Deadpool 2 is now out in theaters! Sadly, with a baby at home I’m not sure when I will get to see it. I didn’t read any Deadpool back when I read comics, but I was a big X-Men fan. All those X-Men comics from back in the day included a little Cable so I am very excited to see Josh Brolin’s take on Cable when I do get around to seeing Deadpool 2.
I recently rewatched all ten previous X-Men movies. Ranking them is a tough proposition. The overall quality isn’t as high as the MCU, but there are no truly bad X-Men movies and only one great one. I tend to think the most highly thought of movies are overrated, and the least highly thought of movies underrated.
I buck the conventional wisdom the most on X-Men: Days of Future Past, the first Deadpool, The Wolverine, and X-2.
My ranking of the first ten X-Men movies, from worst to first:
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Not as bad as it is sometimes made out to be—no truly bad X-Men movies and all that—but it ain’t good. There is great casting, from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (one of the best things about the movie series overall) to the inspired casting of Liev Schreiber as Victor Creed to Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool Wade Wilson. Too bad that didn’t work out this movie, but I’m not a Deadpool fan so I never took it personally. The bigger problem is a plot that probably looked good on paper but winds up overly telegraphed and clumsily executed.
X-Men: The Last Stand
As with the Wolverine Origins, The Last Stand is not as bad it is sometimes made out to be. The Last Stand and the Wolverine Origins movie suffer from the same problem—badly mishandling beloved elements from the comics, respectively the Dark Phoenix Saga and Deadpool. Just as I didn’t read Deadpool, the Dark Phoenix Saga was before my time. Adaption issues notwithstanding, the story is still a mess. There are better effects than the first movie, but The Last Stand brings back the hokiness that is the main problem with the first movie.
It’s the closest to the X-Men I grew up reading (and it doesn’t screw it up like Days of Future Past). It relies on a lot of prior knowledge of the X-Men, but whatever. Psylocke and Apocalypse and Archangel and Nightcrawler and, uh, Jubilee? Heck yeah! But, yeah, no, this isn’t a good movie. I was so excited to see Apocalypse, and the X-Men movies really need to move past Magneto, but Apocalypse the villain and Apocalypse the movie were both pretty disappointing.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
As with Apocalypse, my take on this movie is heavily influenced by my comics experience. Days of Future Past has a great setup. I was a big fan of the Sentinels in the animated series but they disappointed me here. And Magneto fatigue finally sets in for me. It would have been a much shorter movie if they don’t needlessly free Magneto (with obvious consequences). And I have a high suspension of disbelief for these movies, but Magneto’s control of the Sentinels makes no sense. There is a lot to like here so I’m not going to hate on Days of Future Past too much.
Like Super Troopers, The Rundown, and the first Blade movie, the rest of Deadpool can’t possibly live up to the awesomeness of its opening scene. It suffers from definite origin story problems, which is the other reason I’m excited about Deadpool 2. The best part is Colossus as Yakov Smirnoff. It’s great fun and there are also some really great action set pieces, but many of the jokes haven’t aged well.
It’s hokey. The effects are by far the worst in the series. The casting is a little hit and miss, but casting Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen ensured a long series. It’s easy to underestimate how big a deal it was to get a legit superhero movie in 2000. And it still holds up. I mentioned the origin story problem above. X-Men effortlessly interweaves exposition into the story without ever bogging it down, and gives us what we need to know without feeling the need to do an actual origin story, which is more than I can say for any number of superhero movies.
First off, The Wolverine is so damn stylish and visually appealing. Rila Fukushima as Yukio is my fake girlfriend. Watching it within a few hours of the first Wolverine movie, it does a great job building thematically on that book without relying on its plot elements (probably for the best). More importantly, it also sets up Logan thematically. In doing so, it pulls off the complex plot that the Wolverine Origins movie tries and fails to. But the flashbacks with Jean Gray were largely ineffective, the Silver Samurai is tonally off, and the movie generally suffers from the end.
X-Men: First Class
First Class has some of my favorite individual scenes in any of the movies. E.g., Magneto in Argentina, Xavier and Magneto’s recruiting trips. First Class almost rivals The Wolverine for stylishness. One of the best things about the first X-Men movie is that it isn’t an origin story; First Class is a good origin story, but the demands of the form still weigh it down. And First Class drags a bit in the middle.
X-2 is the best of the core X-Men movies. It does everything the first movie does well as well or better. But it loses the hokiness and the effects are much better. It also adds my favorite of the X-Men: Nightcrawler.
My second favorite of the X-Men? Wolverine. Wolverine has, of course, played a huge role in most of the X-Men movies, but the first two standalone Wolverine movies were disappointments. Underrated disappointments, but disappointments nonetheless. Logan, though? Logan isn’t just a great Wolverine movie. It is the only truly great X-Men movie, and, to my mind, the greatest superhero movie of all time. It makes for one hell of a swan song for Hugh Jackman, and takes a page from the MCU in cross genres, this time drawing from Westerns and post-apocalyptic.