8) X-Men: Apocalypse
For reasons I can’t fully discern, people seem to hate this movie. Perhaps I just carried away whenever there’s a cool Quicksilver scene, but I thought this was a damn-good blockbuster. It’s certainly not the massive turkey that everyone else makes it out to be and there are plenty of standout moments.
For instance, there’s the devastating bit where Magneto loses his family, the ultra-violent Weapon X rampage, the insane prologue in Ancient Egypt and, of course, the aforementioned Quicksilver set-piece. I can think of several (beloved) MCU movies that have far less going for them, yet Apocalypse has been inexplicably lumped in with dreck like Suicide Squad and Fan4stic. This might not be the X-Men’s finest hour, and it is a tad hollow when compared to its immediate predecessors, but that’s not enough to warrant such a poor reputation.
Often credited (or blamed) with kick-starting the superhero mania of the 21st century, the first instalment in the X-Men franchise deserves far more recognition than it gets. Not only is it competently put-together from a technical standpoint, which was remarkable enough back then, but it also has a sense of artistic integrity that distinguishes it to this day.
Laudably rooting its fantastical premise in mature character drama and heady themes, the trailblazer proved that comic-book movies needn’t be corny, badly-written schlock, at a time when their cultural worth was about on par with video-game adaptations. Indeed, when compared to the likes of Spawn or *shudder* Tank Girl – it was clear that this blockbuster had genuine ambition and was unwilling to settle for the ‘’brainless fun’’ label. The team obviously wanted to make something with a touch of class, going so far as to include a civil rights allegory and recruiting esteemed thespians Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart.
It was a ballsy move, one that could have easily backfired and made the whole affair look rather silly. It’s a testament to Fox’s commitment then, as well as their forward-thinking, that this bold direction paid off, delivering a compelling story, likeable characters and a thoroughly believable world.
There’s no arguing that this was a true watershed moment for blockbuster cinema, marking the exact juncture at which Hollywood started to take this superhero malarkey seriously. The genre has admittedly progressed a little since then and, in retrospect, some cracks are starting to show (the pacing is uneven, the action dated and the climax lame). Regardless, this is still an enticing introduction to the mutant universe, one that made everything else possible.
6) Deadpool 2
More so than any other film in this list, I had a tough time picking the right spot for Deadpool 2. On one hand, I didn’t notice any huge dips in quality when it came to the sequel and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit on its own terms. The standard of humour was more or less maintained, Ryan Reynolds was still a perfect fit for the role and the action was beefed up significantly.
Yet, at the same time, I don’t feel as much affection for it. Perhaps that’s because it plays it too safe, recycling many of the same meta gags and ideas from before. Or maybe it’s because I felt less relief this time around, as I was more confident that it was going to work. Either way, Deadpool 2 didn’t give me the same exhilarating jolt as its predecessor. You could say that it’s suffering from a very minor case of sequelitis.
That being said, the movie is still a giddily entertaining romp that has plenty of laugh-out-loud jokes. The debut of X-Force alone is enough to recommend it.
5) X-Men: Days of Future Past
Days of Future Past has one hell of a gimmick propping it up. Utilising a time-travel hook that weaves together the original X-Men trilogy and the later reboot, it dared to do something that no one had ever attempted before. Throw in some giant killer robots for good measure and it was as close to a sure thing as you can get. The filmmakers could almost be forgiven for resting on their laurels and letting this crossover appeal do all of the hard work for them.
Instead, they admirably channelled their efforts into crafting a fulfilling journey that explored the emotional fallout of First Class, whilst also giving a fitting send-off to the old guard. There was so much that could have gone wrong here, but any pitfalls are gracefully side-stepped by the intelligent screenplay. For a start, they wisely zeroed-in on just a handful of heroes, in order to prevent the story from feeling cluttered and overstuffed. Meanwhile, they came up with coherent rules for their time travel premise, so that everything makes sense within the internal logic of the movie.
Most importantly of all, they never lost sight of the character growth, which is where this franchise has always excelled. Both Magneto and Raven get far more development than your typical Blockbuster would allow for, whilst Professor X is given one of the most powerful arcs in any superhero movie. Speaking of which, James McAvoy takes full advantage of his enhanced role, sinking his teeth into some quite powerful scenes. A notable highlight being the part where a disillusioned Xavier gets an inspiring pep-talk from his future self.
In many ways, this is one of the most impressive movies to come out of Fox slate, because it had so many plates to spin. The fact that it wasn’t a disaster is kind of astonishing. The fact that it turned out this good, is nothing short of a miracle.
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