This is the third in a series of posts I will be doing to better explain my displeasure with what Fox, Bryan Singer, Lauren Shuler Donner and company have done with my favorite super hero team of all time… The X-Men.
You can check out other installments in the What’s So Wrong With The X-Men Movies Anyway? series here:
This week we will be taking an in depth look at each of the individual X-Teams we have seen on film. We will look at the good and the bad of each team and how the decisions made affected the outcome of how these X-Teams came across on screen.
The case has been made many times that Wolverine has been the main focus of every single X-Men movie thus far, save First Class. Had the teams been assembled better from the beginning and characters better filled their roles on the team this very easily could have been avoided.
So, let’s start at the beginning…
Team Members: Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Storm
First off, major problem… there are only four members. Yes, Rogue and Iceman are in the school so there are additional mutant characters but we are talking the X-Men team. Four members. Since the very beginning the X-Men have had AT LEAST five members. They’re pretty darn lucky Wolverine decided to join because a three person super hero team is pretty pathetic even if these are some of the most powerful mutants around.
The members that are here are pretty solid core members of the X-Men teams from the past 30-40 years of comicdom but it is just too small of a team in total numbers to represent the X-Men.
This team probably should have mirrored the X-Men cartoon series in terms of the team makeup. The X-Men team of X-Men: The Animated Series was Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine, Gambit, Rogue and Beast with Jubilee being the younger newbie. Now THAT is an X-Men team. You could easily pull off the same story using Jubilee as the young girl running away from home who gets rescued by Wolverine. It may have been a bit harder to establish a couple more characters but let’s be real, Storm’s character isn’t established at all as it is. What difference would it be if there were 2-3 other undeveloped characters in the movie if it allowed the movie to have a team dynamic.
This movie is all about Wolverine joining the X-Men and going on his first mission with them so it is understandable that he is a pretty major focus of the movie. His antithesis on the team, Cyclops, is shown to be a bit of a rival from the very beginning… which is great. The problem is that is all Cyclops is shown to be. He is shown to be the leader of the X-Men but a case is never made that he is a STRONG leader. We, as viewers, should see the strengths in both Cyclops and Wolverine and we are left viewing Cyclops as a big ‘ole weeny and Wolverine being a kickass dude.
This is also the point where we should have seen aspects to this team having been around for a long time. It would have been awesome to see a portrait of the original five (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel and Iceman) up on the wall or something. Of course, that would have ruined the roles of Iceman and Angel in this and future films but those roles could have easily been filled by other, lower level mutants.
X2: X-Men United (2003)
Team Members: Wolverine, Storm, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler
Seriously… that’s the entirety of X-Men that are involved in the final mission… in what is supposedly the best X-Men movie ever made (if you listen to the Fox-Men fanboys). This team is not prepared for any sort of circumstance where something doesn’t go their way. They’re dang lucky Nightcrawler was such a nice guy and decided to help out or else it would have been a three person team. That’s a pathetic X-Men unit.
Cyclops is a member but he is captured by Stryker, leaving this bare bones X-Team to rescue his butt.
Rogue, Iceman, Colossus and Kitty Pryde are all students at the school but none are actually X-Men at this point.
There’s literally mutants all over the globe and they can’t get more than four people to join them in battle. This again shows the lack of understanding and respect for the universe Fox and Singer were dabbling in.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Team Members: Wolverine, Storm, Beast, Iceman, Colossus, Kitty Pryde
Finally we start to feel like we have an actual team. For all the crap that The Last Stand has gotten for the past 8 years, it actually did get some very crucial things right. This grouping feels like it has enough of the old and enough of the new to constitute a legitimate X-Men team.
It also got a lot of things wrong. Cyclops, again relegated to the background, is killed off early on and never comes back, leaving the X-Men leaderless. In the comics Storm would hop right up into the leadership position but in the X-Men movie universe it’s Wolverine. You know, the guy who’s only been a member of this team for a couple years and takes off whenever he wants. Yeah. That guy.
Angel makes an appearance in the movie and appears in the traditional X-Men movie universe leather (ugh) in promo shots for the movie but is never an actual member of the team.
Former students, Iceman, Colossus and Kitty Pryde, step up in big way and actually help make this team feel complete. Even without key members like Cyclops and Jean Grey, there is no doubt this is an X-Men unit. There is also a sense of a past, present and future of the X-Men.
The X-Men start to feel like a fighting unit for the first time too. We see actual cooperation and teamwork as the X-Men fight Magneto’s forces in the final battle.
For all the negativity that has been hurled at The Last Stand over the years, including by Bryan Singer himself, it actually isn’t as bad as many would lead you to believe. Oh, it’s not a great movie but it showed a glimpse at what the X-Men could be on film.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
Team Members: Charles Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, Beast, Havok, Banshee
Now, I rank First Class as probably my favorite X-Men movies so far. The X-Men team isn’t the reason for that ranking, though.
I will say, however, that in this universe, the First Class team is probably not considered a true X-Men team.
You will notice that I have omitted Darwin and Angel Salvatore. Both members were not featured in the final battle. Angel Salvatore defected to the Hellfire Club and Darwin was killed by Sebastian Shaw.
As an X-Men team, this version is pretty weak. The members’ powers are certainly up to snuff but having Magneto and Mystique as members is just wrong.
Beast is a great addition to this team. It’s a throwback to the original comic book X-Men team. Plus, he shows up later in the movies series (which has obvious chronological issues since the Beast that appeared in The Last Stand would be approximately 65 years old… but that was covered in a different article).
Havok is an interesting member since his younger (older in the comics) brother Cyclops is a future member of the team.
Banshee is also an interesting choice, as he is a member from the second iteration of the X-Men team.
The problem is that this team doesn’t gel in any way. None of these members were ever a team in the comics, unless it was something more recent or very short term I am unaware of. As it is, the movie is not so much about the team. It is much more about Charles and Erik… and a little bit Mystique. That said, this movie somehow manages to capture the team dynamic better than any other X-Men movie to date.
Bryan Singer recently stated that he hopes to delve more into how the first true X-Men team got together in X-Men: Apocalypse. I hope he does and that he does it justice. I’ll be interested to find out who those first X-Men are in this universe since it can’t possibly be the real original five. My guess would be Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Beast and… maybe Gambit. I don’t know about that last one.
As the old saying goes, a team is greater than its parts. In the movie X-Men’s case, the X-Men should be greater than just Wolverine. This has been said time and again but it’s time to focus on the teams of these movies and not just Wolverine. That also means that you don’t focus on a few big name actors that have recently joined the franchise (Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender… now Channing Tatum). In order for this franchise to last and come close to being true to the source material, it has to be about more than a pretty blue face or two.
Stay tuned to Action Movie Fanatix for the final installment of “What Is So Wrong With The X-Men Movies Anyway?” And as always, let us know what you think in the comments below – agree, disagree, indifferent.