Thursday, August 25, 2011

Countdown: The X-Men movies

Lists rule, don’t they?

Over the last week I re-watched all of the live-action X-Men films, an act inspired by watching the first volume of the 90s X-Men cartoon. This is the film franchise that is largely responsible for the 2000s boom in superhero movies. X-Men came out in 2000 and by the end of the decade a superhero or comic book property attached to a movie had basically become turned into a license to print money.

Unless you were the poor soul trying to get Jonah Hex made, that is.

For the rest of the week, I’ll be posting a countdown-style list of the X-Men movies, from worst to best. Also, posters!

5. X-Men: The Last Stand

A complete and utter mess. I’m not specifically opposed to killing off important characters in movies. Hell, I’m all for it if the movie is going to do it well. X-Men seems, on paper, like a property that is just aching for some of the big guns to die. Look at the poster above; there are nine mutants on it, none of which is Magneto or his Brotherhood or even one of the Morlocks that start following him throughout the movie. That’s also not counting any of the non-mutant characters and it doesn’t include Iceman or Colossus. That’s a ton of mutants. The easiest thing to do would be to criticize this movie for having too many mutants.

The problem isn’t “too many,” though. The problem is the way everything is handled. Cyclops and Professor X are killed off in short order. Mystique is depowered early on. Rogue and Magneto are depowered by the end of the flick. Rogue is a lot less important than she was in the first two films, as is Iceman. Angel and Colossus rarely show up and don’t have much to work with when they do. The Morlocks are just generic bad guys; I don’t even think Callisto’s name is given.

What this boils down to is writing. The entire creative team changed between the second film (which was mostly consistent with the first) and the third. In the process, characters like Rogue and Iceman, the main “kids” in the first two who had plenty of screen time, are shoved aside here. The worst part is that they’re not really replaced. Ellen Page’s turn as Kitty Pryde is fun, but much like Angel and Colossus, she isn’t around all that much. The lack of consistency in the writing abruptly drops characters we’ve grown to care about and half-heartedly replace them with new characters.

Mostly, though, the movie is just streamlined to be even more Wolverine-centric than the previous two. Wolverine is the “only one who can stop” Jean. Of course. There he is leading the X-Men into the final battle. Even at the beginning of the movie, he has no interest in being a leader. What the hell?

Another problem with the movie is too much happens. Most Kitty screen time is dedicated to Iceman and Rogue getting jealous in a subplot that is barely touched upon. Rogue and Iceman were one of the main storylines in X2 and yet here they’re swimming upstream. There’s an entire, awful subplot with political leaders, too. Josef Sommer, playing “The President” (not any specific president mind you, just The President) gets this really horrible bit where he stares straight into the camera and starts rambling threats to Magneto. It’s pretty surreal, actually, and ripped straight out of a bad 1980s action flick. The camera doesn’t move and he doesn’t move his eyes away from it. It’s the low point in a movie full of them.

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