Retrospective: From X-MEN (2000) To THE WOLVERINE (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Retrospective: From X-MEN (2000) To THE WOLVERINE (2013)

On May 22, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST will finally hit cinemas everywhere. Combining the cast from the older X-MEN movies and the current reboot version of 2011's X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST has been self-styled by director Bryan Singer himself as inbetweequel - a Hollywood term that might end up as trendy as the word "reboot" in the coming future.

And while awaiting for the release, let's take a look back at the previous X-MEN movies that have been around since its first big-screen adventure in 2000.

1. X-MEN (2000)

Along with BLADE (1998) and SPIDER-MAN (2002), X-MEN was one of the key movies that resurrected the much-maligned comic book genre back to life again after the notorious debacle of BATMAN & ROBIN in 1997. The first X-MEN movie of course, was best known for launching the career of then-unknown Hugh Jackman with his now-iconic role as Wolverine. Other than that, X-MEN was also blessed with a fine ensemble cast (e.g. Patrick Stewart as Professor X and Ian McKellen as Magneto), engaging storyline and equally strong direction by THE USUAL SUSPECTS director Bryan Singer. While the action wasn't as epic as the subsequent sequels, the climactic ending set in the Statue of Liberty remained one of the most visually exciting set-pieces ever staged in the X-MEN movies.

2. X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003)

Heavily regarded as one of the best comic-book movie sequels of all time, returning director Bryan Singer has successfully improved upon his first movie in terms of action, special effects, characters development and storyline. Speaking of action, the attention-grabbing opening sequence featuring the teleporting Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) attacking all the well-trained Secret Service agents in the White House before making his way to the president (Cotter Smith) and the fight-to-the-death sequence between Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Deathstrike (Kelly Hu), were among the sequel's highlights.


This was the third movie where RUSH HOUR director Brett Ratner (who replaced Bryan Singer after he opted to do SUPERMAN RETURNS instead) single-handedly ruined the respectable X-MEN franchise into near disaster. While X-MEN: THE LAST STAND had its few exciting moments of heavy special effects galore and crowd-pleasing spectacle, the overall movie felt strangely hollow and unremarkable. And worst of all, the way Ratner and his screenwriters Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg chose to kill off some of the iconic mutant characters (e.g. Cyclops and Professor X) in a shockingly drastic fashion... was unforgivably bad.


Best known for its notoriously-troubled production (especially the angry dispute between director Gavin Hood and the Fox studio over "creative difference") than the movie itself, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE was a mediocre effort that continued to taint X-MEN franchise after the fanboys' outrage against X-MEN: THE LAST STAND in 2006. From the mainstream perspective though, the movie was fast paced enough to satisfy most of the crowds seeking for popcorn entertainment. In fact, there were a couple of entertaining set-pieces including the chase scene involving Wolverine being pursued by a helicopter, a tank and a few of Hummers. The other of course, was the climactic three-way fight sequence between Wolverine, Victor (Liev Schreiber) and Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) on the edge of a nuclear reactor. Unfortunately, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE was heavily flawed with generic storyline, cheesy dialogues, unintentionally laughable moments and spotty special effects for a big budget movie.

5. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)

After the creative failures of X-MEN: THE LAST STAND and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, the X-MEN franchise was rebooted back to square one with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Despite having KICK-ASS director Matthew Vaughn on board, the X-MEN reboot was a mixed bag. Over the course of 132-minute running time, the movie was hampered with inconsistent pace and mediocre storytelling. With the exception of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy (playing the young versions of Magneto and Professor X respectively), most of the ensemble cast here were disappointingly average. Even the special effects were surprisingly dated (e.g. the spotty-looking effect over the character of Beast) and the action was mostly edited too fast that prevented the viewers to enjoy the excitement properly.


The negative response of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE in 2009 had certainly killed the future solo X-MEN projects, but Fox made a huge gamble again to resurrect a solo WOLVERINE movie for the second time. By wisely sourcing the much-beloved 1982's Wolverine comic-book miniseries created by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, THE WOLVERINE was marginally better than the convoluted mess of the X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. The characters -- from Hugh Jackman's Wolverine to Rika Fukushima's stunning debut as Yukio -- were engaging, while the first half-hour was particularly promising (e.g. the exhilarating fight sequence atop the speeding bullet train). Despite all that, THE WOLVERINE still suffered from numerous glaring flaws. For instance, James Mangold's direction was erratic and the pace was draggy in places. Not to mention of course, was the disappointingly anticlimactic ending.

So there you have it! Can X-MEN and X2: X-MEN UNITED director Bryan Singer manages to do better in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST than the previous installments? Be sure to check back next Tuesday on May 20 for my exclusive review of X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST!

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