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The 20th Century Fox
X-Men Movies

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6 Deadpool 2 (2018)

Regarded as the lesser Deadpool film by many who saw the first as the work of Oscar Wilde, this scatological sequel has a little bit more diversity in the way of humour, including some comic book in-jokes for the real nerds in the audience.
     Mention must also be given to two other films closely associated with it, which almost got covered under separate entries. The most obvious is Once Upon A Deadpool, which has Fred Savage in linking sequences and jettisons most of the language and violence to create a PG-13 movie. It's difficult to question if the film's age appropriate even with those amendments - there's still talk of "pussies" and Human Centipede, among others - but more importantly, whether it works. The skits with Savage are decent, but the film, stripped of content, seems a strangely hollow experience.
     It's also hard to imagine many of the 80s/90s culture references really hitting the target with a younger audience, with the entire framework being a homage to The Princess Bride, a film that was over thirty years old when Once Upon A Deadpool came out. One of the nicest moments in Once Upon A Deadpool, however, features Stan Lee's face on the side of a building, now edited to say "RIP".
     Then there's No Good Deed, a four minute standalone trailer with Stan Lee which has somehow got its own entry on the IMDb. It's not alone: there's also Gettin' Wet on Wet with Deadpool 2, a parody of The Joy of Painting, more promotional material that has somehow been regarded as a short film in its own right in the interim. Reynolds has already signed up for another Deadpool sequel, and the character could easily translate to the MCU without much of a change...

5 X-Men: First
Class (2011)

First Class hasn't aged exceptionally well, especially with the (period set) light sexism, but at the time it was a breath of fresh air for an ailing franchise.
     The series is fortunate enough to have many decorated actors in its line-up. Even just looking at the Oscars alone, then there's Halle Berry (winner, best actress), Anna Paquin (winner, best supporting actress), Ellen Page (nominated, best actress), Ian McKellen (nominated, best actor/best supporting actor), Hugh Jackman (nominated, best actor) and Michael Fassbender (nominated, best actor/best supporting actor). Although Patrick Stewart has not been recognised by the Academy, he has received many awards and nominations over the years, including the Lawrence Olivier Award.
     Jennifer Lawrence received her first of four (to date) Academy Award nominations before First Class, but the following year was the time she won, for Silver Linings Playbook. Since her rise to A-List ubiquity, some critics question the way the series has been heavily based around her version of Mystique, and it's true that the character has a starkly elevated position in the runtimes, much more than Rebecca Romijn-Stamos did as the original version of the character.
     There were also personal consequences to Lawrence's time on First Class... she began a relationship with co-star Nicholas Hoult (the Beast), which lasted until the end of Days of Future Past. While in the relationship she sent him nude photographs, which were later hacked from her phone amid much publicity and legal battles.

4 X2 (2003)

Even with the time-travelling events of Days of Future Past attempting to explain away several anomalies, it's still hard to fathom how the team first meet Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) in the early 2000s, when they "first" met him in the 1980s in Apocalpyse.
      The dates actually add up... just about. The two films are set 20 years apart, and Cumming was 37 when he filmed it, meaning the same character should be played by a 17-year-old in Apocalpyse... Kodi Smit-McPhee was 19, so it works. But, such mathematical head-scratching aside, it has to be assumed that the X-Men meeting Nightcrawler so early wasn't changed by time... making it unclear how they could have met him for the "first" time two decades later.
      Cumming is excellent in the role, though sadly (and, in hindsight, wisely) declined to reprise the role for the third X-Men movie. On his website he acknowledges the themes of tolerance, but notes that "the real drag was having to spend over four hours a day having two men poke my face. Then there were the harnesses for the tail and for flying, the feet, the hands - which made going to the loo a group effort, the teeth, the lenses, oh God don't get me started." It's unfortunate that the relationship between Nightcrawler and Wolverine in the comics isn't really developed onscreen, and Anna Paquin's Rogue gets sadly little to do, her mutant powers almost solely a malady, and not the dynamic skillset that they were in the comics.
      X2 is a little overlong (as are, in fairness, nearly all of these movies) and doesn't stand up to a great deal of rewatching, causing it to rate relatively low in this ranking. However, it's worth noting that the movies were made to be watched once in movie theatres, and not two or three times by nerds looking to compile internet articles.

3 X-Men (2000)

X-Men was made in a far more innocent age, a time when superhero movies weren't a near-guaranteed source of income like they are today. DC's output had ground to a halt after Batman and Robin, while there had only been half a dozen live action films based on Marvel comics, one of which wasn't even released, and another of which was Howard The Duck. Consequently superhero movies of the age involved lame parodies like the broad Mystery Men (1999), three Blade movies about a vampire hunter, or films which blurred the genre like Unbreakable (2000).
     Two years before the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy started, and the best part of a decade before the "Marvel Cinematic Universe", came The X-Men. With a very strict budget and a cash-strapped 104 minutes run time, the CGI and wire work haven't quite stood up to 19 years of technological advances, but for an often effects-heavy film, the narrative itself remains surprisingly fresh.
     While the younger versions of the characters are perhaps "cooler" - certainly, in the case of Michael Fassbender's Magneto, edgier - this first outing does stand up better to repeat viewings. The oddest part is that, with its many attempts to avoid its own spandex trappings, time has made it appear more twee than if it had fully embraced it. Living in an age where bright costumes appear in billion-dollar box office movies, it seems almost coy that the movie self-consciously goes for a black leather look, which has dated it more than time-free fantasy spandex.
     Perhaps what allowed The X-Men to get off to such a good start was that it was still largely the only superhero franchise that worked up until the middle of the decade. Before Christopher Nolan rebooted Batman, and Downey Jr. revitalised Marvel studios, the genre films that immediately followed this were misfiring Fantastic Four movies, Ben Affleck's Daredevil, Nicholas Cage as Ghost Rider and Halle Berry as Catwoman. Berry also appears here as the original Storm, of course, attempting an almost unnoticeable "African" accent that quickly got dropped for her three return appearances as the character.

2 X-Men: Days of
Future Past (2014)

Days of Future Past is a vibrant, engaging tale that meshes both old and new casts together in a cross-time fight for survival. Bryan Singer, who left the series after X2 to work on Superman Returns, came back to the franchise as producer for First Class, and returns here as director. While his talents couldn't make Apocalypse worthwhile, he succeeds here, with some highly memorable setpieces, not least a "slow time perspective" of Quicksilver.
     In the two-part comic book story which inspired the film, it's actually a telepath who is able to send minds back into the past (which obviously makes more sense) and Kitty Pryde, rather than mysteriously acquiring this power out of nowhere, is the one to get sent back. However, studio influence is clearly felt, meaning that Hugh Jackman's Wolverine is the one who travels back to the past, and A-Lister Jennifer Lawrence gets amped up screen time as Mystique.
     There are questions about plot holes that don't really make much sense: while Mystique can alter her appearance to a certain degree, how can she shrink 1.3 feet to become Peter Dinklage's height? And, perhaps even more significantly, how can Kitty send people back into the past? There are moments later in the film where characters begin to speak to one another in platitudes, and it's unclear how well this will stand up in 20 years' time. But, for 2014, and for right now, this is the best of the group movies, and a very decent flick in its own right.

1 Logan (2017)

With Disney acquiring Fox, much speculation has been made about when the Fox characters will appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It seems to miss the point, as, while the first four films on this list are quite poor (and the Fantastic Four have had incredibly bad luck on the big screen), many of the X-Men movies are better than the popular but shallower "MCU" pictures... and none of them are a fraction of the film that Logan is.
      It helps that this entry, more than the vast majority of superhero fare, looks like a proper film. The direction, colour palette and pacing are not only intentionally evocative of old Westerns, but they have the cinema language of something more artistic. The regular use of focus pull backs does get a little distracting, but James Mangold - who also directed the okayish The Wolverine - gets a writing credit, and his efforts pay off.
      The ending veers more towards traditional superhero fare, but the opening is particularly left-field, almost a Beckettian three-man play, with Stephen Merchant as an albino mutant ironing Wolverine's clothes, Patrick Stewart as a senile, foul-mouthed Professor X, and Hugh Jackman as a drunken Wolverine attempting suicide. Logan's existence justifies this entire article, the peak of the series.


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