X-Men franchise remains behind Marvel Cinematic Universe
By the time X-Men: Apocalypse was over, I was left with this hopeless realization that this will always be as good as the X-Men movie franchise will ever get. The film was hardly a Fantastic Four style disaster, but it was disappointing. This is 20th Century Fox’s license that should be trading cinematic haymakers with Walt Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe for comic book movie supremacy. Instead, it’s a distant second.
As Magneto, Mystique, Professor Xavier battled Apocalypse, several things became clear in regard to the X-Men movie franchise.
Hugh Jackman is the one of the most appreciative superstars of his generation. His film career has long since transcended the X-Men films, but he dutifully suits up whether in a small cameo or a full-fledged starring role. His take on Wolverine easily remains one of the best aspects of this saga.
Even in a limited stint this time out, Wolverine’s scene felt closer to the version of Wolverine comic fans have longed for since the first film debuted in 2000. That’s one thing we learned from X-Men: Apocalypse. Here’s five more notable lessons from the 10th film in the X-Men movie franchise.
It’s time for some new blood behind the camera
Bryan Singer directed the first two and the last two X-Men films. But if we’re being honest, Matthew K. Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class felt more like an X-Men movie than anything Singer did before or since. Just like Superman Returns, Singer has shown an inability to really go in depth with the characters only being able to approach them from a serious surface level.
His X-Men have little complexities to their personalities and behave in predictable manners we’ve seen a half dozen times before. X-Men: Apocalypse felt like watching X-Men: Groundhog Day as it was the same old stale conversations we’ve heard before with Charles Xavier attempting to help Magneto and Mystique see the good and humanity and his need to have them by his side.
Sure, he can stage a cute Quicksilver racing scene, but that’s the extent of his creativity. And with a license like the X-Men that’s just begging for some visionary to explore other realms of the X-Men universe from the Shi’ar, the Brood, Mr. Sinister, The Marauders and The Goblin Queen, it just seems like there’s so much more to tackle than Singer provides with his myopic take on the franchise and whom he considers the main focus.
Magneto and Mystique are the saga’s real stars
Remember how after the prequels finished playing out and The Star Wars saga kind of evolved into the rise, fall and eventual redemption of Anakin Skywalker? That’s how the X-Men series has unfolded. Cyclops, Storm and Jean Grey are there from time to time, but at the heart of these movies is Professor X’s efforts to redeem his friends Magneto and Mystique.
Of course to any fan of the X-Men before they became box office stars, this is a continued source of annoyance as series mainstays get relegated to second tier status in favor of the villains. Just imagine what an X-Men movie would look like if Cyclops, Rogue, Storm, Colossus, Archangel, Psylocke, Gambit, Nightcrawler and Iceman were the featured characters instead of supporting characters only good for the big fights. As much fun as Days of Future Past was, the future sequence has been the only time we’ve seen Iceman treated like a serious threat, Kitty Pryde given anything to do and the sole appearance of longtime member Bishop.
This is where the casting coup of adding Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender to the series has hurt more than helped. Sure, they offer a certain more acting credibility than James Marsden and Famke Janssen, but it’s come at the expense of broadening the scope of the mutant world.
The villains deserve better
From Dark Phoenix, The Juggernaut, Blob, Sabretooth, and now Apocalypse, the X-Men villains have way too often come up looking incredibly lame. The only villains not named Magneto and Mystique who were portrayed as any kind of threat were The Sentinels and that was because it would take more work to make mutant killer robots weak.
Apocalypse’s problem, like so many before him was he lacked significant screen time to truly be either memorable or menacing. In the X-Men universe, even Loki would have a tough time standing out.
Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg’s desire to make Magneto and Mystique relevant to everything including aligning with the bad guy helps undermine their significance for characters who have long since been explored and developed. It really should be simple, but the next X-Men film absolutely needs Magneto and Mystique to sit out to allow the villain to have a shot at becoming the next Joker or Loki.
More likely though, Singer and Kinberg will dust off Stryker, have the team bet at odds with Magneto and Mystique again for the seventh time and try to act like the fresh coat of paint of setting the film in a new decade will make all the difference.
FOX still doesn’t get the X-Men’s true potential
Warner Bros. gets a lot of grief for burying its proverbial head in the sand while the Marvel Cinematic Universe was being established, but FOX deserves some heat as well. Granted, the X-Men series legitimized the comic book movie genre beyond Superman and Batman. The X-Men films have been a consistent moneymaker, but it’s been a relic of the last decade. They feel like they’re stuck on rewind instead of evolving.
The MCU doesn’t have a monopoly on its formula of sifting through decades of comic book continuity to get to the essence of the character, but they’re the only ones who realize that’s the best equation for box office success.
It’s not just dumb luck that The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War and Iron Man 3 are 3-6 on the all-time best opening weekend list. It’s no coincidence MCU boasts seven of the all-time top 20 highest grossing comic book movies. And that numbers 19 and 20 are X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Days of Future Past respectively.
With the opportunity to ‘get the series right’ thanks to Days of Future Past’s reboot opportunity, FOX stayed the course. That decision proved FOX executives are fine making a consistent $240 million instead of coming close to doubling that amount like their Marvel/Disney counterparts.
The best X-Man wasn’t in Apocalypse
Probably the most shocking aspect of Deadpool was how dead-on the portrayal of the Merc with a Mouth was from the source material. Deadpool didn’t stray far at all from his comic roots. Another welcome surprise was the treatment of Colossus, who actually acted and sounded like the X-Men’s Russian powerhouse.
It was kind of crazy that Colossus was treated better in a supporting role in Deadpool than he’s ever been handled in X-Men films. Typically, he’s just the near mute bruiser who turns shiny and throws a few punches. In Deadpool, Colossus’ refreshing optimism and good nature was on full display and it served as a reminder that Colossus would be a lot of fun playing off the cheerful Nightcrawler, jaded Wolverine, regal Storm and authoritative Storm.
And how has FOX still not managed to deliver even one X-Men scene with the legendary classic team with Cyclops, Phoenix, Wolverine, Banshee, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler?
Bottom line, Colossus felt like a Marvel Cinematic Universe portrayal of the character and if nothing else, FOX should seriously consider bringing Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick handle screenwriting duties for the next X-Men film. They at least have more than a passing knowledge of the X-Men and have the respective characters’ voices down right.
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics