Piling On The MCU And Other Superhero Movies

The continued dissing on the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and other superhero films by prominent filmmakers and actors has gotten ridiculous!

For years as the MCU gained more and more popularity and the films became more and more successful there have been grumblings from various actors and filmmakers who have not being involved in such films. They would pooh pooh the films and claim that they were only interested in real art and bemoaned the death of cinema. Most of us fans dismissed their rants and chalked them up to sour grapes and not bothering to understand the emerging cinematic genre.

But this piling on the MCU and the other superhero/comic book films is now overboard with the recent rants from Martin Scorsese and most recently Francis Ford Coppola. Frankly enough is enough.

Yes, we understand these filmmakers’ frustrations with getting their projects off the ground but to take it out on these films is uncalled for.  Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion and certainly the superhero films won’t appeal to everybody. However, Scorsese recently said he has not watched most MCU films and then went on to make a broad statement about how inferior they are and called them “theme parks”, in other words, inconsequential fluff. To have such an opinion when not having seen many films of the genre is backward. This also infers that Scorsese has not seen superhero films that transcended the genre such as The Dark Knight, Logan, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Of course, the genre film he produced Joker does not count (note the sarcasm).

While many superhero films may not be high art and are harmless entertainment, there are many that are high quality films and yes this applies to many MCU films. There is not a need to list the many fine superhero films but it is clear that they contribute to the cinematic art form. Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. It was the prejudice of many old fashioned voters that kept it from getting nominated for Best Actor or Best Picture. The same went for The Dark Knight, though Heath Ledger won a deserved Best Supporting Actor for his classic portrayal of the Joker.  Black Panther became the first superhero film to get the prestigious Best Picture nod, though there have been better superhero films. Nevertheless, this is an important achievement.

Superhero films are not alone in being disrespected by elite filmmakers. Sci-fi and horror continue to be disregarded by many of them even though many genre films are well made examples of cinema and have been very influential.

Keep in mind, much of this has to do with resentment. While Avengers: Endgame dominated the box office, Scorsese struggled to get his upcoming film The Irishman made and was forced to have it released through Netflix. The blame for this has to go to the studios who will only bankroll films that they are confident which will be successful, not just in North America but throughout the world. Superhero films happen to be the flavor of the decade. Each decade has a very successful genre that captures the public attention. Last decade it was epic fantasy films like the Harry Potter films or The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the ’80s and ’90s it was action films, sci-fi epics, slasher flicks and disaster films. There was a time when the Western was the most popular genre, it is certain that many filmmakers back in the day grumbled about Westerns and how they couldn’t get their projects bankrolled. That is just the way it is. Sooner or later, some other genre will take center stage at the box office and there will still be complainers.

For us, we should ignore these critics, especially if they haven’t bothered to watch superhero films. As for them, maybe they should open their minds and genuinely give the films a chance. Either way, we know how great superhero films are and that should be enough.

José Soto

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

Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2017

The many memorable films and TV shows that came out in 2017 proved why the sci-fi, fantasy and horror genre dominated our minds. These modern-day gems stood out thanks to many factors like production values, f/x and acting. But more importantly due to smartly written scripts that allowed these productions to stand out and excel. These are the best films and TV shows of 2017 along with some honorable mentions.

Films

10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Episode 8 of the main Star Wars saga is its most controversial and divisive film. Despite its script and pacing flaws, the film had many merits and took the saga into unexpected directions.

9. TIE: Justice League/Thor: Ragnarok

This year’s final superhero flicks were great in their own ways. Justice League is a true guilty pleasure and wildly underrated. The epic team-up of DC’s greatest heroes was sloppy and erratic but deep down was a lot of fun. Meanwhile, Thor: Ragnarok was the most vibrant and fast-paced Thor film that put the heroic demigod through the wringer and teamed him up with the Hulk.

8. Get Out

Suspenseful and tense, Get Out exposed our current society’s racial fears in a groundbreaking way. The intelligent script kept us guessing about the plot’s many twists, while playing on racial misconceptions.

7. Blade Runner 2049

A brilliantly filmed sequel to the sci-fi masterpiece isn’t quite as good as Ridley Scott’s original, but it comes so close. Astonishing visuals and thoughtful themes stayed with you long after the film was over.

blade runner 2049 poster

6. Coco

Pixar did it again with this original (finally, enough of the sequels!) and beautifully animated tale about a colorful afterlife, family and remembrance that tugged our heartstrings so powerfully.

5. It

One of the best Stephen King adaptations ever is harrowing and downright frightening. But what made It so popular was its young character studies, as well as the performances from the film’s actors, including Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, the clown from hell.

4. War For the Planet of the Apes

This thought-provoking final film in one of the best film trilogies thoroughly examined the haunted and tortured soul of its main character, Caesar, the super intelligent ape. He was an eerily realistic CG and mo-cap creation, who carried the film with his moving personal battle to salvage his soul.

war for planet of the apes poster

3. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

The sequel packed more emotional punches than its heartfelt predecessor. Many characters went through intense personal arcs while the film itself was as charming, funny and thrilling as the first Guardians of the Galaxy.

GOTGV2 poster

2. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Smart, funny and exciting, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an amazing (corny pun intended) film comeback for the world’s greatest superhero. The first Spider-Man film in the MCU expertly captured the essence of Spider-Man, while modernizing the hero for today’s audiences.

spider-man homecoming posters

1. Logan

This masterful deconstruction of the superhero is a poignant and powerful swan song for Hugh Jackman in his role of Wolverine/Logan. More than a superhero film, Logan is also a dystopian, neo Western that displayed many motifs from the both genres to tell this heartwrenching tale of Logan’s final days. The film was so beautifully crafted thanks to career-defining performances by Jackman and Patrick Stewart as the wizened Charles Xavier. Part of the reason why Logan resonated with so many is because of its universal and relatable message about growing old and facing your end. Logan is a fitting finale for Fox’s X-Men Cinematic Universe.

