Well, I’m not in the greatest mood tonight. Long story short, I asked for this weekend off of work, and my boss forgot. This isn’t the first time he’s forgotten either. Also, I worked until 11 even though I’m not supposed to be available after 6 on Fridays. Furthermore, unloading the trucks was a pain with a power jack that keeps shutting off in the middle of moving it, because the new ones are unreliable pieces of junk. If there’s any consolation, being in a bad mood is a great time to write a rant I’ve been planning for a while, so let’s talk about Fox’s X-Men movies.
So far, there are only 2 X-Men movies they’ve released that I don’t have any major complaints about; Days of Future Past and Deadpool. With Days of Future Past, they did the best they could with the way the X-Men Cinematic Universe had been set up. Banshee, Emma Frost, Angel Salvador and several others were already ruined in First Class, so killing them off between movies was the best thing to do for them. I’ll get more into that later, but let’s talk about each movie in order of release. Also I’m skipping the TV movie Generation X because it’s intentionally cheap and cheesy, plus the ending is trippy in kind of an entertaining way. I’ll give Generation X that much.
To give credit where credit is due, this movie did a lot to help bring superhero movies back after Batman and Robin nearly killed the genre. Blade did it first, but still. Wolverine’s characterization was good, yet they didn’t focus on him way too much like most of the later movies. Xavier, Magneto and Jean Grey were also handled fairly well. That’s about it really, because the plot is rather silly. I can forgive the bad special effects because of this movie’s very low budget, but there are things in the movie I just can’t forgive.
How the machine taps into Magneto’s powers to alter human DNA is never adequately explained, and most of the other characters are poorly handled.
Halle Berry is a great actress, but she’s miscast as Storm. Storm is supposed to be bold, charismatic and intimidating. Berry is not those things. She’s also completely unconvincing with her African accent, so they gave up in later movies. Also, some of Storm’s lines in this movie are dreadful.
Cyclops is just boring. It’s true that in the comics he’s normally the straight man, but he’s also a touch snarky, a tactical mastermind and when he gets angry, he’s almost as scary as Wolverine in the middle of a berserker rage.
Rogue is so not Rogue. I won’t even get into details because pretty much everything is wrong about her portrayal.
Senator Kelly is completely wasted. He’s a major character in the X-Men who affected them politically for decades, yet they kill him off in one movie.
Mystique is alright, but before that point in the comics, she and Magneto rarely worked together. Their relationship came completely out of nowhere.
What’s really dumb is that behind the scenes, director Brian Singer didn’t allow anyone to take comics onto the set, worried that it might affect the way the actors portrayed their characters. Watching this movie now, I can tell that they hardly knew anything about the X-Men, the complex themes behind the franchise and most of the characters’ personalities.
Again I’m willing to forgive Brian Singer for some things since it helped restart superhero movies, but it’s clearly made by people who didn’t understand the franchise.
Unlike the first movie, I actually enjoy this one. It feels like Brian Singer learned at least a few things about the franchise since making the first movie, and he even based this on the graphic novel God Loves Man Kills. That said, I still have big complaints about this movie. For one, Nightcrawler’s characterization is so wrong. They got his religious side down, even if it feels off, but they completely ignored his adventurous side.
Also I didn’t mention this with the first movie because I wanted to get going, but this movie seals the Americanization of the X-Men franchise. The whole point of the X-Men is about learning to tolerate differences between different races, lifestyles and cultures. Why is the Australian Pyro American in these movies? Why is the very Russian Colossus American?
This movie also completely ignores the main theme in God Loves, Man Kills. It’s about the difference between moderate religion and extremism, using Nightcrawler as a focus character to emphasize the point. For years I thought this was because Singer was a bit nervous about religious themes in movies, and that’s not anything to get upset over, but it’s still a huge missed opportunity. X-Men Apocalypse changed that – more on that later.
