RELEASED: July 26th 2013 DIRECTED BY: James Mangold WRITTEN BY: Mark Bomback & Scott Frank PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner & Hutch Parker MUSIC BY: Marco Beltrami STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Hiroyuki Sanada, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi & Famke Janssen
In a radical departure from X-Men Origins, Logan returns in The Wolverine, plucking us out of the past escapades of First Class and returning us to the present timeline.
The film sees Logan, now a destitute hermit, struggling to deal with the deaths of Jean Grey and everyone else he loves. However, he is pulled out of his wallowing by a young woman called Yukio, who summons him to Japan to say his goodbyes to Yashida, a Japanese soldier he saved in World War II. However, Logan soon becomes embroiled in a plot involving the future of Yashida’s family, as his powers mysteriously start to fail him.
It’s clear when watching this film and those around it, that Fox were desperately trying to wipe Origins out of audiences minds. As far as I can tell, there’s only one reference to that film in this one, and it’s so subtle that you could miss it if you weren’t paying attention. In spite of that, however, it’s one of the few X-Men films post Last Stand that actually adheres to continuity. The only thing that comes close to breaking it is the mid-credits scene, but that can be explained away by paying close attention the film it references (again, The Last Stand).
We’re done with the older series of films, and now we’re onto the new, as today’s review takes us back to the current focus of X-Men films, the ‘First Class’.
RELEASED: June 1st 2011 DIRECTED BY: Matthew Vaughn WRITTEN BY: Matthew Vaughn, Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Sheldon Turner & Bryan Singer PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg & Gregory Goodman MUSIC BY: Henry Jackman STARRING: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Caleb Landry Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Álex Gonzalez & Kevin Bacon
For the longest time, I’ve thought of First Class as my favourite X-Men film (and yes, that’s including Logan and Deadpool). As I go through and rewatch them all, I’m not entirely sure that’s the case anymore, but it’s still definitely up there.
First Class follows Charles Xavier in his younger years, as he becomes a Professor and is recruited by Moira MacTaggert of the CIA to investigate the mutant society known as the Hellfire Club. Their leader, Sebastian Shaw, is planning an extinction-level event that will place mutants at the forefront of society, and the only way for Charles and Moira to stop him is to assemble the first class of X-Men – the Nazi-hunting Magneto, the shape-changing Mystique, the genius inventor Beast, the survivalist Darwin, the explosive Havok, the goofball Banshee and the exotic Angel Salvadore.
We’ve looked at the first X-Men trilogy, but before we get to Dark Phoenix, we’ve still got a few prequels to go, starting with Origins.
RELEASED: May 1st 2009 DIRECTED BY: Gavin Hood WRITTEN BY: David Benioff & Skip Woods PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter, John Palermo & Hugh Jackman MUSIC BY: Harry Gregson Williams STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool, Will.i.am, Kevin Durand, Dominic Monaghan, Daniel Henney, Tim Pocock, Tahyna Tozzi & Patrick Stewart
Unfortunately for 20th Century Fox, the first time they tried to venture away from the main series of X-Men films and provide some backstory to their characters also resulted in the worst film of the lot (that includes Dark Phoenix, in case you’re wondering – I’ll do a ranking later).
Dark Phoenix is out today, and who would have thought that ten years on it would end up being the worse adaptation of the ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’. But I’m getting ahead of myself; we’ve still got a few films to get through before we analyse why that is exactly, but for now, let’s take a look at Fox’s first attempt in the much maligned The Last Stand.
RELEASED: July 14th 2000 DIRECTED BY: Brett Ratner WRITTEN BY: Simon Kinberg & Zak Penn PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter & Avi Arad MUSIC BY: John Powell STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammar, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, Ben Foster, Daniel Cudmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Dania Ramirez, Eric Dane & Patrick Stewart
After the heights of X2, The Last Stand sees the franchise handed over to director Brett Ratner, and sees the introduction of franchise stalwart Simon Kinberg. The result is a film that is often regarded as one of (if not the) worst X-Men films.
After mankind develops a so-called ‘cure’ for mutation, the X-Men find themselves split about how to move forward. Meanwhile, Magneto begins forming a mutant army to strike back at the U.S. Government for their effrontery, and may find a powerful ally in the recently resurrected Jean Grey, who seeks to unleash her true potential as the Phoenix.
I don’t know whether its because I’ve now seen what I consider to be a worst adaptation of this same story, nostalgia, or if it’s actually not awful, but I don’t think this film is as horrible as everyone says it is.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a good film. But there’s fun to be had with it.
The final film in Fox’s long-running X-Men franchise*, Dark Phoenix, is hitting cinemas soon. And while I’m a bit behind, it’s still a good excuse to go back and review the various X-Men films.
*And yes, I know there’s also New Mutants, but until its a certainty that that film is actually coming out, then this, for all intents and purposes, is the end.
