The Fox X-Men Films Ranked

All X-Men

Now that Dark Phoenix is out in theaters and ending the Fox X-Men film series, it’s time to quickly look back at the franchise and rank the films. This obviously will not include The New Mutants because it is not out yet and frankly, after the way Dark Phoenix did so poorly in the box office, it’s doubtful The New Mutants will ever get released. Expect it to pop up in a streaming service like Hulu and given what is known about the film, it doesn’t seem like it is part of the Fox X-Men films.

It is easy for some superhero film fans to look down upon the Fox X-Men films and they are thrilled that Disney owns the film rights now. But keep in mind that many of these films are bonafide classics that rank among the best superhero films ever made. Also, it goes without saying that starting in 2000, the X-Men films ushered in the modern era of superhero films that were dramatic improvements over what came before.

With that, let’s get to the films and see how they rank.

Wolverine and deadpool

12. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009):

Oh, boy, not only is this worst X-Men film but among the worst superhero films ever made. How could 20th Century Fox executives botch this one? A film exploring the origins of the most popular X-Man should have been great. Instead, we got bad CG, poor storytelling, limp action, and butchered characters. Exhibit A: Deadpool. His appearance in the film was so awful that it nearly prevented him from ever appearing again on film. At least, Deadpool 2 rectified this film during its post credits!

11. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006):

While the first two X-Men films were expertly guided by director Bryan Singer, this one was not, and it shows. After Singer left the project, Fox ultimately gave the directing job to Hollywood hack, Brett Ratner, who turned in a by-the-numbers superhero film. Not only was it crowded with too many undeveloped, new characters, but the story was all over the place. What could have been a great plot about a mutant cure was rushed. Plus, the famous “Dark Phoenix” story from the Marvel Comics was reduced to a subplot. One would think that when it came to retell the story, Fox would have learned its lesson…

10. Dark Phoenix (2019):

Despite the vitriol from some parts of the Internet, the final Fox X-Men film is not a complete disaster. Rather it is a disappointing adaptation of the classic story that defined the X-Men comic books. It sorely lacked the grand epic scale of the comic book story and came off as pedestrian. It has its moments, such as strong performances from many of the actors, and it covered some interesting ideas such as the hubris of Charles Xavier and Jean Grey’s struggle to control her new powers. However, under the tutelage of a rookie director, Dark Phoenix did not approach the intensity and visual punch demanded by the original story.

9. The Wolverine (2013):

Thankfully the Wolverine films recovered after the disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine with this effort that took Logan/Wolverine on a solo adventure in Japan. For the most part, The Wolverine is a well-executed superhero film that focused on the angst felt by the main character as he grappled with his past and the fact that he lost his healing ability. For the first time, Logan is actually vulnerable, which added a much-needed sense of danger during his fight scenes. The film loses some of its magic with its final act that did not match the grounded tone of the rest of The Wolverine.

8. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016):

Bryan Singer is a talented director, but by the time he helmed his fourth X-Men film, it was easy to tell he was checked out. This was evident with the way the chief villain Apocalypse was presented. A larger-than-life presence in the comic books, here Apocalypse is a rather mundane foe with little presence and poor motivation. Still, X-Men: Apocalypse has some spectacular segments such as Quicksilver’s rescue of Xavier’s students and a no-holds-barred final confrontation. During the climatic battle, the X-Men and their opponents get their moment to shine utilizing their unique powers, especially Jean Grey and Charles Xavier.

7. Deadpool 2 (2018):

While not as inventive or as fresh as the first Deadpool, this sequel is still a lot of fun. The Merc with a Mouth returns with even more gross-out gags, outrageous stints, and fourth-wall-breaking madness. This time out, Wade Wilson gets involved in a Terminator-inspired plot to protect a future mutant despot while meeting great, new characters from the comic books. These new characters help expand the madcap world of Deadpool and it would be a shame to completely lose it and Deadpool’s outrageousness now that he is in the House of Mouse.

6. X-Men (2000):

The very first X-Men film may feel a bit dated, especially when it comes to its action, but it still holds up. Most of the major players in the Fox X-Men films make their debut in this film and are immediately captivating. Needless to say, the breakout character of X-Men was Wolverine, well portrayed by Hugh Jackman. Unfortunately, his presence didn’t allow for the development of other X-Men like Cyclops. However, other actors were just as charismatic like Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellan, who both added gravitas. Overall, the film hit the ground running and brought us the modern age of superhero films.