There’s also no mention of any connection between Mystique and Nightcrawler, neither here nor in X-Men: Apocalypse. In the comics, Mystique is his biological mother.
I could go on, but I a while back I wrote a very long blog post comparing X-Men United to God Loves, Man Kills. You can read that here if you like.
Almost everything is wrong with this movie. Let’s start with a few characters that are ruined, wasted or both.
Juggernaut: Did you know that the Juggernaut is actually Xavier’s brother? If you’ve only seen the movies you’d have no clue. He’s a powerful enough villain with enough of a personal connection to Xavier that with a good enough writer, he could be the only villain in an X-Men movie and it would be great. Here, he’s just a dumb chump who’s unceremoniously taken down by running into a wall when he’s too close to Leech. Also director Brett Ratner just had to make him say the Juggernaut meme, because this movie wasn’t dumb enough already.
Angel. His characterization is alright in this movie, but here’s the thing – he’s a founding member of the X-Men in the comics. He’s barely in this movie, therefore he’s completely wasted.
Quinten Quire. Comic fans, did you know he’s in this movie? He’s the guy with quills and is one of the few Brotherhood members who actually get decent screen time. Movie only fans, did you know that in the comics he’s a powerful telepath and doesn’t have quills? He’s originally from Grant Morrison’s run, as a rebellious teenager at the Xavier Institute who causes a riot on a day the X-Men opened the mansion to the public. He probably shouldn’t be in the movies at all, but if they made a live action TV show, he’d be fine there. Bringing him into this movie and drastically changing his powers like this is a travesty.
Callisto. For some stupid reason, they gave Callisto Quicksilver’s powers, when she’s a mutant with powers similar to Wolverine. Her reflexes, strength, speed and healing are all somewhat enhanced, and she leads a group of ugly mutants living underground known as the Morlocks. Instead of making a movie about them, she’s wasted here and her powers are pointlessly altered beyond recognition. Also they gave her Caliban’s power to track mutants, for some stupid reason. The only thing they did right with her is that she fought Storm.
Psylocke’s in this movie too, but she doesn’t really do anything or say anything. X-Men Apocalypse didn’t really improve on that very much. Also she’s an ally of the X-Men’s in the comics, not their enemy like in both of these movies. Either way, she might as well not be here.
Honestly, the only new characters who don’t feel wasted are Beast and Kitty Pryde. Kelsey Grammer is fantastic as Beast and he actually gets a lot of screen time. Ellen Page is also great as Kitty Pryde, and she gets more character development than pretty much anyone that’s not Wolverine, Jean Grey or Magneto. So I guess not everything about this movie is bad.
The plot is also a complete waste. They shoved together plots about the Cure, the Dark Phoenix Saga, Magneto’s war and Jean Grey’s origins into a 90 minute mess. The DPS in particular was built up over 4 years in the comics and involved a cosmic entity that ate a star while it possessed Jean Grey, the Shi’ar Empire intervening, the Hellfire Club and a very tragic ending. A DPS movie doesn’t need to touch all the cosmic stuff, but it still needs to feel big and focused. It’s widely considered the greatest X-Men story of all time and up there with the greatest Marvel Comics stories ever made. Here, it takes up about like 30 minutes of a 90 minute movie. What a waste. The cure story arc shouldn’t be in this movie at all.
There’s also way too much focus on Wolverine, to the point where you might as well call this “Wolverine and the X-Men”. Even the comic series of the same name was more character balanced than this movie.
Everything about this movie is wrong and I refuse to ever watch it again. It’s not even worth talking about, so let’s move on.
A lot of people really like this movie and while there is some good stuff in it, I can’t understand why. Like I said in the X-Men United section, the franchise is supposed to be all about diversity. This movie probably commits the most sins of them all in that category.
For one, this movie feels racist. There are only two characters of colour in this movie, Darwin and Angel Salvador. Darwin’s ability is to adapt to pretty much anything and survive. In his first appearance in the comics, it was revealed that his body instinctively turned into pure energy to be absorbed into an Omega powered energy manipulator before the two of them were launched into space. They survived in space for decades. Since returning to Earth, Darwin’s survived hundreds of bullets, fire, being underwater for extended periods of time, and when he spent months in a poor country, his body even changed appearance long term to blend into the crowds better. When his body decides he can’t adapt fast enough to survive a bunch of different attacks at once, he instinctively teleports away. The fun of his character isn’t wondering if he’ll survive, but how he’ll survive. What happens to him in First Class? Sebastian Shaw shoves energy down his throat and kills him. Yeah.
Angel Salvador on the other hand switches sides to the Hellfire Club without any character development whatsoever. So you have two black characters – one is the only good guy to die, and the other becomes a villain for no good reason, leaving behind the mutants who treated her as a friend. That’s why it feels racist to me.
This movie also continues the Americanization of the X-Men Franchise, one that’s never rectified in later entries. Instead of being a Scottish medical doctor who’s friendly with mutants, Moira Mactaggert is a CIA agent. Instead of being a somewhat rich Irishman, Banshee is an American teenager. Instead of being a snob, Emma Frost is boring. Also why did they bring Azazel into this movie? Azazel came straight out of “The Draco”, which is quite possibly the worst X-Men story of all time. There are plenty of other villainous teleporters you could pick from, like The Vanisher, who’s existed much longer than Azazel.
That said, I won’t complain about the changes they made to Sabastian Shaw’s powers. Sure, in the comics he only becomes physically stronger and damage resistant when he absorbs energy, but for the sake of a movie, explosive powers are more theatrical. Also, the character work with Xavier, Magneto, Beast and Mystique is all very good in this movie.
I actually like the first two acts of this movie. The Japan setting works well for a Wolverine movie and making him lose his powers to explore his venerability is a nice idea. Sure, Mariko is a bit boring and not charismatic enough compared to her comic counterparts, and Yukio isn’t nearly as interesting as she should be, but Wolverine himself is great here.
But then the third act ruins everything. Instead of being a mutant, the Silver Samurai is an old dude in a giant mechanic suit. Also, the theatrical version completely skips out on a big ninja fight toward the end of the movie. The Unleashed edition (basically an R-rated extended cut) does have that ninja fight though. It’s an awesome 3 minutes of Ninjas on motorcycles, Yukio driving a snowblower that grinds them up and sprays blood everywhere, and Wolverine tanking an explosion to cap it off. So this movie isn’t bad for Wolverine fans, but make sure you watch the Unleashed Cut and forget the theatrical version ever existed. It still doesn’t fix the Silver Samurai or some of the boring side characters, but it’s a huge improvement.
Also, they turned Viper into a mutant with some sort of poison spit and skin shedding powers for no reason. In the comics, she’s a human, and started off as a sadistic assassin for Hydra. She eventually rose in power within the organization, but still loves killing and torturing people. She does frequently interact with Wolverine in the comics though, so it’s not like her mere presence in this movie is a bad thing.
As much as I kind of like this movie though, it pales in comparison to the original Wolverine mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller.
Like I said, I have no major complaints about this movie. Sure, they didn’t sent Kitty Pryde back in time like in the original, but they gave her “time phasing” powers to give her an important role anyway. That’s enough for me. It’s not as good as the original comic, or the Days of Future Past story arcs in either the 90’s cartoon or the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon from 2009, but it’s about as good as they could have made it with the way they messed up the X-Men Universe with previous movies. Also, Quicksilver is awesome in this movie.
That’s not to say there isn’t a downside. Mystique starts heading toward a more heroic role toward the end, instead of her classic terrorist role. I’m not sure whether this is because of Jennifer Lawrence’s popularity, but by eventually turning Mystique into a good guy in X-Men Apocalypse, Singer made her boring. You can tell in X-Men: Apocalypse that she doesn’t want to be in that movie. But now I’m getting ahead of myself, and there’s one more movie to talk about before getting into Apocalypse.
This is by far the most faithful adaptation Fox has ever done for the X-Men Universe, so there’s not all that much to talk about here. It’s also a very fun movie that embraces its antihero. With the smallest budget any of these movies have had in years, it’s earned the most money out of all the X-Men movies, even with its R-Rating. I really hope Fox doesn’t learn the wrong lessons here.
The only thing that’s unfaithful about this movie is Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and the changes they make are actually good. The original character’s only claim to fame is that she died in the first story she appeared in. It’s a great story arc about the Genosha genocide that kicked off Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run, but she’s only shown as a corpse that Emma Frost is carrying. NTW re-appeared for a bit in the Necrosha story arc, only for her soul to be absorbed into Selene in the ancient mutant’s attempts to become a god. Negasonic Teenage Warhead is kind of awesome in this movie.
I’ve now had enough time to sort out my thoughts regarding X-Men: Apocalypse, and the more I think about it, the less I like this movie. There is stuff to enjoy, like Quicksilver’s scene (even if he’s overpowered this time round), the Weapon X escape sequence and some of the other fight scenes. I also like the way Apocalypse dealt with Quicksilver in their brief fight scene – that’s actually a clever moment. That said, this movie suffers the same kinds of problems as The Last Stand, as well as some whole new problems.
From a filmmaking standpoint, this movie is overstuffed with too much story and a lot of the characters who get no development whatsoever, just like The Last Stand. Like Magneto’s mindless attack in the third movie, Apocalypse’s plan doesn’t make that much sense when you think about it, because tearing apart all those buildings would also kill a lot of mutants. The climax is also way over the top, and unlike First Class and Days of Future Past, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of consequence for all the destruction that the mutants cause.
Cyclops is still boring, Psylocke only gets a handful of lines and is given a very outdated costume with no explanation, and Angel’s even more wasted in this movie than in The Last Stand. Nightcrawler is closer to his comic counterpart in this movie, but they still didn’t quite capture his adventurous personality. Storm is also an improvement from a charisma and accent standpoint, but there’s no good reason or her to join Apocalypse. Also her hair doesn’t turn white because of Apocalypse – it’s part of her mutation. This movie also gives a weird explanation for Xavier going bald. Maybe this movie should be renamed X-Men: Hair Origins (I can’t take credit for that one).
From an adaptation standpoint, this movie is a whole bunch of missed opportunities, Angel being the most glaring example. In the comics, he was a founding member of the X-Men and is good friends to the others. He lost his wings after they were damaged during the Morlock Massacre, and then someone he mistakenly trusted amputated them against his will. He’s broken by this, and ends up turning to the wrong people to get his wings back. These people (secretly working for Apocalypse) give him the metal wings but also brainwash him into an emotionless killing machine known as Archangel, Apocalypse’s horsemen of death. It’s a very tragic story where the X-Men need to fight their former friend. In this movie, there’s no emotional connection whatsoever. He fought Nightcrawler at the start of the movie and lost, and even with his power upgrade, he loses to Nightcrawler again at the end of the movie.
Apocalypse himself is the biggest wasted opportunity though. In the comics he’s the big bad of the X-Men Universe, the guy who always brings an extinction level threat. Making him the first villain that Jean Grey, Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Storm face is so stupid. You’re supposed to build them up to Apocalypse, not face off with him on their first real mission.
There’s also a lot more mythology behind Apocalypse’s four horsemen that this movie completely skips out on. There are the horsemen of Famine, Pestilence, War and Death, each with enhanced and often expanded abilities. Death in particular is also meant to replace Apocalypse in the event that he dies, which led to the very good Uncanny X-Force story ark, the Dark Angel Saga (probably the last truly great story arc in Rick Remender’s run to be honest). Storm was never a horseman, Psylocke briefly became one during the Dark Angel saga but was never one for Apocalypse, and Magneto pretty much always fought against Apocalypse in the comics. He killed Apocalypse at the end of the Age of Apocalypse alternate timeline. When you only have Apocalypse in one movie, there isn’t room for any of this.
In the movie, Apocalypse claims himself to be God, and it’s suggested that he inspired at least part of the bible. As a Christian I find this mildly offensive, and this is what I was referring to in the X-Men United section. As far as I recall, Apocalypse never really referred to himself as God during the modern storylines. Sure, there were times in Ancient Egypt where some of his followers worshipped him as an Egyptian god, and that kind of stuff happened all the time in the polytheistic empires of old. In truth, Apocalypse is a Darwinian extremist who believes he was sent to enact the Survival of the Fittest. He doesn’t want to kill all humans either – he wants the stronger to survive regardless of their species. He does however want to weed out the weaker mutants so that they can continue to grow in strength as a species. So in a lot of ways, this movie got Apocalypse’s motivations wrong.
They also got his powers wrong. Sure, he has telekinesis and telepathy in the comics, but not on the level shown in this movie. The powers he uses the most are his energy manipulation powers and his complete molecular control of his body. He uses this molecular control to turn his arms into energy guns on occasion, make himself physically invincible, pretty much instantly heal from wounds and when things get intense, he’ll grow in size. He prefers to make himself strong and beat the crap out of someone when he can. Oh, and his blood can heal other mutants, but it’s lethal to humans. They did get one thing right though – Apocalypse does use powerful mutants as vessels to keep his immortality.
This should have been a trilogy, so here’s an idea of how it should have been done. For the first movie, Apocalypse is only in the background and you never see him. Instead, build the X-Men team in response to some mysterious mutant kidnappings. Include Angel on this team. Maybe you include the Morlocks in this and there’s a confrontation between them and the X-Men. In any case, Angel loses his wings about half-way through the movie, and like the comics, he’s devastated. He turns to the wrong people, becomes Archangel, and beats the rest of the X-Men on his own the first time they meet. At the end of the movie, they manage to help Archangel overcome his brainwashing, and he helps the X-Men defeat Apocalypse’s other servants.
In the second movie, you introduce the other three Horsemen, and Angel explains their mythology. He’s also still suffering his aggressive nature from his brainwashing and wants revenge, to the point where he’s needlessly putting his life in danger. This is something he overcomes by the end of the movie. Consider allowing Wolverine to join the X-Men in this movie as well. The X-Men, along with Archangel, manage to stop the three horsemen from kidnapping a bunch of government officials that Apocalypse wants for his plans, but then the new Death reveals himself – Sabretooth (whether Wolverine is in this movie or not). Apocalypse reveals himself at the end of the movie after the X-Men defeat the four horsemen at a nuclear launch site, and he spanks all of them on his own, ending the movie in a failure. This is where he launches all the nukes into space, and then detonates them high enough so that nobody dies, but the EMP blast disables all electronics across the entire planet.
In the third movie, Apocalypse reveals his full plan, and then you sort-of have the same story as the X-Men: Apocalypse movie, just with fully developed characters on both sides of the conflict, make it less over the top, and allow Magneto to kill Apocalypse, not Phoenix.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on all the problems with the X-Men movies. I won’t’ get into them, but there are a lot of rumours that my favourite X-Men character, X-23, will be in next year’s Wolverine 3. There’s actually a lot of evidence to support this. That said, I’m worried that they’ll screw her up if it’s true. It clearly wouldn’t be the first time. I love the X-Men franchise – it’s what got me into Superhero movies, and eventually, comics in general. I would love for the movies to be as good as the comics, but they’re not. That said, I don’t think it’s too late to save the franchise without a complete reboot. There are a lot of characters who can never be recovered for a slew of reasons, but there is still plenty of great material in the comics to work off of. Hopefully they’ll learn the right lessons from Deadpool and steer this franchise in the right direction.