What a fascinating little franchise. Cohesive, then fractured, then cohesive again, and finally whimpering out into nothing, the X-Men movies are a grab bag of entertaining movies. There’s legitimately good stuff in here, but there’s also misguided and downright boring stuff as well. Like most franchises, it got handed from one creative team to another, lucking out to get Bryan Singer at his height, Matthew Vaughn’s anarchic spirit, and James Mangold working professionally to bring in the series’ heights.
But there’s also Brett Ratner, Simon Kinberg, and Josh Boone to deal with along with Fox’s notorious reputation for messing with productions (mostly around the producer Tom Rothman who oversaw the X-Men series through 2012).
I don’t think the X-Men were an ideal fit for theatrical films, having too many characters to focus on which tended to undermine its desires to tell exciting adventure stories. Finding Wolverine as a center early was a strong choice, and casting with Hugh Jackman made it work much better than it had any right to. Casting all around ended up being one of the franchise’s great strengths well beyond Jackman with Patrick Steward, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, and (in particular) Michael Fassbender lending an incredible amount of gravitas to a series of films about mutants who can shoot lasers from their eyes.
Still, props for the attempts at keeping it all one big story instead of simply rebooting it when things got rough. There are worse franchises out there, for sure.
13. The New Mutants
“Not only is the movie inept, but it’s boring.”
12. Dark Phoenix
“It’s unengaging and dull, the main cast of the younger X-Men leaving with a whimper.”
“This is the work of a rushed production under the hand of a director who doesn’t understand how to tell a story at all. Dreary, unfocused, shallow, and pedestrian, this franchise fell off a cliff all of a sudden.”
“It’s not a good film. I wanted it to be an okay film, but it’s not even that.”
9. Deadpool 2
“This sequel leans far too heavily in the wrong direction while also telling a fractured story that doesn’t really hold together. Thank Ryan Reynolds for this movie working at all, because he’s pretty much the epicenter of this film’s strengths.”
“I can envision a more artistically successful first X-Men movie with a smaller scale, especially in terms of characters, that treats the universe as something to unveil over time instead of needing to introduce as much all at once, but that’s not how they made superhero movies back in the day of the early 00s. It was all or nothing, essentially. Oh well, it’s a decent first step in a franchise.”
“I’m very much of two minds on this. The action is largely good. The character stuff is largely good. However, they are horribly sewn together to the point that character actions to keep the plot mechanics moving forward veer between making no sense whatsoever and being just outright stupid. That it wants to be taken seriously makes this all the more frustrating because there is a very good movie hidden in here. It’s just not this.”
“This movie is kind of a mess, but except for the sequence at Alkali Lake, it’s the kind of mess I gravitate towards. It’s solidly entertaining with an outlandish villain and a bunch of likeable characters. Magneto should have been the rock on which this film was built, as opposed to having no real solid foundation, but the messy house of cards almost stands up on its own. I mostly get caught up in the extravagance, but I couldn’t really defend it as a good film. Still, I do enjoy it every time I put it on.”
“Remove this film’s attitude and you have a structurally interesting, bare bones, and serviceable origin story of a super, well, super action personality with comic book origins. The attitude is really what carries it from beginning to end, and that attitude is almost all about Ryan Reynolds as the titular character.”
“So, it’s an imperfect film that delivers on its main promise while feeling oddly incomplete and unmerited in other, smaller ways. Perfectly well acted by everyone, in particular Brian Cox as Stryker, it’s a fun adventure movie with a strong central throughline to hang most of the movie off of. A smaller cast of characters might have helped regain some focus in the middle section, though.”
“As an overall film experience, I think the second act is largely mishandled, but the first and third acts are so well done that it easily overcomes the middle flagging section. It’s well cast (especially, again, with Michael Fassbender as Magneto),and told with an almost infectious energy. It’s a movie designed to right a flailing ship of a franchise, and I think it does that with style.”
“Sure, the film isn’t perfect. The CGI stuff probably goes too far in the ridiculous direction for the more grounded emotional take on the character while the political stuff around the Yashida family is too opaque for what the movie needs in service of a twist the movie doesn’t do enough with. However, the core is there. It’s really well made, well performed, and well written where it really needs to be.”
“Overall, this is a rousing fun time at the movies. An intelligently constructed adventure through time that uses special effects and action filmmaking tools to propel the audience the whole way through the two hour experience. This is comic book filmmaking on a grand scale, and while it may not be perfect, it’s really enjoyable.”