The Most Memorable X-Men Moments: The Ups and Downs of a Revolutionary, yet Frustrating, Franchise
The 20 year-run of 20th Century Fox and Marvel’s famed X-Men saga has finally come to an end as X-Men: Dark Phoenix hit cinemas this month. An end of an era (or so they say) for all our mutant friends and foes as we say goodbye to this revolutionary – yet absolutely frustrating – franchise, and prepare to usher in Disney’s takeover. I’d love to say that it ended with a bang, a movie that had me in tears as I saw Michael Fassbender put on Magneto’s helmet for the very last time while James McAvoy rolled around in his wheelchair with two fingers on his temple, but sadly, I cannot. Despite the X-Men being my all-time favorite Marvel team by far, I walked out of the cinema with nothing but my disappointment, which is (sadly) a fitting way to end such confusing series of movies.
Let’s start with a short history lesson. It is the 2000th year of our Lord – a time before the Thanos’ nutsack of a chin – when the world lived without the emergence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mark Ruffalo was the hotshot leading man of romance movies, Robert Downey Jr. was in jail, and I myself was learning how to crawl. Marvel superhero films were basically unheard of. That all changed, however, with Fox’s surprising hit, the 2000 release of X-Men. This film was a game-changer for the industry. It felt somewhat like the transition made by the basketball industry, which went from wearing panties in the 80s to “damn I wanna look just like Mike” in the 90s. Instead of cheesy dialogues and hideous costumes, the X-Men were kicking ass with sleek all-black outfits donned by a star-studded cast. In simple terms, superheroes on the big screen finally looked cool. Fox then followed up their success with an even better sequel in X2 ( I’ll never forget the opening scene where Nightcrawler is “bamf-ing” through the white house with ease). The series, so far, looked like a triumph – that is, until Fox decided to top it all off with complete a pile of garbage in X-Men: The Last Stand, starting the inescapable pattern of good movies being followed up by bad ones, a trend that would haunt them (and us) to this very day.
But that’s still okay; I mean, even the MCU has a bunch of bad movies! Why do they get a pass? How come the flops of the MCU never seem to bite them in the ass quite as hard? Well, the issue of the X-Men series goes beyond the inability to string together three consecutive good movies. No, it’s not the shortage of witty moments or lack of action-packed sequences. Rather, it’s the idea that unlike the MCU, the X-Men series never could quite establish a sense of continuity between their movies. We tend to ignore how awful Thor 2: The Dark World was because we see how it somehow connects to the reality stone plot in Infinity War. On the other hand, we complain about how terrible X-Men: Origins was because, frankly, what the fuck was the point of that movie. The MCU is so interconnected; in a sense, we don’t see the movies as individual films, but rather pieces in a complex puzzle. On the other end of the spectrum, the X-Men series is one filled with plot holes, different actors/actresses playing the same character, tired reboots, and unnecessary spin-offs. Each movie appeared as though it had its own entirely new agenda, leaving the audience frequently confused and ultimately failing to craft a bigger picture for this cinematic universe.
However, it would be unfair not to mention the spectacular moments that the series had. There were glimmers of hope of X-Men: First Class and X-Men Days of Future Past (my personal favorite superhero flick). And lest we forget Deadpool, Deadpool 2, and Logan, all masterpieces that redefined the industry by being the first R-rated superhero films. By being non-canon, Deadpool and Logan were not part of the messy universe the X-Men franchise had created. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, they proved themselves to be great standalone movies. One can only wonder why Fox couldn’t apply the same formula to all their films, similar to how the MCU ran things. I’d also like to mention that the series did a perfect job depicting one of the best villains ever, Magneto (props to Mckellan and Fassbender). Lastly, it is my intention to give a personal standing ovation to Hugh Jackman for being bad-ass in every single movie, despite the stumbling plots.
At the end of the day, the one thing that will always bother me is all of the wasted potential this franchise had. Because besides being known for their vibrant personalities and, obviously, their beautiful school, the themes of the comic’s X-Men ran much deeper than that of the Avengers or Justice League. The X-Men broke barriers by tackling topics like racism and discrimination, and pointing out that there really is nothing wrong with being different. These rich and well-written themes were concepts that, due to their own structural flaws, the films could never quite do justice.
As a parting gift, I’ve listed down the most memorable X-Men moments (either good or bad), bidding farewell to a team that had it all but lacked a clear sense of purpose and a consistent subject-matter.
1. Good: Nightcrawler in the White House (X2)
The opening scene of X2 shows a hostile Nightcrawler teleporting door-to-door in the White House while fighting off numerous helpless guards. This scene is the first time we see a live teleport and let’s just say that compared to the comics, this one was way more exciting.
2. Bad: Wolverine’s CGI Claws (X-Men Origins: The Wolverine)
Probably one of these worst CGI jobs in the history of CGI jobs. Not much to say for this one, the video says it all.
3. Good: The X-Men vs. The Sentinels (X-Men: Days of Future Past)
The future X-Men desperately fighting for their lives against mutant-killing robots? Wow. This scene was nothing short of amazing. We finally get a chance to see Colossus and Bishop in action and for the first time we see Storm unleash her true potential. Topping that off, Magneto joins the fray in an epic “I don’t care who you are I’m still Magneto” moment. Just a beautiful action scene.
4. Bad: Jean Grey Killing Professor X (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Did anyone really understand the purpose of this scene? I mean, go show the Dark Phoenix transition all you want but shattering, not just killing, but SHATTERING Professor X into pieces? Then only to find out in the that he’s still alive through his brother none of us knew about? The Dark Phoenix is supposed to be kind of like an internal struggle in Jean’s Mind but this scene just makes it look like a lifeless evil being.
5. Good: Recruiting The Mutants (X-Men: First Class)
What made this moment so cool was how every single hero was adapted from the comics. Unlike X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: The Dark Phoenix where we have a bunch of unknown mutants, this simple recruiting scene introduced fans to classic mutants. From Banshee, who was one of first X-Men members, Havok, the brother of Cyclops and even Wolverine, who appeared as a funny easter egg.
6. Good: Magneto Escapes Prison (X2)
“Holy sh*t he can do that?” “Damn that’s cool”
7. Bad: The X-Men Vs. Apocalypse (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Yes, it was a good action scene. Yes, the visuals were attractive. Blah blah blah, at the end of the day Apocalypse was a terrible villain with no purpose whatsoever. Oh right, this battle scene has no purpose whatsoever too.
8. Good: Deadpool Opening Scene (Deadpool)
People were unsure about what direction Deadpool would go but this was one of those scenes where you’re like “yeah, this is gonna be good”. Deadpool opened up with such a great scene showing a great balance of humor and action, which embodies the film in general.
9. Bad: Wolverine vs. Deadpool (X-Men Origins)
I feel guilty for even calling the creature Deadpool in the title. Probably the most stupid 1v1 battle ever and one of the most stupid decisions this franchise ever made.
10. Good: Quicksilver in Slow Motion (X-Men: Days of Future Past)
A really creative scene here. We are so accustomed to seeing speedy superheroes just blur through the area that we never really see it from their own perspective. This scene nailed that and showed how incredibly OP any hero with super speed is.
11. Bad: “I’m the Juggernaut B*tch!” (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Here comes the Juggernaut! A feared unstoppable object who can run through anything. Yeah, until he turned into a meme.
12. Good: Wolverine’s Death (Logan)
The saddest, and I mean the saddest scene in superhero movie history (sorry Iron Man). A perfect way to end such a great career and character. Again, major props to Hugh Jackman.