monster than Erik. While Magneto’s motivation to help mutants survive in a world that hates & fears them (albeit through misguided execution) was understandable and tragic, Stryker is old-fashioned bigotry incarnate and Cox does a fantastic job of bringing that sense of racist terror that we’ve seen far too much throughout history. Meanwhile, Logan is finally delving into his Weapon X past by visiting Alkali Lake. Although he doesn’t initially find anything there, he’ll eventually find out that he actually was in the right place, but was simply looking in the wrong area. Even though this continued a problem that these initial movies had in being far-too focused on Wolverine, Jackman continues to show off his rough-and-tumble charm that made him an enduring figure throughout this film franchise. Even with James Howlett continuing to be front-and-center, the rest of the cast still gets plenty to do throughout. From Iceman & Rogue developing their relationship to Pyro’s hot-headed attitude putting him on a duplicitous path towards his villainous status for the next entry, this movie juggles a lot on its plate. Fortunately, it never feels crowded, over-stuffed or bloated within its pacing and narrative. Also, I must give some special mention to Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, since he was mind-controlled by William into attacking Pres. McKenna and setting this whole operation into motion. Cumming does a really nice job of displaying Kurt’s religious faith as he ultimately joins the X-Men en route to some personal redemption. In the end, this sophomore outing shows zero signs of slumping as it delivers with committed performances, special effects that never come across as synthetic or phoney and action scenes that are thrilling, top-notch & really well-executed. It takes everything that was good about its predecessor and raises the bar to an X-Ceptionally good level, making it an absolute joy to go back and watch. (5/5)
3. X-Men: First Class
As we venture into my Top 3, we now head back to the Swinging ’60s for our fifth entry with a period piece that looks to help this film franchise start fresh by delving into how this second timeline began. Taking place in 1962, we have a young Charles Xavier and his foster sister Raven Darkhölme a.k.a. Mystique recruited into the CIA by Agent Moira MacTaggert, since the strategic placement of nuclear missiles between the United States and the Soviet Union have both sides on the brink of war. Meanwhile, Erik Lehnsherr has been hunting down Sebastian Shaw, since he was responsible for helping Erik begin to grasp his magnetic manipulation when he was an imprisoned young boy at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. He’s especially miffed since his mother was executed by Shaw right in front of him in order to gain the motivation to finally wield his signature power. During an infiltration mission upon Sebastian’s yacht, both sides come across each other as Xavier brings Lehnsherr onto his side. Back at the CIA, Charles, Raven and Erik meet a fellow mutant named Hank McCoy who works there as a young scientist. After Hank helps create Cerebro for Charles, he and Lehnsherr begin recruiting several more mutants onto their cause, which includes Angel Salvadore, Darwin, Alex Summers a.k.a. Havok and Sean Cassidy a.k.a. Banshee. While Charles, Erik and Moira are on an overseas mission (where they learn about the devious plan to come from Emma Frost), Shaw and his fellow cohorts Riptide & Azazel infiltrate the CIA Headquarters and manage to sway Angel onto their side while Darwin loses his life in the process. Afterwards, Xavier and Raven move the team into his mansion as they prepare to prevent Sebastian’s intention of placing a Soviet missile in Cuba, thus having the Cuban Missile Crisis reach a fever pitch and kicking off a nuclear war that would not only annihilate the human race, but allow mutants to rise up & claim the planet as their own. While Kevin Bacon was coolly charismatic as Sebastian Shaw and the rest of the supporting cast was stellar throughout, the biggest strength was how this flick skillfully handles our triad of main characters with well-written arcs for each of them to embark on. With Charles, he had the benefit of having a luxurious roof over his head and judging from when he was a little kid, his heart was already in a noble place. When he brings Raven into his life, he also becomes a surrogate father of sorts as he attempts to guide and develop her into becoming the best version of herself. Because of what Mystique goes through during her arc, he does display some inability towards letting her be her own self. Though he gives her up at the end, he’ll face an even further challenge in his next outing when this faces its furthest conclusion. As such, that’s an ongoing thing for Xavier since