Everything they Built will Fall!

X-Men: Apocalypse ends up the lousy third installment in an X-Men trilogy all over again. How is that even possible? Like X-Men, X-Men: First Class was a great introduction to the team of Mutants. Like X2, X-Men: Days of Future Past was a vast improvement that deepened its themes. And like X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Apocalypse overstuffs things with more style than substance. After the accidental success of Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse was released just a few months later. Obviously trying to emulate the MCU. Well at this point, the only excitement I could maintain was for the idea of a larger than life X-Men villain like Apocalypse. Plus seeing younger versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm.

Unless you count the after-credits scene in Days of Future Past, Apocalypse doesn’t feature a single new Mutant. Apart from Caliban, but that’s another story. Every single Mutant appeared in some form in a previous movie. The only draw was seeing slightly more comic book accurate versions. Something that 20th Century Fox and Bryan Singer have continually denied us Marvel fans. Apocalypse is proof that Singer can make a bad X-Men movie. Frankly, the decision to bring him back was a flawed one. His subtle thought provoking style may have worked for the deeper X-Men movies, but not for a CGI heavy disaster flick…

17. X-Men Apocalypse

The X-Men

X-Men: Apocalypse is not equipped to handle a villain like Apocalypse. Apocalypse is supposed to be the X-Men equivalent of Thanos. He’s an ancient world conquering Mutant with heavy armor and an enormous body. So of course he’s played by Oscar Isaac in bad Ivan Ooze makeup. The one Mutant who should have used CGI motion capture. X-Men: Apocalypse begins in ancient Egypt where Apocalypse is worshiped like a god. Like the comics, his powers are immeasurable. Except his body weakens and he needs to replace it with another Mutant. During the process, his followers turn on him and his Four Horseman preserve his body deep beneath his pyramid. The historical opening credits lead up to 1983. Another problem with Apocalypse is their continued use of the decade hopping gimmick. There’s no reason to set the movie in the 80’s other than nostalgia for big hair, bright colors, and Tab.

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Lucas Till, and Rose Byrne look like they’ve barely aged since the last 2 decades. Professor Charles Xavier stays in a wheelchair, but he still has glorious long hair. He teaches a more established school of Mutants alongside Hank McCoy. Hoult continues to be stubborn about his Beast makeup. But not as stubborn as Lawrence. Who’s far too famous to be bothered with makeup. Despite Mystique being a Mutant who’s proud of her blue skin, she maintains a human appearance for no good reason. I’m also annoyed that a villain like her is now treated like a hero. All because she stopped Magneto. Her new mission is rescuing Mutants like Nightcrawler. It’s nice to see a more comedic take on the teleporter played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Ben Hardy’s cage fighting take on Angel is pretty awkward though. At least we see a more faithful albeit brief look at Blob.

Meanwhile, Erik Lehnsherr is living a peaceful secluded life in Poland. Where he now has a wife and daughter. At the same time, Scott Summers is brought to the X-Mansion where he receives his ruby quartz visor. Alex Summers is his older brother instead of younger (despite being old enough to be his father). Tye Sheridan is a fine younger Cyclops, but Sophie Turner looks nothing like a younger Jean Grey. If the movies even care about continuity anymore. Jean struggles with her powers, but it’s only a half baked attempt at Phoenix. Scott does develop a romance with Jean and they go to the mall with Nightcrawler & Jubilee because 80’s. Lana Condor is the most faithful Jubilee to appear in the movies, but she continues to have nothing to do. Moira MacTaggert still has no memory of her time with the X-Men, but she’s brought back after discovering the awakening Apocalypse. Later it’s revealed that she has a son in a nod to the comics.

Alexandra Shipp is more of a glorified extra as Storm, who’s a pickpocket with a much better African accent. She runs into Apocalypse and he’s responsible for her white hair. Which is done in the mohawk she had in the 80’s. Apocalypse is just your average villain with generic goals of world domination. Like the comics, he assembles a team of Mutants to be his Four Horseman. They consist of Storm, Psylocke, Archangel, and Magneto. Olivia Munn’s nerd cred made her the perfect choice for a very faithful version of Psylocke sporting the sexy costume she has in the comics. Which is made more revealing with a boob window. Better than whatever The Last Stand was trying to do. Angel becomes Archangel with metal wings, but he’s still a useless member.

Fassbender truly shines after tragically losing his family when his powers are discovered. Although he drops a very forced F-bomb when encountered by Apocalypse. Magneto gains even greater power over metal and Apocalypse uses Xavier’s power to launch all of the planet’s missiles into space. It’s easily Stan Lee’s most dramatic cameo (that he for once shares with his wife Joan). Havok destroys Cerebro, but it’s not enough to prevent Apocalypse from kidnapping Charles. Havok’s blast detonates the X-Jet and the X-Mansion with it. Just in time for Quicksilver to run in and save everybody in an equally awesome speed sequence. The Mansion continues to explode as Quicksilver hilariously takes his time to methodically rescue Mutants to the decade appropriate tune of “Sweet Dreams.” He returns to see the Professor after learning Magneto is in fact his father.