5. Deadpool (2016):

Thankfully, after his debacle of a debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Merc with a Mouth was given another chance and his mouth back. This was the first time a Fox X-Men film was allowed to have an R rating and it earns it well. Irreverent from the very start with its blood-soaked, but exciting scenes and hysterical opening credits, Deadpool did not hold back in terms of gory action, offensive jokes and banter, and lewd innuendo. Thanks for the success of Deadpool, of course, goes to its star Ryan Reynolds, who helped champion the foul-mouthed anti-hero for years until Fox relented and greenlit this classic dark comedy.

4. X-Men: First Class (2011):

After the poor reception of the previous two films, the Fox X-Men film series needed a course correction. X-Men: First Class provided that with this soft reboot/prequel that showcased the early days of Xavier and his uneasy friendship with Erik Lensherr/Magneto. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was caused by evil mutants, the film presented fresh incarnations of established characters while introducing new and intriguing ones. Much of the credit for the success of rebooting the film franchise goes to Matthew Vaughn, who sadly never returned to do another film. He brought an invigorating approach to the characters and their situations and revived the series.

3. X2 (2003):

Often called X2: X-Men United, the first X-Men sequel is considered to this day by many as one of the best superhero films. The mutant superhero team are forced to team up with their mutant enemies to a grave threat: a scheme by a bigoted human to kill all mutants. The action kicks it up a notch as seen in various scenes which showcase the full potential of the mutants’ powers. These include Nightcrawler’s stunning attack in the White House and Wolverine unleashing his inner animal to defend Xavier’s young students. The final moments of X2 tantalize and frustrate us with an epic Dark Phoenix followup that never happened.

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

The greatest X-Men epic film unites the original and new cast of X-Men in this time-travel classic. Adapting the comic book story, X-Men: Days of Future Past starts in the future where mutants are nearly extinct and an older Wolverine’s consciousness is sent to the past to prevent this apocalyptic future. What follows is a superb time-travel tale set in the 1970s where he meets many of the First Class characters. As this goes on, the remaining mutants in the future have their last stand against the robotic Sentinels that are hunting them. Seeing the old and new cast interacting was such a blast and everyone involved with the film went all out to properly tell this expansive story. Simply put, X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the greatest comic book story adaptations of all time.

logan and x23

1. Logan (2017):

This masterpiece should have been the finale to the Fox X-Men films, because it is the perfect swan song to their saga. Somber, brutal and poignant, Logan follows the last days of the title character as he deals with old age and mortality. With his healing powers fading and striving for a quiet life of retirement, Logan is thrust with a final mission to save mutant children. Reluctant to take up the Wolverine mantle one last time, Logan nevertheless rises to the occasion. Logan is a haunting and heartbreaking film that is part Western, part superhero tale and will leave many in tears. Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart gave their finest performances and it’s a shame neither of them were nominated for Academy Awards. By that count, Logan should have received a Best Picture nomination because it’s that great and one of the best superhero films ever made.

José Soto

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The Fox X-Men Film Series Burns Out With Dark Phoenix

dark phoenix poster

It’s been interesting to read and watch all the negativity and vitriol hurled against the final Fox X-Men film, Dark Phoenix. Yes, technically there is still the unreleased film The New Mutants, but from all accounts that upcoming film (if it is ever released) does not appear to be connected to the Fox X-Men films and it will be radically retooled. Who knows, now that Disney owns the film property, The New Mutants could be retconned to be part of its own Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), though that is a risk.

Getting back to Dark Phoenix, the reaction to the conclusion of the X-Men film saga has been harsh, perhaps a bit too harsh. It’s not that bad and has its moments, though it is flawed. It certainly isn’t a Logan or X-Men: Days of Future Past, just a missed opportunity, which is sad.

Dark Phoenix takes place in 1992 where the X-Men are revered celebrities with their heroics, thanks to the efforts of their leader Charles Xavier'(James McAvoy) to show the world that mutants shouldn’t be feared. By this time, he even has a direct phone line with the U.S. president. Xavier gets called for help with stranded astronauts onboard an orbiting space shuttle. The X-Men are dispatched to go rescue them with the team consisting of field leader Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Nightcrawler (Kodie Smit-McPhee). They are able to save the astronauts from a coming solar flare, but Jean Grey is blasted by the flare which turns out to be the elemental Phoenix Force. This transforms her, increasing her telepathic and telekinetic powers beyond measure and leaves her struggling to control them and her fragile emotions. Her plight draws conflict not just from outside forces wishing to either kill her or control her but by the X-Men themselves, who are divided on how to deal with Jean Grey.