he’s doing extra duty as the main leader of what will become the X-Men and setting the groundwork for his never-ending debate with his friend/enemy Erik. As for Lehnsherr, he’s been filled with hatred and bitterness ever since he mastered his signature power at the tragic expense of his mother. Through Charles’ guidance, he does get a better grasp of his power as they develop their friendship. He even helps Mystique to not be ashamed of her physical appearance since they should accept who they are on the outside and within. By the end, he’s not the terrifying fiend that Shaw is. However, Sebastian’s influence did leave a lasting impact on him and thus, he’s developed a certain distrust for humans that nearly gets several U.S. & Soviet soldiers killed. Unfortunately, this near-disaster ultimately came at a cost when he accidentally deflects one of Moira’s opposing gun shots into Xavier’s lower back and ends up paralyzing him for life. Either way, he’s grown into a potentially dangerous figure for mankind to deal with and is set up for some unique development moving forward. Finally, we have Raven herself. Even when she’s under Charles’ proper tutelage and guidance, she’s had to mainly hide her normal appearance from the outside world. This is even furthered when she meets Hank and they begin a relationship, especially since he’s been trying to make a serum that’ll make them look like regular humans. Later, Erik manages to convince her that she shouldn’t concern herself with concealing her outer appearance from others. As a result, this helps her become more accepting of her own self and by the end, she adopts a phrase that a young woman named Amy said about her own “mutation” called heterochromia: “Mutant & Proud”. Because of the influences of Xavier, Lehnsheer and McCoy, she’ll begin to develop her own self-choice of how she’ll present herself physically and well as by her own actions down the road. Overall, this Matthew Vaughn-directed flick is greatly bolstered by top-notch performances, thrilling action, flawless effects and a nicely-woven narrative. Thanks to this particular tale, it helped bring this film franchise back from the brink and re-energized it with new life in preparation for the finest films yet to come from this series. (5/5)
2. X-Men: Days Of Future Past (Theatrical Cut)
Taking home the silver medal on my list is the series’ seventh entry that takes a bold endeavor by crossing over the old era and the new in a time-traveling venture that looks to protect the future from a doomed and mechanized fate. It’s 2023 and all of civilization (both mutants and humans) are under the oppressed might of the Sentinels. Fortunately, there’s one lone option that can prevent this grim outcome from happening. As such, Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back to 1973 where he teams up with young Charles Xavier and Hank McCoy in order to use Quicksilver to break Erik out and prevent Raven from making the key assassination that brings about the Sentinels’ creation. However, there’s not much time left back in the dystopian future since the Sentinels are hunting our remaining X-Men down. Serving as an adaptation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s 1981 storyline from Uncanny X-Men #141 & 142, this does preserve the core premise of its source material, though with its own changes. In the comic, it was Shadowcat’s consciousness that was sent back from 2013 to 1980 in order to prevent Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from assassinating Sen. Robert Kelly, Professor X and Moira MacTaggert. Here, it was reworked with narrative goals that it effectively accomplishes. By this point, we’ve just seen Logan rediscover himself during the events of “The Wolverine”. This time, he’s put in the unlikely mentorship role as he uses the experience that he’s gained throughout his time with the X-Men in order to help a younger Charles out of his depressive slump, since the school was closed down due to several mutant students getting drafted into the Vietnam War. Not only that, but McCoy had made a serum for Xavier which allows him to walk, though it suppresses his telepathy. As such, James has to help his eventual mentor regain his confidence in order for Charles to rise up from his personal low-point. In order to become the man who’ll help countless mutants in need of guidance, his journey sees him having to reluctantly team up with Erik in order to prevent Raven from committing the one kill that ultimately dooms the entirety of mutants and humanity. The youthful Xavier’s character arc is a familiar one that everybody faces at some point in their lives. We all have a tendency to get in our own way from time to time and no matter how much we carefully plan out certain areas of our lives, there comes a time of great failure that leaves us in a