Over the past couple of months, I took my family through all the X-Men movies, brought to us by that wonderful DVD-by-mail institution that is Netflix. I had already seen the first two movies and wanted my kids to see the coolness, so I went ahead and ordered all five.
The first X-Men delivered. It successfully brought to the screen some of America's favorite superheros: Charles Xavier, Storm, Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey, and Rogue. On the bad guy side, it brought Magneto and Mystique, plus two others I wasn't familiar with: Sabretooth and Toad.
Like in most comic books, the "bad" guys aren't just bad. Rather, they are conflicted. Magneto simply desires to preserve the future of the "mutant race." He does what he thinks is best for the mutants.
Likewise, the "good" guys aren't perfect. They also have their issues. Even Xavier with all his good intentions and moral values has his shortcomings. His naivete allows himself to be bested (as seems to happen in all the movies he's in). Wolverine and Cyclops are always at each other's throats. Rogue hates her powers.
I only have two complaints. The first being the separation of "mutants" and "humans." Aren't "mutants" still a subset of "humans"?
The second complaint is the relatively slow plot. Just like in the first Harry Potter movie, a lot of time is spent introducing the characters. The end of the movie almost feels like, "That was it?"
Still, it is a fun movie to get to know your favorite X-Men characters.
I enjoyed the sequel, X2, more than the first. The characters were already introduced, and the writers spent more time fleshing out the characters and plot. This time, the bad guy is a human, Striker. This brings an "enemy-of-my-enemy" twist where Magneto works with Xavier in a parallel play fashion.
The movie explores several different relationships. You have the complicated friend/enemy relationship between Xavier and Magneto. There's more of the Grey/Wolverine/Cyclops triangle. Mystique struggles with her intentions as she meets someone like her: Nightcrawler. Iceman and Pyro have at it as they decide which side to join. Rogue continues to deal with not being able to touch anyone. Wolverine continues to learn more about his origins.
Filled with action and cool special effects, this movie never lets up, and is still one of my favorite out of the set of five.
X-Men: The Last Stand ends the original trilogy and is the movie to end all X-Men movies. People die. Questions are answered in this epic conclusion.
When a "cure" is found, at first it's offered as a voluntary way for mutants to lose their powers and become "human." But it turns out to be not so voluntary. In fact, the anti-mutants develop this cure as a needle weapon. Shoot the mutant and he loses his powers.
Also, Jean Grey has gone hyper-evolutiony. She wants to be good but has trouble controlling her exponentially increased powers. Xavier tries to help her remain in control, while Magneto wants to help her release her powers and reach her full potential.
The movie builds to an epic Spielbergian-like battle (that is, a few good guys take on an impossibly high number of bad guys), but a lot of the deaths and losses of power seem somewhat empty. Part of that might be a sense of, "This is an X-Men movie, and some super power will bring that person back, right?" Part of it might be a lack of good writing to help us feel the loss.
Either way, if you watched and liked the first two movies, this third one is a must-see. You have to see how it ends, right?
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the 4th movie, but chronologically, it comes first. It also has a much different feel. The main constant is Hugh Jackman, the only actor to appear in all five movies. Also, the writers made every effort to remain consistent with what we learned from the first three movies.
Who is Wolverine, and how did he become who he was? Why doesn't he remember anything? How does Striker fit in, and what exactly did he do? All of these questions are answered.
It turns out that Wolverine is practically immortal, as is his older brother, Victor. Throughout the years, they stick together and watch each other. When they join a secret government team, they begin to diverge. Victor doesn't mind doing the questionable things they're asked to do, but Wolverine wants to do the right thing. He leaves the team, or at least he tries to.
This may be my second favorite movie out of the five. It's definitely another must-see if you liked the earlier movies. Easter Egg note: unlike with the trilogy movies, the "X" in 20th Century Fox is not illuminated at the beginning of the movie. Dang!
Finishing off the X-Men-athon is X-Men: First Class. This prequel begins with Xavier meeting Erik (soon to be Magneto). Erik is trying to hunt the Nazi who killed his mother. Xavier tries to help Erik control his hate and focus his powers. This leads Xavier to build his school, recruit mutants, and train them.
Kevin Bacon plays an awesome villain (as usual). However, he's so powerful that we end up with the same problem the earlier movies have. Xavier locates hundreds if not thousands of mutants, and he's only able to recruit less than ten. And somehow they're supposed to beat this experienced team of super-powered bad dudes?
I enjoyed exploring the relationship between Xavier and Erik. Together with the trilogy, it completes their operatic story. This was the strongest part of the movie.
Also, we learn more of the relationship between Erik and Mystique. We learn why Mystique walks around naked in the trilogy movies. However, this part of the movie bored me. I don't know how many times I can take, "You're beautiful just the way you are."
A word of warning: this last movie happens to be the least kid-friendly. My kids pointed out that the first movie was okay. The second had a couple more sexy scenes. The third even more. The Wolverine movie wasn't that bad, but First Class was definitely the worst, as the director made sure to push that PG-13 rating to its furthest limits. He included some unnecessary Vegas scenes with half naked girls. And Wolverine's cameo appearance featured the movie's one F-bomb. That was a funny scene except for the fact that Wolverine never swore like that in the other movies. To me he looked more like the Comedian from Watchmen.
If you watched the trilogy and liked those movies, you might as well watch this one, too and finish up the story.