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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

X-Men Movies: Good Sci-Fi, Pathetic Comic Book Adaptation

X-Men Movies

Good Sci-Fi, Pathetic Adaptation

If you are going to come into this article with a closed mind about how comics are for kids, then don't read this. If you have no idea of the X-Men books and loved all the X-Men movies a great deal, read this. 

Now I felt since I had discussed an article regarding Avengers, then even X-Men deserved one. I wasn't in the mood to talk about the upcoming Wolverine movie, cause god knows how overexposed the Canadian brawler has become. Also not to mention that apart from pictures we have not even gotten a trailer for a movie that I hope isn't as disappointing as Wolverine Origins.

Poster for the upcoming Wolverine film this year, looks promising and keeping my fingers crossed for something great. Directed by James Manigold (3:10 To Yuma)

Disappointing, that's a word I thought I would never associate with the X-Men movies (at least the first two). Now don't get me wrong, I like the movies as brilliant dramatic and sci-fi spectacles. If it weren't for the popularity of the X-men franchise there wouldn't have been a resurgence in comic book movie properties. X-Men along with Blade paved a path to help bring the Dark Knight Trilogy, Avengers Franchise and the Spider-Man trilogy to life. 

The first two movies were an entertaining spectacle, a fan boys dream come true. They might have taken liberties with the source but they were essentially an example of the themes within the X-Men books. Yes! Themes of and against bigotry, themes of the next step in mans evolution, themes within what most ignorant people would consider children's books.

 Evidence of Bigotry in X-Men comics, from X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. One of the most thought provoking comics ever. Adapted into the best X-Men movie; X-Men 2. Which doesn't even compare to its comic version. Read it!!!

It was no shock that the thematic elements were adapted perfectly, after all the man at the helm of the movie was a prominent gay director in the film industry. He understood easily the kind of scrutiny the world had towards the like of the X-Men and mutants. This director; Bryan Singer, would give us a comic book movie that would be fitting of intense emotion, heavy ideas yet wouldn't short change itself in the action department. Once again a stellar adaptation of the X-Men comics but not of the X-Men stories and their characters. Looking at the first two movies now, only the sequel holds up till this day (unless you've read X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills).

Bryan Singer, Director for the first two and 
upcoming fifth X-Men film and Superman Returns.

Both are definitely not purely adapted and I wouldn't want them to be. Watchmen is perhaps one of the most closely adapted films to its original graphic novel, but while entertaining it does not carry the depth of subtext from it's seminal source. The book is hailed not only as one of the greatest comic-books but as a masterpiece of literature. The X-Men comics don't get the same distinction, but are one of those quite close to that range. 

Now we come to the third movie; X-Men The Last Stand. Bryan Singer left to direct Superman Returns (and we know how that went), he left back the broken pieces of a script that would adapt the greatest X-Men and some may say superhero story ever; The Dark Phoenix Saga. A need for studio executives to rush the release and the changing of the helm thrice, left the screwed up project with despised man Brett Ratner (Rush Hour Trilogy).

It showed how little knowledge either he or the directors on the project before him had on the source. The final piece may have been entertaining but eventually felt flat. The X-Men films were meant to help people show the greatness in individuality yet also rise against bigotry. The final film picked a nice way for heroes to face hatred through 'the cure', in its wake however it took Rogue with it.

Rogue, who unlike in the movies is not a screaming, whining and envious girl but a symbol for female empowerment. Yes, she wants to feel the touch of a man but she would never let go of her natural powers and herself in order to do so. X-Men as a book and movie are supposed to show the will to attain self control over yourself, but the writers (or director, or studio) in their misogyny presented her as a typical woman jealous of another girl with her man and one who was weak (because of love) and did what she needed for it. She does note that this was for herself in the end, but even then their becomes a hint for the loss of her own identity.

You cannot place blame squarely on the third film, her character as mentioned was written in a different aspect that her comic book counterpart. Even then, this was a Rogue attached to and learning from Wolverine. This as many comic fans would know is a trope within the X-Books and has been used to successful results in teaching younger X-Men such as Kitty and Jubilee, the meaning of being a mutant and fighting for those innocent people (even if they hate them). Rogue in the movies was such a character and thus her arc should have ended on a note of self discovery and enhancement, not subjugation to a somewhat sexist theory.

Rogue like her other X-Men is one of the greatest female comic characters that aren't gender stereotypes. She is beautiful yet strong, loves being in relationships yet is wuite independent. After the movies, some of her characteristics seemed to veer in stereotype. She eventually learns to control her powers in the comics. 

Evidently she is not the only character to be shortchanged, also the likes of Cyclops and Storms characters did not have the qualities that made them unique and this stems from the one factor; Wolverine. Wolverine, the man on which the focus of the whole trilogy lies. While Hugh Jackman certainly deserved his moment in the sun, it was at the expense of other characters and the catalyst for Wolverines continuous overexposure and boredom among the comic fraternity.


Hugh Jackman celebrating his much deserve Best Actor (Musical/Comedy) Golden Globe 2012 win for Les Miserables, a stage actor who surprisingly began his career with the action film franchise X-Men.