deeply-emotional state wondering how we ever got here and even some worry & fright over how we could ever overcome it. Young Charles is forced to confront these fears head-on, though he thankfully has Wolverine to guide him and it even comes with a powerful moment where he psychically meets his older self and regains his self-confidence. As for Mystique, she’s on her own after her fellow Brotherhood of Mutants were caught & killed while Magneto was arrested due to being blamed for JFK’s assassination. During her solo time, she’s been liberating captured mutants before she infiltrates Trask Industries and learns about his experimentations upon her kind. Ultimately, she chooses to slay Bolivar for his inhumane act. Throughout this main stretch, she remains steadfast with her decision and refuses to comply with either Charles or Erik’s warning. Because of their influence on her from their previous film, it ultimately had a negative result where Raven isn’t able to land on a noble identity that’s all her own. Through some timely interference, Xavier ultimately gives Mystique the right to make a choice once she has her chance to take the shot, thus allowing her the opportunity to make the fateful decision that will not only affect the time stream, but also allow her to ultimately turn herself around and become a better mutant & a better person. On some other notes, Evan Peters absolutely made the most of his brief time as Quicksilver. His energetic, confident and witty performance shines throughout the bulk of his screen time, while he also gave a nice moment of shocked realization once he sees Magneto broadcasting his speech in front of the White House and is horrified in the fact that he ultimately helped this event happen. Also, I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention the standout scene where he saves Logan, Charles and Erik from the incoming plastic bullets of several guards with his super-speed. Due to everything looking slow in his eyes, he sets up comedic ways to take the officials out while listening to Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle”. Everything about that moment works from the stunning visual effects, the gorgeous song choice and Peter Maximoff literally thinking quickly on his feet to take these guards out in a hilarious payoff. Finally, I’ll bring up Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask, the man who created the Sentinels. He’s not a traditional villain for this piece since his dabbling in studying mutant genetics serves as the basis for the terror that his signature creation would ultimately bring about. After all, he does tell a young William Stryker that he does “admire” mutants, if only for his fascination towards studying their unique structures. Because the events of this movie leads to him avoiding Raven’s assassination attempt during the Paris Peace Accords, it leads to his Sentinels getting approved by Pres. Richard Nixon and even Erik discreetly taking control of them in preparation for his grand moment. With all of this going on, there’s also a looming threat of the Sentinels within the dystopian future trying to find the surviving X-Men and thus, permanently squash any remaining chance for a rebellion, which gets handled really well within its pacing. There’s not a whole lot in terms of legit complaints about this film that I could find, due to the incredible work done by everyone within this production. With a massive cast that gets plenty to do, action that’s thrilling throughout and a narrative that’s carefully structured to the best of its ability, this attempt at the series’ soft reboot respectfully closes the curtains on the original team and leaves its audience on a satisfying & hopeful note. It attempts to take the film franchise in a daring direction and it delivers its setup with confident execution that never leaves its audience with “whiplash”. (5/5)
Finally, we’ve reached the end of my list as I place the series’ 10th outing on top. Inspired by Mark Millar’s 2008 storyline “Old Man Logan”, this entry takes place in 2029 where the X-Men are no more. James has become a Texas-based limo driver while also discreetly looking after an elderly Charles in Mexico alongside Caliban. Sadly, Xavier has developed dementia and it’s caused a horrid event in the previous year where he had a seizure at his school that psychically harmed several people and even slayed several members of the X-Men. Suddenly, Logan is met upon by an Alkali-Transigen nurse named Gabriela who wishes for him to take her and a little girl named Laura to North Dakota. By the time that he ultimately decides to accept the offer, Gabriela has been murdered. From there, it’s not too long before Donald Pierce and the Reavers tracks them down to James’ Mexican hideout. After he and Laura fight their way out, they manage to