Ever since X-Men Origins’ curious handling of the Merc with a Mouth, audiences were hungry for a more authentic depiction of the character, preferably in his own solo vehicle. Unfortunately, Fox were reluctant to greenlight such a project, unless it made certain concessions for the sake of mainstream appeal. Namely, they wanted a version that reigned in all the absurdist comedy and toned down the adult content. You know, the stuff that defines Deadpool as a fan favourite.
Anyway, this heavily neutered interpretation remained trapped in development hell for years upon years and we gradually resigned ourselves to the notion that it was never going to see the light of day. That was until 2014, when encouraging test footage leaked online, showcasing a brand new Deadpool with all the gory bloodshed, outrageous meta-gags and profanity-laced dialogue kept firmly intact. It was a stroke of genius on the part of the filmmakers, one that revitalised demand for a Wade Wilson spin-off. Production commenced shortly thereafter and, as you would expect, the hype levels quickly ballooned out of control.
Luckily the final product was a true passion-project, overflowing with creativity and warmth. You could tell that Ryan Reynolds cared deeply about nailing the zany anti-hero, as he fully threw himself into the rapid-fire ad libs and the lively physical comedy. Likewise, Zombieland screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick put a lot of effort into translating the comics’ signature wit to the big-screen, whilst also offering a surprising love-story to anchor the movie. The final part of the puzzle was director Tim Miller, who worked hard to ensure that the style was up to snuff too, with crazy visual flourishes like the now-iconic opening credits and the eye-popping action sequences.
Funny, charming and unexpectedly sweet, Deadpool delivered upon everything it promised and showed just what Fox were capable of when they were willing to take chances. With the rights now transferring over to Disney, let’s just hope that the new owners don’t shy away from taking similar risks.
3) X2: X-Men United
Mystifying title aside, this is an exemplary follow-up that builds upon everything the original did well, earning its place in the pantheon of great sequels. The action is shaper, the plot is more nuanced, and the returning players are given ample opportunity to show-off their acting chops. Meanwhile, there’s a whole host of interesting newcomers (most notably the dexterous Nightcrawler and the hateful Stryker) who all make a strong first impression and help to round out the diverse cast.
As with Apocalypse, we’re also treated to a healthy supply of invigorating set-pieces – from the opening salvo at the White House, to the assault on the X-Mansion, to Magneto’s prison break, right through to Pyro’s fiery altercation with the police. Yet it’s the more intimate moments that really hit home, such as Iceman’s ‘’coming out’’ scene and Logan’s attempts to wrestle with his traumatic past.
This all contributes to the feeling that X2 is a meaningful expansion of the universe, as opposed to just an obligatory cash-in. After all, they don’t lazily rehash narrative-beats and instead come up with a fresh story that would be absorbing with-or-without the superpowers. In fact, you could remove all of the sci-fi elements here and you would still have a gripping thriller. In that sense, X2 can comfortably stand alongside The Dark Knight as not just a great comic-book movie, but a great film.
2) X-Men: First Class
After the double whammy that was The Last Stand and Origins, our favourite mutants were in dire straits at the beginning of the 2010s. Previously hailed as one of the major players in the comic-book arena, the franchise seemed to have lost its lustre and was at risk of becoming irrelevant. To make matters worse, the MCU was starting to make waves in the lead up to The Avengers and Fox’s output just looked obsolete by comparison.
Apparently the night is darkest just before the dawn though, as what came next was the series’ most electrifying release to date. First Class revitalised the entire series by putting a groovy 60s spin on the material and focussing more intensely on the core relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. It had a fun retro-style, a clever script, a top-notch cast and the best character development out of the bunch.
Honestly, there’s a lot going in the movie – as it chronicles the formation of the original team, gives us a glimpse of Magneto’s (badass) Nazi-hunting days, and even throws in a bit of intrigue surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis – but it never feels weighed down by all these plot threads. On the contrary, it deftly weaves them all together into a fully satisfying whole that has a bit of everything. Excitement, emotion, humour, scrumptious visuals: it’s all here in one handsomely mounted package.
Matthew Vaughn, who finally got to dip his toes into this universe after The Last Stand debacle, is one of the most consistently entertaining directors working today and with this one he truly knocked it out of the park. It’s one of the best blockbusters of the decade and I’m honestly shocked that it’s not my number 1.
Remember when I said that the decision-makers on The Wolverine didn’t seem to be operating on the same wavelength as each other? Remember when I said that it had great potential but most of it was squandered on blatant compromise?
Well Logan is everything that movie should have been and then some. Summarising its brilliance is a tall order and it’s tempting to just reel off a list of everything that it does well. Which is exactly what I’m going to do, because I’m a lazy asshole and can’t think of a way to finish this bloody article! So without further delay, here are my reasons for why Logan kicks major ass:
- The Oscar-nominated screenplay pulls no punches and the hard-nosed dialogue is note-perfect
- James Mangold’s visceral direction ensures that the fights have palpable jeopardy and consequences
- Hugh Jackman gives a career-best performance
- The Neo-Western tint gives the film a unique, melancholic flavour
- Although dealing with dark subject-matter, the movie avoids the trap of becoming exhaustingly grim.
- There are instances of levity and tenderness scattered throughout, that only serve to make the inevitable tragedy all the more effective
- Over the course of the movie, you start to care for these characters in a way that you never have done before
- The action is firmly rooted in reality (Just look at the bit where they try to drive through the fence)
- The icing on the cake: it goes to town its hard-R rating.
Frankly, I don’t think we’ll get another X-Men movie of this calibre once Disney takes over. I can’t envision them supporting a project this daring and unconventional, without feeling the need to lighten it up. Which is a shame, because I sincerely believe that Logan is a full-on masterpiece.