Written by Dylan Deppe. Media by Joey Unger.
The highly-acclaimed X-Men spin-off “Deadpool” is getting a sequel that you can see in a couple of months. Another spin-off titled “New Mutants” is coming, albeit delayed for the second time, in 2019, as well as “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” being delayed as well. Then there’s that scary news that Disney will buy up the majority of 20th Century Fox, the film studio that owns the X-Men film rights. Despite some of the less-than-comforting news, and some lackluster entries, the X-Men film series comprises some must-see movies.
Okay, before we start, let’s just admit that “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “X-Men: Apocalypse,” and the first two Wolverine movies aren’t the best. But the rest are solid, with the exception of “Deadpool” just being okay.
With a deluge of comic-book movies being released, the complaints of superhero fatigue that popped up back in 2014 definitely seem more valid now than back then. If you don’t like the current crop of superhero movies, I would recommend you check out most of the X-Men films.
Don’t worry about any cube-shaped McGuffins, credulous mythology, tasteless humor, or self-servicing “wait until next time” teases. If you don’t like those tropes, don’t worry, because the X-Men have your back. Over at Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, they deal with gripping stakes, driving character dramas, believable and grounded threats, as well as singular narratives.
Audio student and Bald Perspective podcast member Deryk Rumbold said about the franchise, “I honestly think the X-Men movies in the 2000s achieved political relevance for superhero movies better than the Dark Knight trilogy. The message of how people create fear around minorities is really clear and potent and is absolutely relevant to the time they came out and is still relevant today.” With the original films being superhero movies before superhero movies were cool, these characteristics are even more laudable.
The characters are also really cool. The entire idea behind the cinematic universe these superhero movies have formed is to create a big narrative while being able to zoom in on their specific characters. We’ve seen Hugh Jackman’s career take a gigantic boost just from his iconic role as Wolverine in these films, with Ryan Reynolds receiving similar praise for his performance as the Merc with a Mouth in 2016’s “Deadpool,” as well as the hilarious original videos. With Fox introducing new characters in “X-Force,” “New Mutants,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Gambit” (if it ever moves forward), they are really widening the playing field with characters and story opportunities. As Rumbold also said, “I think there are a lot of great stories to be told and I am greatly anticipating what happens next.”
But Fox isn’t interested in just puking out a large number of superhero films; they’re interested in making them different. The original trilogy was straight character dramas with nice action beats, with “X-Men: First Class” serving as an ode to them while also serving as an elegant period piece. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” was equal parts character drama and period piece, blasting as much super-shenanigans on-screen as “Avengers: Infinity War” four years earlier, while also injecting a hefty dose of timey-wimey tom-foolery, and heady philosophical themes to boot. “Deadpool” played equal parts raunchy comedy and superhero parody to much enjoyment, and “Logan” stripped any super-heroic romanticism you thought you’d miss and presented a somber Western with some of the best acting you’ve ever seen from Jackman or Sir Patrick Stewart, with both popularizing the idea of R-rated superhero movies.
The current crop looks just as promising. “New Mutants” is shaping up to be a modern horror story featuring themes about mental illness and identity. “Deadpool 2” looks like a perfectly-insane yet well-crafted comic-book movie, and “Dark Phoenix” is said to be more character drama than action blowhard.
While the Avengers may be everyone’s favorite Marvel supergroup, and Disney is chomping at the bit for Fox, maybe the Mouse House will snag the mutant crew, reboot everything and recast everyone. But the iconic cast created by the original X-Men films (good or bad) for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and beyond, cannot be overstated. Even if we see the Avengers and X-Men team up to fight Galactus in Avengers 5, 6, or whatever, Disney/Marvel will never capture the emotional depth of Magneto accidentally crippling his friend Charles, Iceman telling his parents his biggest secret, or Wolverine dying in the arms of his daughter.