Honorable Mentions: Alien: Covenant, Bright, Downsizing, It Comes At Night, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Kong: Skull Island, The Lego Batman Movie, Life, The Shape of Water, Split, Wonder Woman

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Logan & The Future Of The X-Men

Logan is the swan song for Hugh Jackman in his seventeen-year film portrayal of the iconic Wolverine superhero. The film is resonating with filmgoers and critics and especially fans of the X-Men films and comics. For 20th Century Fox’s X-Men Cinematic Universe (XCU), Logan’s success combined with last year’s Deadpool points to a bold and fresh direction for the cinematic universe.

X Men Films Roster

Ever since its debut in 2000 with X-Men, the X-Men film franchise has seen its share of ups and downs. Creative and commercial highs like X-Men: Days of Future Past or X-Men: First Class were quickly followed or preceded with disappointments such as X-Men: The Last Stand or X-Men Origins: Wolverine. On the whole the XCU films are exciting and colorful but it seemed as if these superhero films had hit a creative wall as seen with X-Men: Apocalypse. By itself the film was fine, but it had a nagging feeling of déjà vu. We’ve seen these theatrics before; a big, bad mutant comes along and threatens the world while the superheroic mutants complain about how they’re ill treated by humanity, yet go out of their way to save it because, well, they’re the X-Men!

Along Came A Merc

As we all know that template changed with Deadpool. Funny, gross, self mocking and full of vigor and pizzazz, the film proved that something new can be created from the standard X-Men superhero formula with the Merc with the Mouth. Deadpool was a gamble for 20th Century Fox who resisted the idea of greenlighting the film in the first place. Executives worried about funding a superhero film that was vulgar, violent and comedic. After all, an R-rated superhero film is considered blasphemy to studio execs and marketing departments. They feared that the under-18 crowd wouldn’t be able to see, rather spend money to see the film. But to not allow that in a Deadpool film would betray the character.

Of course, Deadpool surprised the industry and delighted giddy fans who wanted an accurate film portrayal of this beloved character that stayed true to his violent, fourth-wall-breaking roots.

Deadpool’s success helped give Fox execs the confidence to allow Logan’s creators to take a creative gamble. This resulted in the film being an adult, hard-hitting, violent film that truly reflected the dark comic book story that inspired it, “Old Man Logan”.

Requiem For Logan

However, Logan’s creative success is not just due to its grim and violent tone. Rather this mature film is more than that, it is about facing mortality and Logan feels so poignant because of the nature of the title character. Logan aka Wolverine, played so skillfully by Hugh Jackman, is a broken, old man who realizes that the world has moved past him. Having long given up the good fight, Logan simply wants to be left alone and face his last days in peace with his mentor Charles Xavier.

Logan at his hideout

Like Logan, Xavier is grappling with the challenges of old age and both men know they are reaching their twilight. Having seen these two characters on film for nearly two decades, it is rather heartbreaking to see the indignities they face as we are reminded of our own mortality. Meanwhile, we have to admit that after seeing Jackman playing this iconic hero for 17 years, it is hard to see him go, but we must, which is why the film’s ending hits so hard.

Logan, Xavier and Laura

At the same time, Logan is looks at the issue of how an adult deals with a degenerating parent. It is a part of life that most will face and by taking care of an ailing Xavier, a man who is not his father makes Logan more heroic than he realizes. Further adding to his growth is the realization of how he has bonded with Laura, aka X-23, the young mutant he and Xavier are protecting. By the film’s end, he has come to not just feel responsible for her but to accept her as his child, which is a bittersweet conclusion to his emotional growth that Xavier urged him to explore earlier in the film.

Logan at hotelDiscovering these themes in a superhero film is actually surprising and gives Logan much more gravitas than the standard superhero film. In many ways, it seems more like a western thanks to its themes of the harsh consequences of violence and beautiful outdoor cinematography. That is why many are proclaiming it to be a film that has outgrown its genre and is now compared to The Dark Knight or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It is needless to add that this modern classic is already considered by many to be the greatest X-Men film to date.

So now that Logan has reinforced the idea that an XCU film can be unexpectedly original, where does Fox go from there? Continue reading

Trailer For The Wolverine Debuts

wolverineEager fans of Marvel Comics’ favorite mutant superhero have waited for quite some time for a look at the upcoming film The Wolverine. A sequel to the poorly received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this new film promises to be better than that one. At least, that is what the people behind The Wolverine are claiming.

One thing going for the film is that it seems to be a loose adaptation of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s comic book mini-series Wolverine, which takes the title character a.k.a. Logan,  into an adventure in Japan.

From looking at the trailer, the film sets up Logan (Hugh Jackman) as being on his own and approached to go to Japan where an old, dying friend offers to cure Logan of his curse of regeneration, which has made him practically immortal. He undergoes medical treatments that makes him mortal, but vulnerable. It couldn’t come at a worse time, since in the film, Logan has to fight an army of ninjas and other killers.

Directed by James Mangold, The Wolverine looks intriguing and exciting. That scene at the end of the trailer where he’s fighting some guy on top of a speeding bullet train is an obvious green screen shot but wildly kinetic. More importantly The Wolverine, at least by looking at the trailer, seems to focus more on Logan and his emotional state. Hopefully it will be better than the last Wolverine solo film, leave out needless cameos of other X-Men characters, and stick to a pure Wolverine adventure.

Waldermann Rivera