To conclude this mutant week we've been up to, let's name the best moments from Marvel's evolutionary franchise. We still maintain that X-Men's complex mythology and soap opera relationships would be a far more natural fit for the television medium, but the movies will do for now...
TEN GREATEST X-MOVIE MOMENTS
Honorable Mention: There is that momentarily thrilling one moment in X-Men Last Stand (2006) when Angel (Ben Foster) took flight, but the rest of that film took such a dump on grand source material that it's best forgotten. This proposed memory wipe is even more welcome now that X-Men First Class has taken a decent stab at the source material again. The most obvious problem with Last Stand was its greedy carelessness, attempting to reference everything that had ever existed, thus offering up half-ass takes on dozens upon dozens of characters and sidelining the most mythic of all X-Men narratives, the Dark Phoenix saga; whoever's bright idea that last bit was should probably never work in the storytelling medium again.
If future filmmakers are looking for ways to throw fanboys delicious geek bones to chew on, there's no better way to do it than that scene in X2 (2003) when Mystique breaks into Stryker's computer.
Director Bryan Singer's fine compositions and clever throwaway bits (Mystique shapeshifting behind glass) kept the scene crackling but those cutaways to Stryker's computer were nerdgasms waiting to happen. That's all you need to do, filmmakers, offer up itty bitty "easter eggs" if you will. There's no need to overstuff your movie and undersell great stories and characters in the process.
The Top Ten
10. Entering The Hellfire Club (X-Men First Class)
It's a small thing, but there's a welcome naughty jolt when Moira McTaggart impulsively strips down to her undergarments to tail Emma Frost and her girls into the Hellfire Club. What unfolds there blows Moira's mind. There's plentiful unfortunate evidence to suggest that not one of the four X-directors have remotely understood the complexities of the female mutants, treating them primarily as victims or sex objects (shame). But it's also silly to presume that Sex Object isn't a mandatory job requirement for all heroes and villains who linger in the public imagination, with those hyper masculine/feminine bodies in skin-tight costumes. Emma Frost just dispenses with the pretense of a costume and super-villains it in her lingerie. Damn girl!
09. Magneto and the Nazis (X-Men First Class)
Judging only a movie-making basis, this would rank higher but though it's quite a thrilling and well acted revenge scene, it's also an odd fit for a superhero movie; you could lift it (nearly) wholesale into a non-superpowered movie, couldn't you?
08. Deathstryke vs. Wolverine (X2)
Wolverine's reaction to Deathstryke's unleashed claws is not the most eloquent line in the superhero genre but it's the most succinctly accurate, wouldn't you agree? What follows is the perfect example of how to handle action sequences with virtually indestructable heroes like Wolverine: make it hurt.
07. Nightcrawler attacks the President (X2)
The famously demonic looking hero proves that looks can be deceiving. So his introduction into cinema takes just that tack, painting him as a super villain, when in reality he's one of the goodest of good guys. He's just been controlled by Stryker's neck acid is all (what?).
Here was an example of a creative team rising to meet a challenging visual spectacle. How do you convey those multiple blows from a blink and you'll miss him teleporter while also showing his acrobatic agility and his memorable tail? They found quite a solution to their problems in this terrific and strangely terrifying sequence. It's one of the only moments in the franchise where you're definitely on the "human" side, totally understanding why mutants are feared and hated. How do you survive against ...that?
06. Wolverine meets the X-Men (X-Men)
A cleverly shot sequence, peaking with the moment when Wolverine is reflected in all the X-Men suits . He's like an animal lost in excessively sterile human tunnels. But curse the housekeeper for putting those X-Sweatshirts right in plain view for Logan to clothe himself with. Eye candy snatched away from us halfway through the scene!
05. Mean Girls (X2)
The most delicious thread of the first two films is that bitchy chemistry between Mystique and Magneto. It helps that few actors can deliver a line with as much melodic wit and superiority as Sir Ian McKellen.
We love what you've done with your hair.
Even better than this juvenile humiliation of Rogue is their instant adoption of Pyro by way of 'it takes one to know one' evil kindred spirit. "They say you're the bad guy." Pyro ventures, not disinterested in the bad.
Is that what they say?
Sir Ian McKellen is bliss.
04. "Find them. All of them" (X2)
This creepy-ass climax finds Stryker's son infecting Xavier's mind while posing as a little girl. (It's a sinister flip on Professor X's jokey threat to Wolverine earlier in the picture... "I'll have Jean braid your hair"). The plan is diabolical, weird and the scene is well staged as it escalates. Love the shifting focus and that sinister penetrating stare, too alive for such a zombiefied mutant.
03. Between Serenity and Rage (X-Men First Class)
The new film could've used more quiet thrills like this one, when Xavier gently touches Magneto's mind and his most humane instincts. Move that satellite dish. Of course you can't pull a scene like this off without magnetic (haha) actors. The new film may be uneven but Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are miracle workers, indicating this franchise can stay magical post Bryan Singer & Ian McKellen.
02. Mystique vs. Wolverine (X-Men)
A rare beast: a silent fight scene that feels like a verbal showdown or a straight up musical number, it's so attuned to the moods of the performers and their physical beats, what with Wolverine's relentless unnerved slashing and Mystique's theatricality and arrythmic movements. It's wonderfully weird and compelling.
01. Xavier's School Breached / Berserker Rage (X2: X-Men United)
More lip service is paid to Wolverine's temper than is ever successfully shown in the films, but Bryan Singer nailed it this one time, finally providing visual evidence of the famous adage.
He's the best there is at what he does but what he does isn't very nice.
Home invasions are of course the most inherently terrifying of all action sequences At home you're supposed to be safe. This sequences manages multiple characters and multiple moods (fear, chaos, curiousity, character, and even humor) with singular focus and skill. Even better than the stabby slashing goodness of Logan's rage, is how well crafted the entire sequence is by Singer, editors John Ottman and Elliot Graham sound man Craig Berkey and cinematography Newton Thomas Sigel. One has to only remember the final grace note in the battle, Ice Man's last minute unwelcome rescue of Wolverine, to understand what so many X-directors lack that Bryan Singer had. When you're dealing with superpowered characters, you'd better have your own in the image-making department.
Report Card: X-Men (2000) B- | X2 (2003) A- (I'd name it the second best comic book movie ever) | X-Men Last Stand (2006) D | X-Men Origins Wolverine (2009) F | X-Men First Class (2011) B-/C+ Only character interpretation that's superior to the comic books: Mystique | Three best character interpretations overall: 1. Wolverine 2. Mystique 3. Magneto Three collosal failures of adaptation: 1. Storm, 2. Dark Phoenix, 3. managing the web of one-on-one relationships outside of the central Xavier/Magneto dynamic.
MUTANT WEEK ROLL CREDITS...