RELEASED: July 14th 2000 DIRECTED BY: Bryan Singer WRITTEN BY: David Hayter, Tom DeSanto & Bryan Singer PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner & Ralph Winter MUSIC BY: Michael Kamen STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijin-Stamos, Ray Park, Tyler Mane & Anna Paquin
In the near future, two outcasts, Wolverine and Rogue, are drawn into the conflict between the heroic X-Men and the villainous Brotherhood, who are fighting to decide the fate of mutants relationship with a human race that hates and fears them.
Looking back at these early films, they’re a far cry from the superheroics we’re used to in the modern day. They seem quite quaint now, both in the scale of their storytelling as well as the way they’re produced. Unlike modern day blockbusters like Endgame, which features space and time-travel and giant purple men, X-Men instead takes time to focus on more human issues and decidedly smaller thrills like basic superpowers and the occasional blue person.
I got up this morning to go and watch Avengers: Endgame a second time. After working the midnight release, and checking the screens, I continued to notice little things that I wanted to experience again – so with today being my day off, I went back to the cinema for a rewatch.
With that in mind, I’m going to discuss the film in full. However, it will be exceptionally spoiler heavy, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, do not read this review. Don’t click ‘read more’. Don’t even look at the tags. Go watch this movie. But if you’re needing something to read, my original review can be found here.
RELEASED: April 25th 2019 DIRECTED BY: Joe & Anthony Russo WRITTEN BY: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige MUSIC BY: Alan Silvestri STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson & Josh Brolin
When I walked out of the screening of Avengers: Endgame on Tuesday night, I was conflicted. I knew what I had watched was good, and I enjoyed a lot of it, but something didn’t sit right with me. I’ll probably have to watch the movie again (at which point I’ll amend anything in here that’s off) and I may even do a spoiler review at that point, but here are my initial thoughts…
Avengers: Endgame sees a world where the bad guys won. After snapping his fingers and wiping out half the life in the universe, Thanos has retreated to a distant planet to live out his days, while the Avengers are left on Earth to pick up the pieces. But after discovering Thanos’ location, the Avengers reunite and decide to take one last shot at retrieving the Infinity Stones and bringing the fallen back to life.
I had a fairly decent sense of how this movie was going to play out. Between set photos I’d seen a year or two ago, and the trailers (which show even less of the movie than you’d think) I had a reasonably good idea of what the various beats of this film would be.
And while I wasn’t wrong, I think for most this film will hold a lot of surprises. The first ten minutes quickly let you know that things aren’t going to go the way you think, before the movie proceeds to do a hard right turn into ‘bonkers’ territory. The tone is a lot more upbeat and goofy than what the trailers promised, and at times, that can be a bit jarring when compared to the expectations you enter the cinema with (that’s not the fault of the film-makers of course, so much as it is the audience and marketing). There’s a lot of humour, and from some characters, in particular, it can seem like a little much.
But there’s also a lot of heart. This film is a very emotional journey, but unfortunately, for me, on first viewing – not all of it resonated. There are some pretty big hits, and I was watching them knowing I was meant to be feeling more than I was (or at least something) and coming up short. Maybe that was down to the offbeat tone. Or maybe I’m just soulless. We’ll see after I’ve watched the film again.
However, in spite of both that and the fact we all know Spider-Man: Far From Home is coming out in a few short months, and the MCU will continue, this very much does feel like the end of the story, regardless of whether or not all these ends resonate with you. Marvel Studios could just stop here, and the series, as a whole, would work. There’s not a lot in the way of set-up for the future, just a focus on making sure what’s on the table now is taken to the wholesome destination it needs to go.
In this regard, praise should be heaped upon screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Here, they’ve managed to write a three-hour movie, full of fan-service and pay-off, and yet at no point does it feel like a drag, nor overly rushed. The character work is generally quite strong, with every character getting their time in the spotlight. Along with the directors, they’ve managed to make a movie that’s both breezy and epic, yet without being as action-packed as it’s predecessor. Instead, it’s filled with love for these characters and a desire to tell a very different sort of story to what’s come before.
But when the action does come around, it’s great. Although I felt a bit conflicted about the film as a whole, one thing that I am 100% certain on is that the action is fantastic. In particular, there’s one particular one-on-one fight that continues to display the excellent choreography on the Russo brothers’ previous films, and there’s one particular sequence later in the film that’s even more spectacular than ‘the airport scene’. I’ve seen someone describe it as something like ‘the most epic superhero battle of all time’. They’re not wrong.
Overall, this isn’t the best Marvel film of the lot. In my opinion, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Winter Soldier, Civil War or Infinity War. But maybe that’s not the point. It’s like watching a TV series. The penultimate episode is usually the most exciting – the one where the stakes are the highest. The final episode, in contrast, is more about closing things out in a satisfying way. And in that respect, I’d say Endgame succeeds.
However, I also feel like this is a similar feeling to how I felt about The Last Jedi. At first, there was a sense of melancholy (maybe I’m just depressed about the fates of some characters and I haven’t realised?), but as I continued to think about all the various factors in the film, the more I grew to love it. This is a very dense film, and I’m still processing it the next day, and for every “**** bothered me a bit“, there are five more instances of “but I loved it when ***** did *****“. But I’m confident with each subsequent rewatch I’ll grow to love it even more.