Comic Book Movie Rewatch: X-Men Trilogy

I’ve decided to go back and watch a bunch of movies based on comic books. No real reason, just something I thought would be fun. This time it was the X-Men Trilogy.

X-Men-2000X-Men

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes critics: 81%

Rotten Tomatoes audience: 83%

My Rating: 6/10

It’s actually pretty impressive that X-Men is as good as it is. It has a pretty large cast, but gives very little background on most of the characters, and it’s still a solid movie. It didn’t age as well as I would have hoped, and it moves a little slowly, but it’s a decent movie.

The director, Bryan Singer, does a nice job of balancing the cast, but the movie really has 4 main characters: Rogue, Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto. Everyone else can be considered minor. This is both a strength and weakness in the movie. It’s nice that the movie is able to stay focused on these four, and it helps keep the story tight, but the X-Men are a big group, and there are a lot of interesting characters that get pushed into the background.

The casting is interesting. Two of the main characters, Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), were played by relatively unknown actors at the time. Jackman’s done a great job with Wolverine, but he’s definitely not the comic book character. In the comics, Wolverine has always been short with a nasty temper. Jackman’s Wolverine is tall (6’2 / 188 cm) and gruff, but is a bit of a softy, at least when it comes to Rogue. The other two main characters are played by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, and are perfectly cast.

When it comes to the minor characters, the only one I really have a problem with is Halle Berry. She was a terrible choice for Storm. I think part of the problem is that she’s too recognizable for a minor character. It was hard to not see her as Halle Berry. Also, her accent was awful and inconsistent.

There could have been a little more action, but it was nice that very little of the action was superfluous (excepting Mystique’s weird fighting). Story wise, the movie’s fine. It’s not a great story, but it serves well as an introduction to he characters. Since so little time is spent on background information, there are a lot of little nods to fans familiar with the X-Men, but that’s it. Ultimately this movie is just an introduction. It was pretty obvious that it would do well enough to warrant a sequel, so it seems like this installment is really just a set up for the next movie.

x2X2: X-Men United

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes critics: 86%

Rotten Tomatoes audience: 85%

My Rating: 7/10

Despite having a lot of the same problems as the first movie, X2 is by far the superior movie. It does this by taking everything the first movie did well, and doing it even better. The focus of the movie is still on Wolverine, but it also branches out and gives Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm larger roles. Beyond the main team, Rogue is still heavily involved, while Iceman and Pyro also get some time to shine.

It’s a little hard to say, but Stryker is a far better villain in this movie than Magneto was in the first film. A lot of that has to do with the story. As villains, they have a lot in common. Both come across as people doing the wrong thing for what they believe to be the right reasons. They both use and manipulate humans and mutants to achieve their ends, and both of them have a blatant hatred for their foes. The reason that Stryker is the better villain is twofold, first, he doesn’t have any powers of his own. He has to do everything against people that are individually much more powerful than he is. Second, he had a larger scale. While Magneto targets only world leaders, and doesn’t aim to kill, Stryker targets the entire population with the intent of destruction. The stakes are much higher, he also gets much closer to achieving his goal.

The movie still has its issues. I didn’t really care for all of the casting. I still thought Halle Berry wasn’t right for the role of Storm, though I’m glad she dropped her attempt at an accent. I also didn’t really care for Alan Cummings as Nightcrawler, though I think a lot of that was how the character was written. The other big problem I had with the movie was that the mutant/gay parallel came across a little too heavy handed at times (specifically the scene with Bobby’s parents),  it wasn’t overwhelming or anything, it was just strong enough to pull me out of the story.

The hints at the third movie were a great way to end the film. Even though this film stands on its own far better than either of the other two, it still transitions from and to the surrounding movies very well.

 

x3X-Men 3: The Last Stand

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes critics: 58%

Rotten Tomatoes audience: 62%

My Rating: 5/10

Even though it was easily the worst of the three movies, this was a little better than I remembered. No much, but a little. I think one of the big problems I had with the movie was how far it departed from the comics. I didn’t like how Cyclops and Professor X were written out of the story. I wasn’t a fan of how power tiers were suddenly introduced to the story. I didn’t really care for the way Phoenix was involved, and I really didn’t like how sentimental and emotional Wolverine was.

Despite all that, the movie is okay. If I ignore everything from the comics, and focus just on the movies, then it isn’t quite as bad. It’s still not great, but it isn’t horrendous.

I’ll try and focus on some good things. The first thing that comes to mind is Kelsey Grammar as Hank McCoy. That was excellent casting. I was also pretty happy with some of the other characters that made appearances. I was a little surprised about how well some of the effects hold up, especially the opening scene where Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are made to look younger. The CGI was convincing enough that I had to double check on whether or not their appearances were changed digitally or through makeup.

Going back to the characters, I wish some of them had been more involved. Angel is a great character, but he’s almost an afterthought in the movie. The same can be said for Shadowcat and Colossus. I wanted to see more of them and how they fit with the team. This may be one of the more minor problems with the movie, but it’s an important one. The cast was just too big, so no one got enough screen time.

The movie does conclude the trilogy pretty neatly. That may actually be a problem. The events of the movie are huge and devastating, but at the end, everyone seems to just forgive and forget. It stretches the suspension of disbelief, especially after so much of the series had focused on the animosity between humans and mutants.

***

On the whole, the whole series is a little bit of a disappointment. I remember liking the first two movies a lot when they came out, but after rewatching them, I see that they fall far short of the quality I now see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even though the X-Men franchise has been managed far better than the other properties that are out of Marvel’s hands, I still think that Marvel could do a better job.

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