To recap, the movies in Fox's X-men series are listed below, with confirmed sequels in red:
X2: X-men United (2003)
X-men: The Last Stand (2006)
X-men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
X-men: First Class (2011)
The Wolverine (2013)
X-men: Days of Future Past (2014)
X-men: Apocalypse (2016)
Third Wolverine Movie (2017)
And to the above can be safely added the Deadpool sequel, which is more of a certainty than any other sequel at this point. It's also possible that Deadpool 2 will really be Deadpool and Cable, or even X-Force, or perhaps they'll even work Deadpool into The New Mutants.
But to return to the not-so-distant past, I was going to discuss X-men: First Class, which came out in 2011. This film was directed by Mathew Vaughn, and combines elements from both the comic books and an earlier, unfinished screenplay for X-men Origins: Magneto. It deals with the X-men's earliest years, and explains how the feud between Xavier and Magneto came to be.
My lust for Jennifer Lawrence aside, it was a great way to reboot the series, and also a great film by its own merits. Both Fassbender and McAvoy are electric in this movie, and Kevin Bacon's Sebastian Shaw proves to be their most menacing foe ever. More than anything, this film gives us reasons to like the X-men, reasons to root for them, and this is more than any of Singer's movies ever did.
In tone it borrows a lot from the early Bond movies, with Magneto acting as a kind of super-powered 007. The sheer style of this movie exceeds anything seen in the series up to that point, and my only real problem with it is Beast, whose self-loathing grows a bit tiresome and hard to understand. Dude, you've got Jennifer Lawrence falling all over you, and you're still obsessing over your feet?
Two years later, in 2013, The Wolverine hit theaters. This movie disappointed a lot of people, probably because we were all expecting too much. With James Mangold directing one of the all-time classic Wolverine stories, it seemed like a sure thing, but the results were mixed.
I think if you can calm down a bit, and not expect all the usual pyrotechnics, The Wolverine is a good film. Yes, the adamantium robot/faux Iron Man thing at the end almost ruins the whole movie, but up until Logan storms the castle it's pretty good. Yes, it has its faults, but it's still miles ahead of X-men Origins: Wolverine.
I can only wonder what Darren Aronofsky would have done with this movie. He was circling this project for quite a while, and it's fun to contemplate the strange movie that might have resulted.
In 2014 Bryan Singer would return to the franchise with X-men: Days of Future Past. This is the film that brought time travel into the X-men universe, and which also tried to combine the best elements of Singer's X-men movies with those of X-men: First Class.
The final product? Well, while I wouldn't dispute the fact that Days of Future Past has its flaws, I think it remains the most emotionally resonant film in the entire franchise. Much of this emotional resonance is due to Simon Kinberg's script, which far outstrips anything he'd written up to that point. It's as if the guy who wrote The Last Stand and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had done some soul searching in the years since his last effort, and the result was something nobody expected.
This movie does, however, leave a gaping hole in the franchise. Why, you ask? Because it doesn't really fix the continuity in the way he'd intended. Yes, the war with the Sentinels was averted, but there remains the question of previously established characters, and of events prior to Wolverine's "resetting" the timeline in 1973. Days of Future Past doesn't really give us a new X-men in the way that First Class might have done. Instead, it creates new continuity problems, and its ending dampens some of the threat posed by Apocalypse in the upcoming sequel.
But oh well. Those of us who've followed the X-men over the years can only get so upset over such things. It's not like such continuity problems were absent from the comics!
After Days of Future Past, it was finally Deadpool's turn to get his own movie. Wade Wilson actually appeared much earlier in X-men Origins: Wolverine, though that version of the character is ignored or forgotten by most. In fairness to Origins, the bit with Wade in the elevator is kind of funny.
I saw Deadpool the first day it appeared in the local theater, and I'd have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It's not a perfect movie, but it manages to be funny, violent, and somewhat suspenseful all at the same time. Not all of the gags worked for me, but there's so many of them, and they come so fast, that you can safely ignore the ones that don't work for the ones that do.
I just wonder what Deadpool's astounding popularity is going to do for the series as a whole. Putting him in something like Days of Future Past, for instance, would have completely destroyed that movie. Even including supporting characters like Colossus in Deadpool's films diminishes the more serious tone set in Singer's movies. Deadpool is in many ways the antithesis of the dramatic hero (or even antihero), and with all of his fourth wall-breaking he could easily overwhelm the average moviegoer's suspension of disbelief.
But I suppose a fuller understanding of how we'll interpret the X-men in the presence of Deadpool awaits this summer's X-men: Apocalypse. In this movie Singer will be discarding the older X-men cast, and will instead feature both the First Class alumni and some newer characters.
Unlike Days of Future Past, which spent a lot of time in the 70s, this movie will take place in the 80s. It will also mark the reintroduction of characters like Storm, Cyclops, and Jean Grey. Apparently Magneto becomes one of Apocalypse's "horsemen," and Mystique (?) and Xavier must lead the X-men against the threat he and Apocalypse represent.
I'd like to say it will be good, but I wonder if the X-men series isn't getting a bit too serious for its own good. I'm also getting tired of Bryan Singer and his fondness for black leather. There's certainly a lot going for this movie, but I'm not feeling that excited about it right now. Hopefully it will surprise me?
And after Apocalypse comes the third Wolverine. Apparently this will be Jackman's last run as Logan, and director James Mangold will be returning for an adaptation of the "Old Man Logan" comic book.
It could be great. It could also be average. I doubt it will be terrible. One has to ask, however, how Old Man Logan is supposed to work in the absence of characters like the Hulk, who was the main adversary in the original story. Replacing him with the Juggernaut or the Blob just wouldn't be the same thing at all.