Why the final film of the long-running franchise feels more like a whimper than a bang.
When the first X-Men film came out in 2000 the world was captivated. It beautifully joined the two worlds of campy, superhero movie and dark, gritty allegory of intolerance and prejudice. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier and Sir Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) remain to this day three examples of the best casting choices ever made in a comic book adaptation. Great casting, superb writing and fantastic shot composition led to a fun and exciting movie, however the franchise that grew from this ambitious and deservingly successful movie took comic book fans on a very turbulent journey.
The original trilogy, whilst faulty in places (X-Men 3: The Last Stand being a notably problematic instalment in the franchise), took us on a solid three act journey. The less said about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the better, but it nonetheless proved to Fox that the fans were hungry for more X-Men. First Class was an exciting breath of fresh air from the mishandled source material and wasted potential of The Last Stand, and the poorly made, badly written and laughably CGI’d X-Men Origins. We saw James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender bring charm and heart to the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, and the gimmick of making X-Men films set in the past seemed to be a wonderful new direction to take the franchise in – not only because it managed to undo the poor decisions made in The Last Stand thanks to Days of Future Past. However, we were proven right when we feared this was too good to be true. Days of Future Past remains one of the best instalments in the franchise, however whilst solo spinoffs for Wolverine and then later, Deadpool, took on lives of their own, the main X-Men franchise took a turn for the worse with 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
Whilst certainly not the worst instalment, X-Men Apocalypse was a bland, cookie-cutter superhero romp where a big bad wants to destroy the world and the X-Men have to stop him. That’s essentially the plot. But it didn’t have to be that way. Oscar Isaac took up the mantle of the titular villain, McAvoy and Fassbender returned, and younger versions of our favourite heroes from the original trilogy made their debut. All the pieces were there, but the by-the-numbers story, bad makeup, gratuitous Wolverine cameo and a script that gave most of the new cast nothing to work with, Apocalypse was ultimately a forgettable popcorn movie that couldn’t hold a candle to its predecessors.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe changed the game for superhero movies, and so the X-Men franchise was under enough pressure without Apocalypse trundling along as a middle-of-the-road superhero movie. Now, we are witnessing the absorption of this beloved franchise into the MCU and so will have to bid farewell to the universe Fox has established. But this ultimately seems for the best. Apart from the advertising budget meaning that we are seeing the posters everywhere, there is almost no hype for this movie. The trailers make it look like Fassbender is the only one that really cares about the movies now. Debuting with the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of any X-Men movie, there is little optimism and basically no point in seeing it. Sophie Turner’s distractingly bad American accent already adds to the problem of there being no development on her version of Jean Grey in the previous movie, and so no emotional investment from the audience.
To conclude, the world has watched as the X-Men franchise has withered and faded into nothing just as the MCU hoovers up the characters into its already wealthy plethora of properties. Whilst this is not a bad thing as they will probably do a much better job with the source material, it was a nice break from the over-connected, lore-rich universe of the MCU. We can rest assured, however, that the better instalments of the franchise will live on for years to come as wonderful, beautiful and unforgettable additions to what can easily be called the Golden Age of superhero movies.
Featured image Copyright 20th Century Fox.