Every so often, there comes along a subject too big for a single Snooty Usher. Something too broad to fit into the confines of a Top 10. A list too important to truncate. When this happens, The Snooty Ushers are there for you, to give order amongst the chaos. Welcome to Ranked!
Last month, in our first issue of Ranked! the Snooty Ushers went through each and every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time out, we are looking at the X-Men series of films. These began all the way back in 2000 (Dan’s X-Men Re-view can be found here), had a reboot in 2011 (James’ Re-view is just a click away) and became even more successful earlier in 2016 with Deadpool, a box office busting spin-off. And with X-Men: Apocalypse hitting cinemas tomorrow, we decided to put our heads together and work out just which are the best and worst films.
A little caveat to throw in before we start, one of your esteemed Snooty Ushers has yet to see Deadpool, so the average of the other three was taken as his ranking.
So, without further ado, here’s our list of all of the X-Men films so far.
8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Gavin Hood, 2009)
James: Hugh Jackman was an unknown actor (outside of Australia) when he replaced Dougray Scott in X-Men. His performances as Logan/Wolverine, and his growing profile, led to 20th Century Fox deciding to spin his character off with this origin story. There was plenty of excitement when it was released among both comic book fans and those who only knew the movie version of the character.
What we got was a poorly executed mess. The opening is promising enough, with a sickly, young Logan seeing his presumed father killed, setting off his mutation and causing to kill his real father. He then escapes and, with his new found brother Victor Creed, sets out into the world, only looking out for just themselves. And there’s a pretty impressive montage of the two brothers fighting side by side in wars, until Logan can no longer control his brother’s (Liev Schreiber) wilder impulses and they end up in front of a firing squad. The two brothers are then met by Major William Stryker (Danny Huston, taking the role over from Brian Cox in X2) who invites them to join Team X.
To be honest, that’s where the film starts to go wrong. Team X play like an X-Men B-team, it really feels like they are characters not good enough for the “proper” films. There’s a needless love-interest (although Lynn Collins is more than decent in the role) and then a totally superfluous farmhouse scene that feels like a Jonathan and Martha Kent retread, that only serves to give Logan a leather jacket and a motorcycle. The adamantium plating-process was better done in X2, and then the film totally chickens out on being a spin-off and beings in a whole raft of young mutants, throwing timelines all over the place.
And I’ve not mentioned the very worst part – the butchering of Wade Wilson. I knew it was a terrible waste of a character (and he isn’t really referred to as Deadpool, just the dead pool), but having seen Ryan Reynolds do it properly in Deadpool, I’m even more disappointed.
(Similarly, Taylor Kitch is pretty rubbish as Gambit as well, but not being a comic book reader, I don’t know him as anything else. If the upcoming Channing Tatum film is any good, I’ll probably be even more even more disappointed!)
Finally, the CGI on Wolverine’s claws is terrible. Surely, if you’re going to get one thing right, it would be that!
Welshy PS. I almost had a coronary when I watched this film in the cinema.
7. X-Men: The Last Stand (Bret Ratner, 2006)
Welshy: My biggest problem with this film is it starts the trend of too much. It packs so much in that it ruins what so far was a well built narrative. Firstly, The Phoenix Saga is enough story on its own. It is a corner stone of the X men Cannon. The consequences and fallout still leaves scars today. It is one of the only deaths that stuck (kind of) So why that would be a B plot in this movie, it’s just insanity.
So after watering down and tearing apart a classic they then have the A plot be the mutant cure. Which was the story in Whedon’s incantation of Astonishing X Men. It was also a very interesting story and could have survived on its own.
You then tie this mess together with majority of the major characters, being present and then introducing more new peopel like Angel, Shadowcat, Beast, the Morlocks including Calisto, Caliban and Quill, Multiple Man the Juggernaut and Marrow, Nearly all of which are not used as well as they should. Scott is killed and no Nightcrawler.
All in all its a decent action movie but it gets a bit choppy and hard to follow especially with the sharp changes of setting, talk of power levels and lots of people with powers and no names or very little if no introduction.
6. X-Men: Days Of Future Past (Bryan Singer, 2014)
James: The film with the most critical acclaim only comes in at number 6 on our list. Why? Well, first of all, it’s still a good film, I just happen to prefer the other films more. However, the film feels slightly messy and crowded, with mutants introduced at the beginning just to be shown reacting to Magneto’s speech later on.
My main problem is that I would have preferred a straight sequel to X-Men: First Class. We spent a whole film getting to know the characters in Xavier’s team, only for most of them to be killed off in between the two films. And as cool as it is to see Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry et al back, I’m not sure we needed to spend as much time with them as we did, especially during the climax. It felt tacked-on, to make up for a lack of threat to the younger Xavier and Magneto. Also, the 1970s setting isn’t as impressive as First Class’ sixties vibes, which run throughout that film and give it a different identity. And Hank McCoy is relegated to simply being a sidekick, after all of his work in the first film he is pretty much just Beast here.
But there are plenty of good points. Evan Peter’s Quicksilver is much more fun than Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s version in the Avengers universe, and his moment of glory in the kitchen is one of my favourite scenes in the whole franchise. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is more nuanced than ever, having suffered through the events of The Wolverine. And anything that gives me more Peter Dinklage is a plus.
So overall a good film, but I think it takes itself too seriously. Or maybe I’m just bitter I never got to see X-Men: Second Class.
Dave: I enjoyed this, I had quite high hopes going in with the melding of the two casts together and Bryan Singer returning in the directors chair.
As anyone who follows the ushers will know, I am very much a DC guy but X-Men: Days of Future Past along with The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, was the first Graphic Novel I ever bought. Now, this film is as far removed from the source material as you can get, but the film was a decent watch. There are problems, there are a lot of characters for one, but I think the main issue is that we spend too much time with the wrong ones. Would Mystique, while a decent supporting character really get as much screen time if she wasn’t played by Jennifer Lawrence? Then there is the issue of who exactly is the villain? Is it Peter Dinlage’s Boliver Trask, which was working and made sense before the shift to Magneto? How many times can we hear the fact that there is good in Eric Lensherr…
Hugh Jackman is great as ever as Logan, damaged here after events in The Wolverine and as James mentioned, Quicksilver is much more fun here than in The Avengers. A good, if slightly muddled addition to the franchise.
5. X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughn, 2011)
James: One of the strengths of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that it has managed to encompass films of vastly different tones (and genres) into the same overarching franchise. X-Men: First Class was the first time the X-Men films got this right. There were humorous elements in X-Men Origins: Wolverine but that film didn’t manage to maintain it all the way through. First Class took to its 1960s setting and got every last bit out of it. We had student Charles Xavier hitting on women in Oxford pubs, hate-filled Erik Lensherr tracking Nazis across South America, and some impressive velvet suits from Sebastian Shaw.
The film has two brilliant montages, keeping a brisk pace throughout, and has just the right number of characters introduced, never feeling too crowded. One of my issues with X-Men: Days Of Future Past is that it jettisoned a lot of these characters and failed to directly follow the story First Class seemed to set up. I would have been happier with them establishing a new continuity from here. A fun film, and it’s only the esteem that I hold the other films in that means it doesn’t rank higher
Dave: I was pretty much done with The X-Men franchise after The Last Stand, not to mention the utterly risible and pointless Wolverine origin movie, but I went to see this as there was literally nothing else on and was pleasantly surprised. It’s fun but is still grounded and doesn’t jettison the more serious issues raised. The opening scenes with a young Magneto are powerful and pack a punch. The new characters are great for the most part and it really is a shame that Beast and Raven/Mystique aside the franchise has left them behind. Kevin Bacon is a great bad guy and Matthew Vaughan proves that he is accomplished action director. The scene where Magneto tracks down the Nazi is one of the best in the entire franchise and then there is Hugh Jackman’s brilliant cameo. Enjoyable addition.
4. The Wolverine (James Mangold, 2013)
Welshy: Compared to Origins this is The Shawshank Redemption of stand-alone’s. It addresses the the tortured and brooding aspects of Wolverine nature. As well as putting him in Japan, which is a major part of his story in the comics. The story is interesting, the characters work especially Mariko and Yukio as a love interest and a partner respectively. Two of my favourite scenes are the intimate moment over rice with Mariko in Nagasaki. The second is the beginning of the final act when he is running the the snowy streets of Japan being shot by arrows ….it’s just so awesome. I think Viper/Madame Hydra while very good was a little unnecessary. However other than that I loved this film.
Dan: Until I watched X2 again this was my favourite X-Men film. James Mangold is a very good director (If you completely ignore the atrocious Knight and Day) and he very much rescued Wolverine in film, giving him the film he deserves. The age of Jackman, and his length of time with the character went hand in hand with the aged, tortured, and haunted Wolverine we see in the film. There are some changes to the source material but it’s a very entertaining film with plenty action and Jackman’s best performance as Wolverine in the series.
3. X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000)
Dave: This is my favourite of The X-Men films. Yes, X2 is probably the better film and there is a lot more action, but I just loved how tight and compact this film was, it shows that you can tell a good story, introduce a bunch of cool characters without going past the 2 hour mark. Focusing on a core group of characters really works and using Wolverine as our way in works a treat too. Yes, there are some dodgy moments, the Brotherhood of Mutants look a bit daft and doing away with Senator Kelly so early was a mis step and they could have made more of the finale, but over all this is brilliant.
A dodgy one liner from Halle Berry aside, there are some great lines in there and let’s be honest, the first time Logan calls someone ‘bub’, you were out of you chair. The device I hate most in any film is the love triangle, and the Cyclops/Logan/Jean triangle here is no different, in fact the franchises handling of Cyclops in general is poor and here is no different.
The scene where the X-Men suit up for the first time is a memorable one and let’s be honest, if this didn’t work then we would not have the treasure trove of amazing comic book movies we have today.
Welshy: Getting to see one of my favourite comics brought to life was stupendous for a little eleven years old nerdy Welshy. They got everything right for a film adaptation. The most important being the opposing sides of the arguments. Magneto believes in militant superiority; Charles, pacifism and co existence. That is the premise and it is a solid one. Especially as it nails all the allegory of discrimination, isolation and teen angst(puberty). A few characters were tweaked but it worked and the scenes in the fight club, the train station and Statue of Liberty are really well done and still fare pretty well, even now. My only gripe, and while I understand why they did it, is I would of liked to have seen proper costumes instead of the black suits. (Also love the sly reference in the Blackbird in the final act)
James: The film that began it all. Without the original success of this film, we don’t get Spider-man or Iron Man. There are a few shaky moments (I’m sure Jackman’s accent wobbles a bit, Sabretooth looks a bit silly, and the finale is slightly underwhelming when looking back at it now) but this sets up the entire franchise. It really is all here, with Xavier and Magneto as two opposing forces, their differing ideologies, methods, and goals all set out just as clearly as their affinity and respect for each other. Wolverine is a raw, animalistic presence who doesn’t fit in with the rest of the X-Men, and the red herring that leads to Rogue being the real target of Magneto.
The steps this film made can be seen in its opening. There’s still an uncertainty of how to make superhero films. The voice-over and the opening credits are more reminiscent of 1996’s The Phantom than our modern superhero films. All the characters (at least the heroes) are made to look cool – although they are popular, they aren’t yet mainstream. When First Class dresses its X-Men in yellow and blue, it is because X-Men earned the audiences admiration by having Wolverine and co. look badass in black leather. .
2. Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016)
James: One of my favourite films of 2016. One of my favourite action comedies, right up there with Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. And, obviously, one of my favourite films in the X-Men franchise. It feels almost unfair to include Deadpool in this list, it is such a different film from any of the others. It’s a real labour of love for both Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller, and the time put into the film gives it an advantage over the rest on this list, all of which have had to fit into a studio mandated release schedule. This is not to undermine the struggle to make Deadpool, as the recent Honest Trailer pointed out, seemingly 20th Century Fox had no interest in making the film, with a last minute budget cut one of many obstacles seemingly put in the merc with a mouth’s way. Whether the leaked test footage story is true (or just another part of the excellent marketing campaign), I doubt anyone at the studio is complaining now. The wise-cracking, fourth wall breaking, foul mouthed mutant delivered big at the box office.
Like Guardians Of The Galaxy, Deadpool is the funnest film in its franchise. For me, there is only one film better than it. And it’s good enough to forgive the mess they made with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Now that is saying something.
Dan: James hits the nail on the head with his piece here, Deadpool was as close to perfection as you could get for the character and a film about him. Everybody but 20th Century Fox knew Ryan Reynolds could do the role justice and I’m so glad they’ve been proven otherwise. Though all the talk about Reynolds is deserve, in my opinion Tim Miller is not getting enough credit for what he achieved with the film. The action scenes were brilliantly directed, and he manage to amalgamate the most diverse of themes into a action/comedy with lots of swearing and violence. Who else has managed that? Also, was I the only one feeling a little sad during Wade Wilson’s diagnosis?
Welshy: It was everything I wanted in a Deadpool film. It showed what could be achieved with mature rating and allowed Ryan Reynolds a second chance at a role he was born to play. James has actually said it very well in his section.
1. X2 (Bryan Singer, 2003)
Dan: If X-Men:Apocalypse turns out to be a catastrophic mess then at least I can take away with me that it motivated me to re-watch the previous installments. If I hadn’t X2 would have just remained a fun film in my memory, when in actual fact it’s a truly brilliant superhero film. Well paced, with a very well connected story with a bunch of mini character arcs that all felt right, and not out of place (You know, like lot of things in Batman Vs Superman were). On top of that we have an epic sinister performance from Brian Cox as Stryker, and great action scenes. These days we’re spoiled by well crafted superhero films, but remember in the mid 2000s we suffered the likes of Daredevil, and Ghost Rider, so to create a film of this quality at time nobody else could is a testament to it’s quality. If you haven’t seen this in a while do yourself a favour and get involved, you won’t be disappointed.
James: As we have seen many times over, ensemble superhero films have to walk a tricky line. Avenger’s Assemble got it right, Age Of Ultron got it just wrong. For me, X2 is almost the perfect superhero ensemble film. Each character feels important (apart from the sadly underused Cyclops), building on the foundation of X-Men, and managing to introduce two memorable characters – Alan Cumming’s Nightcrawler (who is sadly missed) and the excellent Brian Cox as Colonel William Stryker. His zealous pursuit of the mutants, and his cruel use of his son, makes him the best villain in the whole franchise. Mystique was never better, Magneto is beaten and broken before rising again, and Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey shows great growth. Although on the surface this is a Wolverine film, like Rogue in the first film, Jean Grey is the real heart of the film.
X2 is a fantastic film, the one that made the franchise. The fact that X-Men: The Last Stand botched the follow up so badly is why it is such a disappointment. A deserved number 1 on this list.
Welshy: This borrows from one of my favourite story lines in the comic books. ‘God Loves Man Kills’. I love it because we see the power of humanities hate and discrimination. We never really see that anywhere else, its always super villains and other mutants fighting the X Men. To see how far one man comes to an extermination of a cross section of society is enthralling. It builds off some of the plot threads set in the fist installment while developing it to extreme measures. It also does well to build characters from the original film like Rogue and Bobby but also introduces Nightcrawler. They butcher Lady Death strike, its abysmal (but that is another time). I feel that Magneto’s large role is wasted and bloats the roster, Brian Cox’s Stryker is more than capable of carrying the drama as villain of the piece. We only needed to see Magneto get tortured in prison and that is it.
Its a shame the Storm, Jean and Scott get marginalized but I can live with it because we get Nightcrawler, Bobby, Rogue and Wolverine. I need to touch on Mystique who while very different from her comic counterpart is brilliant in both X-Men and X2.
Dave: A great film, no doubt. Now the lads have said petty much everything good that can be said about this. Why wasn’t it number 1 for me? Well, it really annoyed me how Cyclops was relegated to almost nothing, he is the leader of the X-Men damn it! Also, I just don’t like Famke Janssen, so didn’t really care too much about her fate, which I guess lessened the emotional impact of her sacrifice. The Scottish contingent did there part in making this film great, with both Brian Cox and Alan Cumming nailing the roles of Stryker and Nightcrawler respectively. One of the truly great comic book films.
And that’s our X-Men edition of Ranked! Let us know what you think of our list, or any ideas for future additions or Dan will have us ranking the Step-Up films…
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS. As a special treat for reading all the way to the end, here’s our individual lists.
8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
7. X-Men: The Last Stand 7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
6. The Wolverine 6. X-Men: The Last Stand
5. X-Men: Days Of Future Past 5. The Wolverine
4. X-Men 4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
3. X-Men: First Class 3. X-Men First Class
2. Deadpool 2. X2
1. X2 1. X-Men
8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine 8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
7. X-Men: The Last Stand 7. X-Men: Days of Future Past
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past 6. X Men: First Class
5. X-Men: First Class 5. X Men: The Last Stand
4. X-Men 4. X Men
3. The Wolverine 3. Deadpool
2. Deadpool 2. The Wolverine
1. X2 1. X2
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