escape with Charles. Ultimately, Logan learns about the horrific genetic process that mutant children were forced to endure within Alkali-Transigen. Not to mention, he learns that Laura (a.k.a. X-23) was created from his DNA and that she’s his daughter. With Dr. Zander Rice, Donald Pierce, the Reavers and even their newest creation “X-24” in hot pursuit of them, our main group must head Northward and do all that they can to reach the mutant safe haven known as Eden. First up, we have Hugh Jackman and his final performance as Wolverine. What James Mangold brought with the concept of having to fight through a rigorous situation while his Healing Factor is failing on him gets taken to the next level of absolute hardship. This time however, it’s not being tampered by a technological parasite that was placed inside of him and attached itself to his heart. Here, it’s been severely deteriorated and as a result, he’s also suffering from some Adamantium-laced poisoning. That’s right, the same metal that encases Wolverine’s signature claws (as well as his entire skeleton) is now physically affecting him. Throughout the course of this film series, Logan has constantly been a reluctant hero whenever he’s by himself. Originally, he wanted to save up the money that he was collecting from his chauffeuring gig in order to purchase a boat that he and Caliban can take Xavier on and head far out to sea so that the psychic-induced seizures wouldn’t harm anyone. Once Laura comes into his life, he’s forced to push himself far beyond his physical limits and reluctantly believe that the sanctuary she’s heard about within actual X-Men comics does exist. Throughout the movie, Jackman does an outstanding job of making the audience feel the absolute strain that he’s forced to endure. Thanks to this movie garnering an R-Rating, he finally gets to show Wolverine in an unhinged, uncaged and savage display during the action scenes. Whenever his claws do their bloody-good work, it leaves an impact upon the senses that’s vicious, brutal and ferocious in an appropriate way. Throughout the journey, he and Charles have to properly guide Laura with the proper temperament outside of combat. By the time that Xavier gets axed off, James is both physically and emotionally exhausted. Thankfully, she manages to get them the rest of the way towards her fellow Transigen mutants in preparation for their ultimate escape towards Canada. In the end, he makes the ultimate sacrifice by helping Laura and her youthful comrades evade the pursuing Reapers. It’s also fitting that he has another clone called X-24, which is essentially himself but without the nurturing, the humble care and the comradery of friends & family. In essence, this being is an untamed animal whom Logan (and ultimately, Laura) ultimately have to take down. Either way, Jackman goes all out for his final outing and gives an emotionally-charged performance that perfectly serves as a fitting capstone to an illustrious 17-year tenure. In a role that helped Hugh set a Guinness World Record for the “longest career as a live action Marvel superhero”, it’s a sendoff that feels melancholy in all the right ways, while allowing this version of the character to be retired on an appropriate note. Moving on, we have another notable figure who meets his end in Charles Xavier. Because of his mental illness, he accidentally delivered a crippling blow to his own kind. Without James nearby to give him his medication, he’s capable of sending out psychically-charged seizures that can either greatly harm or potentially kill anyone who’s within range. Essentially, he unintentionally crippled his own lifetime goal of cohabitation between humans and mutants due to him losing control over his own power. Through Laura, he regains his longtime purpose as a caring mentor before our group’s encounter with the Munson family gives him the feeling of being home again. Thanks to those two moments, they give him his sense of being whole despite his past sins. When X-24 ultimately does him in, it could possibly symbolize either a pessimistic ideal of how cruel and opposing the outside world is towards Charles’ ideal, or he could have subtly known that Logan isn’t confronting him with lethal intent and this is him confessing what he’s unintentionally done to the mutant community before his ultimate demise. Both are possible and open towards your own interpretation. Either way, Patrick Stewart gives a tragic, yet sentimental performance as he gives his Professor X a nice sendoff, while also delivering some comical cursing as well. Finally, we have X-23 herself: Laura. Because she and her fellow mutants have essentially been test subjects her whole life, the only kind soul that she’s ever known is Gabriela. As such, she initial starts out as a bit primal with only Xavier showing sincere kindness towards her. As they progress on their journey, Logan and Charles instill some self-control and temperament while she also experiences a brief moment of a humble life that can potentially be waiting for her. Throughout the majority of the movie, she only speaks in fluent Spanish and thus from James’ perspective, we haven’t fully connected with her yet. As such, it’s a funny payoff when it’s revealed that she was always capable of speaking English. From there, the two of them continue to bond as she finally rejoins her fellow mutants. By the end, she helps Wolverine defeat X-24 with an Adamantium bullet that he’s been keeping from his Weapon X days for when he wanted to end his life. Afterwards, she unintentionally fulfills a vision that Yukio had for James in “The Wolverine”. Specifically, she mentioned that his death will come when he’s on his back with his blood spilled and he’s holding his “heart” in his hand. The only thing she’s ultimately half-wrong about is that it’s not beating. While that ultimately happens, Wolverine was holding Laura’s hand as he ultimately passes. As such, she takes what she’s learned throughout her journey in order to help her fellow mutants reach a prosperous future. Before they depart, she acknowledges James’ noble contribution and replaces his cross to symbolize him as an X-Man through-and-through. In that vein, she’s come to respect her genetic father and is ready to carry on what he stood for as she and her friends represent the hope for better days to come. For Dafne Keen, she had a tall order to fulfill for someone who was on the verge of becoming a teenager at the time. Not only does she deliver a strong performance in both the physical and facial realms, but she does this while she’s alongside Jackman and Stewart. In fact, she’s mostly silent throughout the first half of the movie before she finally reveals her English-speaking tongue to Wolverine. Even though this was her very first movie role, she didn’t walk into this project lacking experience. She was in a short-lived British/Spanish show from 2015 called “The Refugees”, but to go from that to X-23 is just impressive. If this is just a taste of what she has to give to the acting world, then she has a bright future ahead. If I could comment on any complaint that I have, it’s that the villains don’t leave that much of an impression. Don’t get me wrong. Richard E. Grant is committed to his part of Dr. Zander Rice, who’s essentially the head mind of Transigen, created X-24 and is the reason for why the natural birth of mutants went down. After all, he released a virus that made it happen and he has beef with James for killing his father as he escaped from the Weapon X program. Also, Boyd Holbrook gives Donald Pierce some personality and seems to be having a good time as the Reavers’ leader. However, Hugh’s double-duty as X-24 is slightly more memorable due to him being a clone of Wolverine but without Professor X’s taming and training. Despite that, they still give good performances and are only a small blip compared to everything else within this flick. In the end, this delivers a fond farewell to its titular character & his actor by giving us pulse-pounding pacing, visceral action and a story that expertly balances heartfelt character development with tumultuous drama. It caps off Hugh Jackman’s 17-year run in a heartfelt fashion and continues to build on the restored confidence for R-Rated superhero flicks with a strong willingness to take risks in order for our familiar Canucklehead’s third slash to be his best cut. (5/5)
In conclusion, this superhero film series has left a unique spot upon both the overall history of comic book movies and within the hearts of its dedicated fan base, especially mine. Yes, it’s far from perfect, especially since the lack of consistent continuity amongst its entries is its biggest flaw. Like any lengthy series, it does have its low end of films that range from OK to straight-up bad. Fortunately, it also has exceptionally awesome flicks that told strong stories, delivered awesome performances and came through with the risks that they decided to take. Because this is a movie franchise that I grew up with, it will always hold a special place in my heart, even when our merry mutants make their eventual jump into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. No matter what kind of future awaits Professor X’s team, his students, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and other notable squads waiting for their time in the cinematic sun, may those who’re looking to make the silver-screen leap or even get more faithfully adapted as opposed to last time get placed in the hands of creative people who’ll give them such X-Ceptional treatment.
X-Men (created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby) is owned by Marvel Comics.