We’ve finally reached the ultimate conclusion of #XMenWeek! Now that we’ve reviewed the movies and you’ve had a chance to get caught up on all things X-Men, it’s time to discuss which movies stand out from the others. If you are a part of our Facebook discussion group, which I highly suggest you join, you’ve had the opportunity to talk about your own personal ranking of the X-Men movies. I(Josh) have taken all of our discussion into consideration, as well as catching up on The Wolverine, and now present the Top 5 X-Men movies.
While I won’t touch on those movies that didn’t make it into the Top 5, it is worth noting we did have a sidebar discussion on our Facebook discussion group about Deadpool. The conclusion we could arrive on is Deadpool has every right to be a part of this discussion. Also, some of us have seen X-Men: Apocalypse, but we’ll keep this one off the list until you have had a chance to see it and you can decide if it belongs in the Top 5. Now, on to the list!
Harkening back to my review of the movie, it became clear to me this movie deserves to be on the list by virtue of how different it is from any other X-Men movie. In my review I touted that:
“[Deadpool] puts a different twist on the normal origin story but gives us the superhero right away; something we often don’t get until the middle of Act 2 in other superhero movies. Along with this clever narrative element, a major strength of Deadpool is how fresh and different the movie is. It breaks the mold of not just franchise movies, but studio movies in general. When dealing with an anti-hero who is far from universally loved by comic book fans and is unknown to the general public, throwing a knuckleball—or is there a pitch called the “goofball”??—with fourth wall breaks, genre-deprecating jokes, and crude humor was the right call.”
While I think the movie lacks a lot of cinematic originality and the narrative is rather boilerplate, I will always like this movie more than the same old origin formula used for First Class and Origins: Wolverine.
This entry is a lot less about the actual merits of the movie and more about the defending of its position in the number 4 slot. You may think I am crazy to have it so low, but I think with this movie we already started to see the original X-Men trilogy losing its way. What would become the giant bullseye of criticism in The Last Stand was the adding of heroes that pulled away from the main narrative. X2 suffers from the beginning stages of this. The addition of so many heroes–pairing them with opposites like Iceman vs. Pyro, Wolverine vs. Lady Deathstrike, etc.–turns the narrative from a straight line into a loop, coming around on itself and doing little more than setting up the next movie. At least The Last Stand had an end-point, right? It may be hasty, but it still ends. Sort of.
What made this movie great was Hugh Jackman. By the end of this movie it had become readily apparent Wolverine was going to be the biggest draw for any X-Men movie, and 20th Century Fox gave us no evidence to the contrary until Deadpool came out. First Class might not have had Wolverine in it, except for one great cameo, but it doesn’t wow precisely because none of the characters can own a movie quite like Jackman can. It’s probably why the movies above X2 on this Top 5 prominently feature everyone’s favorite Australian-acted Canadian superhero.
Ah, simplicity. An origin story eschewing much of the baggage and fan-pleasing decisions of the later movies. We are introduced to the main struggle common to X-Men comics. Laura summarizes really nicely in her review from earlier this week:
“There are always two immovable forces opposing each other in this film, but their “faces” are interchangeable: Nazi vs. Jew, Human vs. Mutant, Professor X vs. Magneto. The “us vs. them” argument in the film is expressed so many times, from so many different angles, that it could seem obvious and tedious; but it is actually this very repetition that causes the story to work so well. It drives home the reality that we may not be so different from those we war against. We can all manufacture justifiable arguments for our own position. As long as we protect it and ourselves by returning violence for violence and fear for fear, the cycle continues, and who is good and who is bad runs together until one is indistinguishable from the other.”
Also, Wolverine. This movie focused on Wolverine and set the precedent for every movie after it. You must have Hugh Jackman or at least have him in a Stan Lee-like cameo to make your movie a real X-Men movie. Jackman broke out in this movie and is a beloved actor now because of his iconic role as Logan. I love his story, I love the other stories, and this movie is much tighter, much better, and just as fun as the other two original movies.
2) The Wolverine
Alexis does better than I can in summing up my love for this movie:
“This is a solid film and is one of my top favorite of all the X-Men franchise. It’s willingness to take a risk and tell a story a little more outside the box makes it unique, engaging, and able to stand on its own two feet. Like most samurai based films, there is an internal tie to the American western, in that the lead is someone with an unbreakable spirit and who belongs to no one but himself. The Wolverine basically summarizes the essence of Logan’s character and what he always has been and always will be in our contemporary mythology, a Ronin with true grit.”
It’s a samurai movie, a Western, and a character study. It’s different, like Deadpool, but truer to the other X-Men movies in its commitment to high-flying action, crazy comic book-like sequences, and intensity. It’s not bogged down in introducing every villain Logan has ever fought or every superhero he has ever worked with (Origins is bad because of that). It’s so great, so fun, and it’s Hugh Jackman people! Love, like, or hate the movie, he makes it all worth it.
1) X-Men: Days of Future Past
Yeah, this is definitely the best of the bunch. Not only does it eschew most of the silliness and anachronism of it’s predecessor, First Class, but as it tells a darker narrative, it becomes more human. Loss and regrets permeate the entire movie, but the ultimate narrative is one of hope. Hope for a better future, hope for a restored past, and hope for broken relationships to be mended.
Also, the action in this movie is top-notch, original, and visually stunning! The opening action sequence is thrilling and so much fun as you watch X-Men use their powers in tandem. It also gives a chance for second-tier heroes like Bishop, Blink, Warpath, and Colossus to showcase their powers without it seeming strained or a narrative tangent. Of course, there is Quicksilver’s shining moment. It was the talked about scene from summer movies and it still stands up as one of the coolest individual superhero scenes in any movie.
Lastly, Wolverine you guys. The guy has tons of baggage and is a perfect fit to be the main protagonist of the whole movie. He’s got snark, he’s got grit, and he looks good while doing it. Also, on re-watch, when he wakes up nude in 1973 and puts on his pants, he clearly goes commando. Wolverine is a manly-man sent back to tell Xavier and Erik to man up for the future they create. Once again, while the visual elements, human story, and Bryan Singer being back at the helm directing make this movie good, Jackman as Logan makes it great by keeping it going and interjecting just enough gruff wit and hopeful cynicism.