The film is very loosely based on the monumental “Dark Phoenix Saga” from the Marvel Comics X-Men books, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest comic book stories of all time. The previous attempt to bring this story to film, X-Men: The Last Stand, was a poor one and the latest attempt is only marginally better. Unlike Last Stand, Dark Phoenix is solely centered on the Jean Grey’s story, but the execution feels pedestrian many times. By itself, Dark Phoenix is competent but lacks the true epic scale of the comic book story and needed a better visual and filmmaking punch from a more competent and experienced director.

magneto and dark phoenix

For some bizarre reason 20th Century Fox deemed it OK to give this film about the beloved story to a first-time director (Simon Kinberg) who just lacks the skill to give us the epic story this X-Men film saga deserves. By the time the film series was nearing its conclusion, the upper management of Fox must have known they were to be sold off to Disney, so if they wanted to conclude their successful film series why hand this finale off to Kinberg? Yes, he wrote and produced the previous films and has clout, but allowing someone who never directed anything at all to handle Dark Phoenix was a risky move that blew up in their faces. The direction is very workman-like and too safe. Many pivotal and emotional scenes lack the flair shown in other X-Men films and shockingly the film is shot like a low-budget or TV film. To be fair, the third act of Dark Phoenix was re-shot because it was too similar to another recent film (probably Captain Marvel) and its done quite well, but it will disappoint comic book fans looking for the original story’s spectacular space showdown. Still, the confrontation between the X-Men, Jean Grey and other forces was exciting and probably the best part of the film.

There are many good elements in the film, aside from the final act. Chief among them is the acting by Sophie Turner in the pivotal role of Jean Grey. Her character is the core of the film and it was vital that we be invested in her struggle and we are. In spite of some actions that she carries out in the film, it is hard to see Grey as evil and she comes off as sympathetic. Most of the other actors bring their A-game to the role including McAvoy, whose Xavier must come to grips of mistakes he’s made with his disciple Grey when she was younger and how he let fame get to him. Other standouts are Hoult as Beast, who takes a less understanding view with Grey, Michael Fassbender who is always great as the conflicted Magneto, and Smit-McPhee, who while not getting much screen time manages to make his Nightcrawler a standout, sympathetic superhero with awesome teleporting powers.

mystique and jean grey

Other actors don’t fare as well. The worst of which is Lawrence, who is so checked out with playing the shapeshifting Mystique that you could tell she was counting down how much longer she had to play the role. Another one is Jessica Chastain, who portrays Vuk, a mysterious alien that is invested in the Dark Phoenix. Unfortunately the subplot involving Vuk and the aliens she leads is very uninspired and dull. Chastain basically sleepwalks through her lines and has zero charisma. While Magneto is one of the best supervillains on film, Vuk is clearly one of the worst. The problem here is that the alien angle is a major story point and a detriment to the film.

 

To be clear, Dark Phoenix is not the disaster that some hyperbolic and offended critics are claiming it to be. Seriously, this is not the worse Fox X-Men film. That dishonor still belongs to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. However, the Dark Phoenix story needs to be properly told or not at all. Kinberg probably should have chosen a more low-scale story to tell which would have been suited to his limited skill set. It is easy to tell that Fox and many of those involved were burned out of the X-Men and ready to hand the film rights to Disney. It’s a shame really, the X-Men films had a suitable conclusion with Logan and the Fox X-Men film series deserved a better send off than Dark Phoenix. But the film is OK to watch if you keep in mind the film won’t properly re-tell the classic comic book story. But at least we get to see some terrific actors play their iconic roles one last time and see the film series come to a conclusion.

José Soto

 

A Closer Look At Avengers: Endgame & The Future Of The MCU, Part Two

We’re continuing our look at the superhero film event, Avengers: Endgame. This time we’ll speculate on a major plot device, what lies ahead for the team and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and even who will be in the team later in the future. As before, major spoilers will follow, so turn back now if you have not seen Avengers: Endgame yet.

 

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The Smallest Hero with the Biggest Impact

Avengers: Endgame didn’t just feature story arcs about the OG Avengers but on allies that joined the team and their mission to undo Thanos’ snap. Nebula and Rocket Raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy, along with everyone else were at the end of their rope, feeling defeated after Thanos’ victory in the previous film. There was significant time spent on them and they had their special character moments. While they made important contributions to the team’s quest to reverse Thanos’ snap, one of other ally became the most unlikely Avenger of them all: Ant-Man. He is not only the smallest MVP in Endgame but the most important one because the Avengers’ ultimate victory would not have been possible without Ant-Man.

Lang shows up

When Scott Lang aka Ant-Man re-emerged from the quantum realm after the film’s five-year time jump, he quickly realizes that time travel is possible due to the way he experienced time differently in the micro-dimension. He goes out of his way to locate the Avengers and presents them with this idea. Lang, fresh and eager from his experience in the quantum realm becomes a beacon of hope and new-found resolve for a defeated team. He inspires everyone into believing that the devasting effects of the Decimation could be undone.

ant-man in Avengers Endgame

To think this was all possible because of a rat. This anonymous rodent just happened to step on the controls of the quantum tunnel machine in a storage unit that brought Lang back into the world. Coincidence? Sure. Blind luck? You bet! But sometimes all it takes is the right circumstance to change everything. Even if some rat didn’t accidently save the universe, Lang would have been released some other time, what is important is that his re-emergence happened at the right time. Given his contribution, including his actions which later saved the Hulk, Rocket Raccoon and War Machine, Ant-Man is a shoe-in not only for another solo film, but as an Avenger in the team’s next film.

A Soldier’s Final Mission

At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Steve Rogers traveled back to different time periods to return the Infinity Stones and nip the creation of alternate timelines.

His final journey raised many questions given how his mission ended. As mentioned in part one of this post, Rogers decided to spend his days in the past with Peggy Carter and grew old with her. We know this because moments after he disappeared into the quantum tunnel, he turns up nearby as an elderly man.

This started rampant speculation about how he returned since he didn’t use the same quantum tunnel machine he left in. Some theorized he was in the Prime MCU all along and never created a new timeline. The writers for the film agree with this, but it’s hard to believe because given his heroic nature, there isn’t any way that Rogers, whether or not as Captain America, would not interfere with history. He would have prevented Bucky from becoming the Winter Soldier, stopped the Hydra infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D., or Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Stones, let alone real-world tragedies like the JFK assassination or 9/11. The Avengers: Endgame directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, contradict this notion and believe that Rogers lived out his years in an alternate timeline. Good evidence for this is the fact that he comes back with an intact shield. Remember that his shield was broken during his battle with Thanos. Rogers must’ve obtained the new shield in the alternate timeline. Perhaps that timeline’s Captain America died or the shield was no longer needed in the brave new world Rogers created.

The question is how did he return? The temporal/quantum technology in the new timeline must have advanced more significantly than in the Prime MCU. Or that timeline’s Doctor Strange could have used magic to transport Rogers back to his native timeline. This and how did Rogers return the Stones are intriguing material for a potential film or series on Disney+, though we’ll probably never know.

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A Closer Look At Avengers: Endgame & The Future Of The MCU, Part One

By now, most of the movie-going audience and fans have seen the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, Avengers: Endgame. The fourth Avengers film is a monumental epic that concludes the 22-film Infinity Saga that started back in 2008. While it sums up long-running character arcs Avengers: Endgame does leave us with many questions as to its implications, intricacies and the future direction of the MCU.

Needless to say, major spoilers will follow. So, if you’re one of the few who has yet to see it (what are you waiting for?), then stop reading and come back afterwards. You’ve been duly warned….

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Avengers: Endgame had an expansive cast of characters, and that is not including all the MCU heroes that appeared at the end of the film for the climatic final battle with Thanos and his army. The film could have been overstuffed with characters and plot lines, but thanks to the skills displayed by the directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus, the film breezed through its three-hour runtime. The characters were the main focus in the film and came off as more human than in previous efforts. They were all traumatized by the Decimation or Thanos’ snap and Avengers: Endgame, at least in its first hour, was a story of survivors and how they dealt with failure.

Survivors and Sacrifices

Some like Hawkeye aka Ronin aka Clint Barton, saw their families turned to dust and went to dark places in their souls. Hawkeye became a murdering vigilante who had to be coaxed back to help the Avengers in their time travel scheme to collect the Infinity Stones and undo the snap. He was hesitant at first, then skeptical and more willing than the others to lay his life on the line because with his family gone, he had nothing to live for, except for the faint hope that they would be returned to him. When Barton finally reunited with them, it was beautiful to watch as he attained an inner peace. But this won’t be the last time we see him. He will show up in a Disney+ show where it’s rumored, he will be mentoring a new Hawkeye.

black widow and hawkeye

Other heroes were ready to make sacrifices to reverse the Decimation. In the case of Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, her sacrifice was her own life as she gave it up so that Hawkeye could attain the Soul Stone on the planet Vormir. Unlike many of the other Avengers, Romanoff never had a real family until she joined the team. She was even surprised on Vormir to learn that her father’s name was Ivan. In a way, she had nothing to lose except her life when she willingly let herself fall to her death. Even though she had no one, her death was painful to watch since she is so beloved among fans. But at least she will return in an overdue solo film next year, which is obviously a prequel. Maybe we can find out what happened in Budapest.

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Avengers: Endgame Is A Grand, Epic Finale Of The MCU—No Spoilers

Endgame poster

That moment is finally here. Dread it, run from it. Destiny still arrives. The 22nd film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Avengers: Endgame, is a fitting conclusion to the 11-year Infinity Saga.

This will be a non-spoiler review of Avengers: Endgame, the fourth Avengers film which concludes the brilliant set up of Avengers: Infinity War.

Thanos endgame

Without giving too much away, the film revels in the disastrous consequences of the last film where the mad Thanos (Josh Brolin) used the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half of all life in the universe. Our heroes grapple with the magnitude of their defeat in Avengers: Infinity War and how they cope with the Decimation (or Thanos’ Snap) is quite dramatic, emotional and unexpectedly grounded. Some may complain that the pace of the film is slower than usual for an Avengers film, but it is necessary for the epic payoff later on.

The actors portraying Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are at their best in Avengers: Endgame, which has many scenes that allow them to display their thespian skills. Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man/Tony Stark), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) form the emotional triumvirate of Avengers: Endgame, as it should since they are the heart and soul of the MCU. Other characters like Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) also have their dramatic moments in the sun. Again, as mentioned above, these emotional beats have a dramatic payoff and underline the desperate nature of their mission.

Avengers in Endgame

This film lasts three hours with three distinct acts that have their own separate tone. As interesting as it sounds, it doesn’t always flow as well as say Infinity War. The previous film had a more consistent and intense feel throughout. This will probably disappoint casual fans expecting Avengers: Infinity War, Part Two, but this fourth Avengers film serves as a love letter to the MCU.

Fans of the beloved MCU film franchise will just be delighted with all the references, cameos and callbacks to the past 21 MCU films, even the mediocre ones, which can now be seen in a new light. The film seems at times to be a Who’s Who of the MCU, but it is never confusing except for an important plot device. It won’t be said what it is, we’ll save that for the spoiler discussion coming soon, but let’s just say that sci-fi fans are familiar with it and have dealt with the headaches it causes. The same thing occurs in Avengers: Endgame and it leads to many questions and plot holes, but honestly by the time the last scene is unfurled no one will care too much.

Instead viewers will be taken aback by the sheer EPIC scale of the film. Avengers: Endgame pulls no stops in its final act with a spectacular battle scene that will go down in cinematic history as one of the greatest, if not the greatest battle scene shown on film. The final battle is confidently and explosively has the scale of an all-out war that is sprawling and visceral! While the pyrotechnics and the effects are a highlight (and better nab this film an Oscar for best special effects!), just as impactful are all the dramatic moments showcased in the finale. There is a satisfying feeling of payoff, whether we’re celebrating or mourning or are left hanging on the edge of our seats. The final act seriously induces tears not just because of the fate of some characters, but because one can’t help but rejoice in the level of glory displayed on the screen. This film truly feels like a work of art to be savored.

Already some are proclaiming Avengers: Endgame to be the best MCU and superhero film of all time. To be fair, it’s too soon to bestow that honor. Let time pass and genuflect on how this film resonates. But it certainly is the most epic superhero film that sticks the landing. That was something this film had to accomplish and somehow pulls this off so powerfully.

Avengers in Benatar

By the time Avengers: Endgame ends, there is a feeling of completion. The story of most of these characters has come to an end. By the way, don’t bother waiting around for a post- or middle-credits scene. There isn’t any, although after seeing the film one will have to agree that none were needed. At the same time, we are left with tantalizing glimpse of how life goes on with an eye towards the next great phase of the MCU. For some this will be a good point to stop following the MCU, but there is so much to look forward to. For now, let this epic event called Avengers: Endgame sink in and permeate our hearts as we celebrate the greatest film franchise of all time.

José Soto