There is a lot of hype surrounding The Avengers at the moment, but Marvel fans have not forgotten about their other favourite crime-fighting team – the team of mutant heroes. I am talking of course about the X-Men. Whilst Marvel are currently focusing a lot of their time on The Avengers side of things, the ass-kicking ‘School for Gifted Youngsters’, currently owned by FOX, are still in the mix, with one of the biggest films in the franchise set for release in 2014 check.
When the first X-Men film was released in 2000, acclaimed director Bryan Singer (Valkyrie, The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns) had a big task on his hands – trying to get the super-group as a household name, and pleasing fans of the comic books. Thankfully he achieved both of these, and delivered a movie that, although wasn’t completely filled with action, introduced the characters (Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Charles Xavier, Magneto, Rogue and Iceman) to the audience and focused more on the stories behind these mutants and their struggle to be included in everyday society. Leaving a space open for a film of incredible fight sequences and explosions, torn straight from a fanboys dream.
Luckily that film came along in 2003 with X2 (also by Bryan Singer), which saw Colonel William Striker attack Xavier’s school and reveal some key background information about Wolverine, which would be later touched upon more in another film. X2 had so many great aspects to it: the team up of Magneto and Mystique with the X-Men to help take down Striker, the fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike who proved to be quite a match for him – her skeleton also being made from Adamantium and the amazing dam-bursting ending which saw the loss of one of the main characters. Not to mention the introduction of mutants Colossus, Pyro and Night Crawler. The X-Men films were just getting better as they went along.However that all changed, with the Brett Ratner directed X-Men: The Last Stand. It wasn’t that the third instalment to the franchise was a bad film all round, it was mainly because it seemed like Ratner thought that the only way to keep the audience interested was to kill off two of the main characters, which really didn’t work. There was such potential for this to be a great part of the X-Men films, with more comic book mutants being added to the line-up – Angel and Beast. Plus the transformation of Jean Grey into the Phoenix, but it only touched on the background of the Phoenix, and before we knew it the film was over. Yes the mutant vs mutant battle in the conclusion was quite spectacular, but the end of this X-Men trilogy should have had a better climax.There are so many mutants in the X-Men universe that the films could not end there, so once the trilogy was over FOX decided to look into the backgrounds of singular characters. The first to get this treatment was probably the most famous member of the group, Wolverine, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. At first it seemed like this film couldn’t go wrong, director Gavin Hood took everyone’s favourite x-man and made a film about his life and his back story. The story line was great as it showed Wolverine from his childhood to the point when he received his Adamantium claws. It also showed the reason for his hatred for his brother Sabretooth and introduced yet more characters to an audience unfamiliar with the comics: Gambit, The Blob, Emma Frost and Deadpool. This is where it’s downfall was though, bringing in too many characters to the plot, half of which weren’t even needed. To make things worse the ending completely messed up the comic book time line, which saw Charles Xavier standing as an old man, when he was actually injured quite young. Looking back, I have to say that I think the best part was the opening sequence showing Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting through every battle since the civil war, and it gradually began going since hill since then, also no amount of new characters will make up for the terrible portrayal of Deadpool.Luckily there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light was director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake), who brought back the uncanny X-Men that everyone loved. ‘X-Men: First Class’ was another X-Men origins film, and this time took the audience back to before the super-group were formed, and when Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr (Professor X and Magneto) were good friends. They both meet after chasing the same villain -Sebastian Shaw- and begin going around the country recruiting members to their team, such as: Banshee and Riptide. In the process of doing so they meet a pissed off Wolverine who just throws profanity their way. From start to finish the film was just spectacular, and one of the main reasons is because it made you feel the emotions of the characters. It showed you the bonds that were broken when Charles and Erik decided to go their separate ways: Charles and Erik’s friendship, the half brother and sister Charles and Raven (Mystique) and the romantic connection between Raven and Hank (Beast). All of the actors gave stellar performances – James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon – which added more to the best X-Men film (apart from maybe X2) so far. After watching said film, it made me see the previous X-Men films in a different light, and wonder what the heroes and villains must be thinking when deciding on certain tasks against the very people that they used to call their friends.Wolverine is once again getting the chance to show audiences why he is one of the most loved X-Men in 2013, especially after X-Men Origins: Wolverine failed to dazzle. Hugh Jackman returns to the role of the Adamantium clawed crusader for the sixth film, and this time his journey takes him to modern day Japan, as he is given the opportunity to get rid of his immortal capabilities and become human. However The Silver Samurai may stand in his way, and will force him to fight in a different way due to him now being so vulnerable.Although ‘The Wolverine’ is going to be this summers big X-Men blockbuster, it is nothing compared to what we are to expect in 2014. ‘X-Men: Days Of Future Past’ is set to be the biggest and most adventures X-Men film yet. Taken straight from an ‘Uncanny X-Men’ comic book story from the 1980s, the film has a time-travel story line and jumps from a dystopian future where mutants are almost extinct, to the early 1970s – which is set 10 years after X-Men: First Class. The list of things which are hinting at this being the best X-Men film so far is ridiculous, first of all Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2) is back in the director’s spot to clean up the damage left by X-Men: The Last Stand, and Matthew Vaughn, the man responsible for X-Men: First Class, is scripting the film. Not to mention Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Daniel Cudmore are set to reprise their roles as Professor X, Magneto, Shadowcat, Wolverine, Storm and Colossus. Then there’s Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult starring once again as Mystique, Magneto, Professor X and Beast – when the film skips to the past. The Sentinels, giant robots who hunt mutants, are also finally being introduced to the X-Men franchise. They were briefly seen in X-Men: The Last Stand when the team were training – Wolverine cut it’s head off. Being a big part of the comic book universe it is good to see them finally appearing in an X-Men film as they will make a worthy villain. The expectations for X-Men: Days Of Future Past are quite high, but with the people who are behind it, it is sure to be a mind-blowing experience, even though there will still be no leather suits…maybe next time.The Wolverine – July 2013
X-Men: Days Of Future Past – July 2014