With 2016 bringing not only one but two ‘X-Men’ films, now would seem like a suitable time to rank the entire lot. It is currently the 7th highest grossing film franchise of all time so clearly a very profitable brand and one that is generally regarded highly. In my opinion, the series is mostly very good – at its best, near-perfect, but at its worst, crushingly disappointing.
Let’s get started!
9) X-Men: Apocalypse
Unfortunately, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ is the only bad film of this series. Apart from a promising first 45 minutes or so, the film is a CGI bore. The story is incoherent and sloppy and particularly towards the film’s climax, the film is unwatchable. Even the acting which is normally stellar in this series is very underwhelming and there are many examples of both old and new characters phoning it in. Oscar Isaac’s titular villain is a total disaster and the film is even mean-spirited in places taking unnecessary shots at ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ which ends up backfiring on itself. There is some stuff to like here however – amidst all of the incoherency, there are a couple of good sequences and the film opens up rather promisingly but other than this, this is a film to avoid. (Review here)
Now for the good ones…
8) X-Men 2 (alternatively known as ‘X2’)
Generally regarded as the pinnacle of this franchise, I’ve always found this film to be quite baggy in places and muddled but it sets itself very nicely for ‘The Last Stand’ and has a great villain in Brian Cox as William Stryker, a recurring character in this series. Perhaps the reason why I dismiss it a little is because of how much I had enjoyed its predecessor which redefined the comic book genre. This film is a lot less enjoyable and at times, is a chore to sit through and the film has a lot of exposition in it which does make the film come down a bit at times. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the film – I just don’t understand why it is generally regarded as the best entry.
‘Deadpool’ is an interesting spin-off in this franchise and it’s refreshing to see that this film has the courage to push the boundaries in its age rating. It is unfortunately a bit of a disappointment given the hype it has recieved but individual set pieces and sequences are absolutely fantastic. Ryan Reynolds is also perfect in the role. It does suffer from a low budget and tonally, it can be quite obnoxious in parts. The humour is also quite primitive given the directions that they could have gone in although I do admit that I did chuckle a few times. Fox also heavy-handedly promote their X-Men universe to the point where it feels that is being rammed down the audience’s throat which is a shame. It would be great to see Deadpool team up with his X-Men counterparts but a constant reminder that this is happening shouldn’t occur. The film is also so focussed with lambasting every other comic book film that exists that it falls into conventionality, particularly the third act. Now all this would seem negative – there is a lot to like in this film but it is also deeply flawed. (Review here)
There is now a big step-up in quality…
6) X-Men: The Last Stand
‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ is a very misunderstood film after Bryan Singer’s first two directorial efforts that were so widely praised, ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ gets a very bad wrap but it is in fact a no-nonsense, entertaining film by Brett Ratner that isn’t scared of deviating the story in set in the first two entries of this franchise. It’s much leaner and simpler than ‘X-Men 2’ but this works in the film’s favour and Ratner doesn’t mess around with killing off some key characters which makes the story very unpredictable and all the more enjoyable. As the film is so economical in its pacing, it falls short in its character development and the film doesn’t carry much of an emotional arc.
5) X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise and generally regarded as one of the best instalments, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ is overrated but the film does have many moments of sheer brilliance and has an interesting narrative. One of my initial worries when the film first came out was how they were going to handle the heap of characters, but it’s not a big issue at all. love how Bryan Singer has tried to ‘right the wrongs’ of past films and he has almost got it there, albeit with still a few holes to fix. There are some terrific sequences in the film, most notably the now infamous scene with Evan Peters as Quicksilver breaking Magneto out of the Pentagon. However, the film is about 15 minutes too long and its third act is a bit of a comedown from an otherwise focussed film. Although it’s not quite a triumph , it’s still a very valiant effort from Bryan Singer.
And now for the greats…
The film that kickstarted this franchise off. Although the effects may seem quite dated now, ‘X-Men’ is an endlessly entertaining film and Bryan Singer’s best out of his 4 efforts in this franchise. Singer establishes and develops the characters that we have now grown to love and is very faithful to the comics that the film is based on. This film also marks Hugh Jackman’s first appearance as Wolverine who is excellent and as ever, Ian McKellen makes for a menacing villain. As mentioned though, this film hasn’t aged particularly well but it still manages to entertain as the story is very sharply focussed and the film boasts some fun action sequences.
3) X-Men Origins: Wolverine
This is probably the part where you stop reading this list and completely disregard it. I know this film is generally regarded as the worst entry by a long shot, but allow me to justify myself. I really enjoyed ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ as it is suitably gritty and works as a great revenge tale for the superhero that we have all come to love. There are some outstanding sequences here such as Wolverine’s transformation and there are some cool action scenes, most notably the now infamous helicopter sequence. It does also have a surprising amount of heart as the film explores the relationship between Wolverine and Kayla very well and we really feel for Wolverine when everything is taken away from him. The film also has some really good performances here – Liev Schreiber is the best Sabretooth to be portrayed on-screen to date, Danny Huston makes for a great villain and even Taylor Kitsch and will.i.am, two actors who have played in some terrible films give valiant performances here. What really angered fans with this film was its treatment of Deadpool – I agree that it does make some mistakes with the character but his introduction in the beginning is fantastic and if fans didn’t feel so strongly about this, we would never have got the ‘Deadpool’ film that we have today. Give this film another chance, don’t take it too seriously and you may find yourself having a great time watching this.
2) X-Men: First Class
‘X-Men: First Class’ is an intelligent and extremely entertaining entry in this franchise that marked the beginning of the prequel trilogy and rejuvenated fan opinion of this franchise after ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ had been negatively received. This film successfully blends superheroes with history and the film features some fantastic performances, most notably Michael Fassbender who proves himself a great Magneto and in my opinion, has the best scene in this entire franchise in a bar in Argentina. Kevin Bacon also makes for a menacing villain and the film’s new ‘younger’ cast are all a great match for the older cast in the original trilogy. Henry Jackman’s score is very effective here too and there are some great themes. However, the film does stumble in its third act where it does lose some steam but other than this, the film provided a successful return to the franchise and is a film that fans generally regard as one of the best entries in this franchise.
And the best X-Men film is…
1) The Wolverine
A surprise winner compared to other lists, ‘The Wolverine’ is a perfect film up until its final act that does what most other comic book films can’t – not just be a great comic book film but also a great action film to boot. As the characters of Wolverine and the rest of the cast are very well developed, one forgets that they are watching a comic book film half the time and we really feel his pain. The film features some great action sequences particularly one on a bullet train and at a funeral and up until its final action sequence that descends into generic comic book territory is a perfect adaptation of what a Wolverine film should be. Hugh Jackman gives the best performance he has done of this character here and both Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto give assured performances and will hopefully progress further into the film industry on the merits of their work here. Marco Beltrami’s score is beautiful and endlessly atmospheric. James Mangold proves himself as a director here and hopefully the sequel to this film will be just as good – we will find out next year!
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister