Nearly 20 years ago, the year 2000 to be exact, Twenty-First Century Fox changed things forever when they released X-Men. A successful movie based on a comic book? The fact that it worked was unbelievable… as long as you ignore the Christopher Reeves’ Superman movies, basically all of the Batman movies that had been made up until that point, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, and Blade… which actually released two years prior and was a huge success at the box office, BUT if you ignore all of that, the geniuses over at Fox truly were pioneers. Sadly though, after nearly two decades of creating cinematic masterpiece after cinematic masterpiece, Fox’s time with the X-Men is coming to an end. That’s right, for those unaware, finally, one of the most interesting groups in the entire Marvel catalog is leaving Fox and moving on to Disney and the MCU.
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I too am sad that the company that managed to make the same exact mistakes, even after rebooting the franchise, will no longer be at the helm. Where will we go to get our bad superhero mov… oh that’s right, DC currently has a cinematic universe with no Batman or Superman and Aquaman is their most successful film. Never mind! It’s also important to remember that before Disney fully takes over the X-Men, Fox is releasing two dumpster fires into theaters later this year with Dark Phoenix and New Mutants. So how did we get here? Well, I honestly think it’s a waste of everyone’s time to beat up on the original trilogy of X-Men films. Yes, they range from questionable to outright terrible, but it was the early 2000’s and while we did have a history of successful comic book movies in the rear-view window, between limitations of technology and things like the Matrix making every studio ever think that the only way to make your character “kewl” was to put them in black leather, I don’t think it’s fair to be overly critical of those movies, with the exception of X-Men Last Stand. That movie is awful and it is more than okay to criticize that movie whenever you want.
So if we’re not starting with the original trilogy, the next logical place might be Wolverine Origins, but once again, that would be too easy. As far as I’m concerned, anything pre-reboot is pointless to look at. This is why the perfect place to start is with X-Men first class. With this movie being their first step into the future of the franchise, they already were taking missteps. Whether it’s the continuation of making Mystique an important character in the story (a carryover from the franchise’s original trilogy) or the fact that the film is called X-Men first class and features almost none of the original first class of X-Men that appeared in the comics. It wouldn’t be until the end of the third movie before we saw something even remotely close to that group of characters appearing on screen together and by then Fox was already setting up stories that those characters hadn’t experienced until they were much older and had gone through so many other adventures together.
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself but honestly, it’s incredibly frustrating that a company that has one of the best collection of characters continues to put out a subpar product. The closest we’ve seen Fox get to releasing a great X-Men (Deadpool doesn’t count…. for reasons) is Days of Future Past, the sequel to X-Men First Class, and while I think it was a total mistake to try and attach the original X-Men cast to the current cast, the timeline was already confusing enough, at the end of the day that movie is really good. Yes, for some reason Mystique, of all characters, is the main hero of the film, but they make it work. By the end of the film, everything is left in a really interesting place. The Wolverine we know from all of the previous films is back home and happy with the original cast of X-Men (if you connect that ending to Logan though, boy does that guy have some messed up stuff coming his way) while the Wolverine that’s left in the timeline of Days of Future Past is left in an alternate timeline where instead of Lieutenant Stryker being in charge of Wolverine’s body, it’s actually Mystique. Holy crap! That’ll change everything. I can’t wait to see where things go from here.
X-Men Age of Apocolypse is one of the most boring and disappointing films of ever made. With Days of Future Past, hype for these X-Men movies was at an all-time high. And now that I think about it, maybe Jay was right, maybe this was the perfect time to say goodbye because this movie just didn’t look right from the start. You know, like Jordan when he came back wearing the “four-five.” From the reveal of the costume (something I once tried to defend) to learning who Apocolypse’s Four Horsemen would be. Nothing about this movie seemed right. For some reason, it just didn’t seem to fit with where we last left off. Why?
They literally changed the ending of the last film! That’s right, the cool concept of there now being a split in the timeline and Mystique being in control of Wolverine’s body is completely gone. They just hoped that fans forgot about that moment entirely. On top of that, Mystique having finally learned to love the way she truly looks, a story told over two movies, had been completely thrown out the window because star Jennifer Lawrence didn’t want to wear the makeup anymore. Don’t get me wrong, Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most talented actresses working today and I enjoyed her performance as Mystique, but if I had to choose between bringing her back for X-Men 3 and changing the entire story to fit around her not wanting to be in the makeup anymore, or recasting her, just hire an actress who doesn’t mind wearing the makeup.
Are there any positives in Age of Apocalypse? Yes. As I mentioned earlier, they do manage to finally, after three films, start introducing original X-Men like Cyclops, Jean Grey, as well as early members such as Storm and Night Crawler. Of course, the entire concept of Storm being an African Queen is thrown out completely and of course, because Fox cannot stop making the same mistakes again and again, in the same movie where they first introduce the new Jean Grey, they start the dark phoenix storyline back up.
Which is where are now, one of the last two X-Men movies made by Fox, The Dark Phoenix. What is there left to say about this upcoming movie that hasn’t already been discussed? With reshoots reportedly causing the budget of the film to balloon over $200 million, everything about this movie appears to have disaster written all over it. One reason is actually one of the more interesting concepts that the films have tried to accomplish which is their constant leaps forward in time. X-Men First Class was set in the 1960s while Apocolypse took place in the 1980s. So why is this one of the reasons the next installment will be a disaster? Let’s take a quick look.
In the bottom picture, Magneto is supposed to be in his 60’s. Comparing these two images shows that Fox simply doesn’t care about this upcoming movie. Yes, they’ve gone back for reshoots but the only reason those reshoots happened so late in the year was the fact that were scheduling conflicts for several of the actors. Dark Phoenix is a story that’s being told too soon based on the introduction of the characters attached to the story but as far as Fox is concerned, it’s a story that fans care about and that means they’ll go to the theaters to watch.
What about that other X-Men movie?
Did you forget about New Mutants? Don’t feel bad, I might be the only person that actually didn’t forget about it. This horror based superhero film seemed really interesting. A group of kids with mutant abilities being locked inside an insane asylum because they’re being told that what they’re seeing isn’t from their powers but because they’re crazy sounds like a really interesting twist on an X-Men movie. So why is this one being lumped in with the other dumpster fire? Re-shoots, re-shoots, re-shoots. Fox has a history of taking away a film that they think is struggling and then “fixing” it. You know, like they did with that last Fantastic Four movie. So how did they fix New Mutants? They actually went in and added an entirely new character to the film.. sure, because a movie that already featured quite a large cast could always go for one more.
This is why I’m glad Disney is finally getting control of the X-Men franchise. Are all of the movies they release perfect, no, but when they set out to make a movie, they already know where that project is going to end up before they start making it. Yes, there have been times where directors have clashed creatively with the studio but at the end of the day, Disney has yet to put out a bad superhero movie. Sure, out of all the other MCU films Thor 2 is the worst, but compared to movies that are actually bad, I assure you, Thor 2 is a fine movie.
I have absolutely no idea how or when we’ll see the X-Men in the MCU, but I know that when it finally happens, I won’t have to worry about the creative minds at Disney ruining their opportunity with those characters. When 2019 is over, the X-Men will be dead, but hopefully, within the next 5 years they’ll return (I refuse to make a phoenix joke here) and audiences who have only known the X-Men as a Fox property, will finally get to see the incredible stories those characters are capable of telling.