The X-Men Trilogy includes the three films X-Men, X2: X-Men United, and X-Men The Last Stand, but has had a full-fledged film series grow out of it, with one good prequel (X-Men First Class) and one atrocity of a prequel (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and even more movies on the way in the next couple of years. Nevertheless, the first three films stand apart as their own self-contained trilogy, which means I’m all for analyzing them on this blog.
The first X-Men movie came out in 2000, during a time when comic book films were all but dead. Hard to imagine nowadays, what with four or five new superhero movies released each year, making them feel much less special (thanks, Marvel…). X-Men is kind of underrated, I think, since it was in large part responsible for the renewed interest in comic book movies after Batman and Robin killed them off for a while. When I was younger, I thought it was great because, you know, Wolverine and stuff. But now, especially in the context of it starting a trilogy, I really like how it introduced the viewer to the world of the mutants. It’s a very subdued movie, especially as far as summer blockbusters go, and it doesn’t get very action-packed until the last half-hour or so. For a movie that has as many characters as it does, X-Men spends an adequate amount of time developing each of them (well, for the most part. Sorry, Cyclops fans), as well as giving us an interesting story of humans and mutants struggling to coexist. I suppose it’s not amazing, really, but it’s a great introduction that leaves things off with the promise of a great follow-up.
And thank goodness that follow-up delivered. X2 is one of my favorite comic book movies ever, as well as just a straight up great action flick. It perfectly ups the ante from the first movie and expands on the idea of human mutation in an interesting way. The new characters that are introduced are all great (especially Nightcrawler, though mainly for that awesome opening scene) and the returning characters are expanded on pretty well, too (again, aside from Cyclops. Poor guy just can’t get much screen time in these movies). It works perfectly as the middle section of this trilogy, further developing the conflict established in the first movie, and hinting at what could happen in the third chapter. The final scene leaves things off with a great tease towards what the next threat to the X-Men will be, and will likely cause you to want to put in the third film right away, expecting an amazing finale.
Well, that amazing finale never came.
Yes, it’s true, there was a third movie, but unfortunately the X-Men trilogy ends with a thud, also known as X-Men The Last Stand (though from now on I’ll just type X3). I’m not gonna beat around the bush here; X3 is the most disappointing movie ever, at least in my opinion. That’s not to say it’s completely terrible, though. For just a quick hour-and-a-half action movie, you could do worse than X3. But as a finale to the two great movies that came before, it just sucks. See, what happened was Bryan Singer, the director of X-Men and X2, was primed and ready to direct the third and fourth X-Men movies back-to-back. The scripts were ready to go, and I’m sure they would have been good movies. But the studio, Fox, was apparently hard to work with, and so Singer left the project to go direct something else. Thing is, Fox still wanted the movie out three years after X2. Something had to be done, and fast.
So who do you get to replace Bryan Singer? The guy who directed the Rush Hour movies, of course! Okay, okay, to be fair, it’s not entirely Brett Ratner’s fault how X3 turned out. The script was quickly thrown together so that production could start, and the studio was probably constantly interfering and demanding things to make the movie more marketable. The result was what I suppose could be called a mess. Even when I saw the movie when I was in eighth grade and was very easy to please I was let down. I mean, I liked it, cause, you know, Wolverine and stuff, but I could tell even then how much better the first two were.
As a movie it feels much more cartoony and cheesy than the first two, and as a finale it’s just way too rushed. It clocks in at just over 90 minutes, when its predecessor was well over two hours long. As a result, many characters are killed off or done away with to make room for more random new characters. If Cyclops fans were pissed at the first two movies’ treatment of the character, they must have gone ballistic at this one. The dialogue is much clunkier and the characters we previously liked are now just superpowers with actors wrapped around them. Oh, and the final war that the previous two movies were building up to? Yeah, that lasts for about ten minutes.
On the bright side, some of the action scenes are okay, and if you’re just watching it for fun I suppose you won’t be bored. But man, it just falls so flat. If Fox had just been patient and not demanded the movie be out by a certain date, we could have gotten an amazing two and a half hour final chapter to this trilogy. Instead, what we got was more like a 90 minute cartoon. If there was one movie that I could demand a redo of, it would be this one. Because really, the first two are solid and are building to something specific, something we never got. You can’t just ignore X-Men The Last Stand. When you finish X2 you immediately want to know how the story concludes. But then, once you know how it ends, you’ll wish you didn’t know…
So yeah, after that blast of negativity, I’m still gonna say this is a really good trilogy overall. The first two are strong enough to carry it, and as much as I’m let down by it, the third movie still makes sense as a third act to this story. It’s just a very rushed, poorly handled finale, and your average viewer could probably come up with a better finale to the first two movies just using their own imagination. The next X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, is set to be a follow-up to both X-Men First Class as well as this trilogy. However, it is unknown if it will acknowledge the events of X3 at all, which I think is telling of how much that movie dropped the ball. It’s sad that it turned out that way, but in the long run, the trilogy is still pretty good, at least as far as superhero trilogies go. It’s also a prime example of how many trilogies turn out, with a good first movie, great second movie, and a weaker third movie. Expect to see this trend turn up much more as I continue my analyses.