Like with most superhero movies Wolverine got an origin film (Wolverine Origins), but he also got a first time hero film (X-Men), a film circling around his identity (X-Men 2) and one that made him a true hero (X-Men 3). Four films which actually amount to similar things wrapped up in one Iron Man, Spider-Man or Superman film. Now I understand Wolverine is a complicated character, but that's the point. He is a character who has had multiple comic series for himself, while even with his popularity most great writers use him as a supporting character in the X-Men books. Heck he may be in many books, but he is barely in all X-Men features. Wolverine's own story deserved a personal touch, away from the burdens of being an X-Man and discovering his identity without the help of his friends. Even in his own mediocre origin film, Wolverine had to contend with a bunch of cameos that were meant to excite the comic book viewers (but fell flat due to the interpretation and pointlessness). The use of a Wolverine franchise of films seperate from the X-Men would have developed his character, allowed focus to other characters in the X-Men films and would have created a surly popular spin-off franchise making Fox more money.

While it is about bigotry and individuality, X-Men is also about family. It's a high octane soap opera played out by unique characters in spandex. Spandex not some black costumes copied of the Matrix. A color that eventually evoked seriousness to viewers and critics while presenting a united front for standing for their rights in the movies.
Or did it really? ask yourself, check rotten tomatoes, read critic reviews, none and I mean none of these X-Men movies compare to The Avengers or Spider-Man trilogy; which have colorful superheroes pulling off amazing feats with humor that doesn't always veer into campy and yet knows when to keep it serious.

Sure X-Men came first, but did it need to be all moody and brooding. Sure Batman failed when it was ultra campy, but that's because it's Batman, a character rooted deep in dark, brooding and gritty mythology. X-Men may be close to the bat but they do not need black costumes to endorse that, it shows an underestimation of your dramatic material when you need to highlight your film as a serious picture rather than show it to them. The black suits may have enabled individuality and team spirit, I will give it that, but once again it compromised individuality. The X-Men in different uniforms still bear an X that identifies them and don't need matching colors to work as a team, it shows when they're together. After all didn't The Avengers defeat Loki and the Chitauri as a team of brightly but differently costumed individuals. Okay so maybe I am ranting on a moot point, because X-Men came a long time ago.

X-Men in their stylized black costumes from the film. The costume enhances their unity but abolishes individuality, a theme present in the X-Men comics.

It came a long time ago, but that didn't mean that everything gritty and colorless would make your movie interesting. After all the genre is comic book movie, eventually it should embrace its sources absurdity. Hopefully eyes have opened after the success of The Avengers, that what the audience want in a comic book movie is a comic book movie. Not some Matrix stylized action flick.    

Apart from Wolverine, the films focused on the aforementioned Rogue, Jean Grey, Magneto and Xavier. The supposed former allies turned foes. One of the things that made X-Men First Class better than its predecessors (or is it successors? considering First Class is a prequel) was that out of the shadow of Wolverines presence, the film explored in detail a relationship hinted to viewers previously.

Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier/Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) in X-Men First Class. The films spectacular foundation was built from these scenes.  

While as an adaptation the movie was way off the curve, it also messed up the movie universe timeline. Still essentially the exploration of the Magneto/Xavier dynamic intertwined with the passionate revenge plot and parallel run through history made for an interesting watch. The due for that goes to its fine leads James McAvoy (Atonement), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Michael Fassbender (Shame).

The less said about the atrocious piece of filth that was X-Men Origins Wolverine the better. I cannot believe I watched this film twice, just so as to make certain that this is the film my friends at one point were all raving about. In fact I am sad that I even defended it against the third X-Men film, who I have come to sympathize on since re watching the first two with it. Lets also not talk about the messed up timeline in the X-Men movie universe. Fox needs to reconsider its priorities towards the franchise, I mean how can you mess a timeline in just 13 years under one creative head. Sure the comics have been confusing as well, but they have been around for 50 years with multiple creators and books (making their continuity errors viable).

So what can I do about this; nothing. In fact, I will be at the theaters next year watching the X-Men Days of Future Past film, at least in hope that the error in the movie timeline is fixed. I have said I love the films, they don't necessarily hold up but do provide some entertainment. Its largely clear that Wolverine may always be front and center, especially now with Jackman's Golden Globe win.

What I will do though, will fall on deaf ears. I will create my own fan cast like the many other X-Fans detailing an X-Men movie franchise that is true to its source and great entertainment for fans. Hopefully the readers of this blog will contact me and help send this message far off in hopes that Fox Studios realize how much they have shat on my childhood love. Because Fox, you are never and I mean NEVER going to get a billion dollars with your movies no matter how good.

Why am I ranting this much. See because if there was an alternate world where X-men movies were 70 percent close to their comic books, but a world where their was no Avengers movie or Dark Knight Trilogy. I would go there in an instant. That is how much I love my X-Men.

 Even First Class has its moments. Where the comics develop themes against bigotry and strong characters of minority groups, the movie creators are stupid and close minded enough to do the opposite such as killing off Darwin (Edi Gathegi), pictured above playing to a pathetic movie trope.  

Plus don't judge me if you've never picked up a comic book but loved the movie, because I wont judge you for liking them without knowing what you're missing in the comics. I would though suggest you to read the X-Men (especially the ones I list in my Tintin top ten feature). Duly note, I actually began reading most of the X-Men after viewing the second movie (although I had read some before due to my fandom over the X-Men animated series) so my perception wasn't close minded when I entered theaters.       

Enough of ranting. Sorry for the length of the post, its a passionate subject. One hard to put in words, when you're actually seething with fury. Truly...

'Nuff Said Bub!

Aneesh Raikundalia

P.S.-Watch for my fan cast, coming soon.

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