As if out of nowhere, Stryker shows up to kidnap Moira, Mystique, Beast, and Quicksilver. Leaving Cyclops, Jean, and Nightcrawler to rescue them. The sole purpose of the detour was to shoehorn Wolverine into the plot. Hugh Jackman has it easy by simply grunting and slashing guards while wearing the ridiculous Weapon X headgear he had in the comics. Jean eases his mind and Cyclops jokes about that being the last they’ll ever see of him. Mystique, Beast, Quicksilver, Cyclops, Jean, Nightcrawler, and Moira then take a jet and once again dress in black leather armor to rescue Charles. Apocalypse causes chaos around the world and plans to transfer his consciousness into Xavier’s body. The X-Men fight the Four Horseman in an epic battle that highlights their respective powers. Nightcrawler’s teleportation is too powerful, so he goes unconscious after bamfing too many people. Quicksilver’s speed is too powerful, so his leg is broken after knocking around Apocalypse.

Psylocke uses her psionic weapons on Beast, but she’s taken out and simply walks away afterwards. Meanwhile, Archangel pointlessly dies. Storm faces Cyclops, but she obviously decides to join the X-Men along with a redeemed Magneto. Apocalypse strangles Mystique before a now bald Professor X attacks him in a comic accurate psychic plane. In the end, Apocalypse is defeated by the combined power of Cyclops’ optic blast, Magneto’s metal, Storm’s lightning, and Jean’s out of nowhere Phoenix abilities. Despite there being several subplots going on at once, there’s still enough time for Charles to give Moira back her memory. Jean & Magneto easily fix the X-Mansion with their telekinesis. Ending with a direct callback to the exchange between forever frenemies Charles & Erik.

Followed by an extremely satisfying reveal of every comic accurate costume that Mystique, Beast, Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Quicksilver wear. As well as Sentinels in the Danger Room. It was great to finally see those costumes, but I knew it was just fanservice. Apocalypse is full of colorful X-Men callbacks with little development. The after-credits tease for Mr. Sinister will clearly never happen now. There’s also answers to things that don’t make sense in the old timeline. Like how did Professor X become bald if it wasn’t by Apocalypse? At this point I expected Fox to continue readapting characters no matter how many times they’ve been done in the past. X-Men: Apocalypse tries to keep up with the omega level scale of the X-Men, but it completely derails the winning streak Fox was having.

18. X-Men Apocalypse

Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen

Followed by: Deadpool & Logan

The Merc with a Mouth

Deadpool proved R rated superhero movies could be successful as long as enough Maximum Effort was put into it. All things considered, there’s no way Deadpool should have worked out the way that it did. R rated superhero movies were pretty common in the 90’s and 2000’s. They just weren’t always successful. And if they were, they weren’t adaptations of major characters. I had no knowledge of Deadpool before seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine. So I didn’t begin to hate its extremely unfaithful interpretation until I learned more. Deadpool is a totally 90’s Mutate who first appeared as a villain in The New Mutants #98. Before becoming an instant fan favorite anti-hero. Deadpool is more than just a parody of Deathstroke. His snarky sense of humor and yellow fourth wall breaking speech bubbles were perfectly unique.

Despite his large superhero filmography, Ryan Reynolds always wanted to play Deadpool. Even if it meant playing a horribly inaccurate version. 20th Century Fox initially agreed to a more faithful R rated Deadpool, but then Green Lantern complicated things. Since it was impossible to rework it as a PG-13 movie, Fox foolishly scrapped the project. Until someone was brave enough to leak the CGI test footage. Like everyone else, the clip was so funny and violent that I wanted to see more. I got an even better grasp of Deadpool after reading a couple of comics, but I still couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The same studio and actor that butchered the character, bringing a faithful, gleefully R rated niche superhero to life…

15. Deadpool

Deadpool locks and loads

Deadpool came out at a time when superhero movies were hugely successful. Between the family friendly PG-13 rating of the MCU and inaccurate costumes of most Fox superheroes, Deadpool was a major exception. Ryan Reynolds was born to play Deadpool. And not just because he’s Canadian. I felt like I already knew Deadpool long before his movie ever came out. Due to the aggressively clever marketing campaign. It was impossible to avoid Deadpool either popping up in trailers, doing a PSA for cancer, appearing in interviews, doing a lead up to Christmas, having unconventional billboards, or feuding on social media. It got to a point where I was almost tired of Deadpool before even seeing the movie. Of course I was proven wrong afterwards. It’s a good thing I was 20, because I’d seen every X-Men movie in theaters since I was 5. There’s no way I would have wanted to see Deadpool with my parents. It’s always annoying seeing parents take their kids to something that’s clearly not for kids. Even if it looks like a conventional superhero movie on the outside.

Deadpool is very much an R rated comedy. Some jokes are a bit crude for my taste, but most of the profanity latent one-liners are hilarious. As are the fourth wall breaking observations about superhero clichés, Marvel, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Green Lantern, and Reynolds himself. Along with a handful of 90’s references. Although there’s an uncomfortably scarce amount of chimichangas. The perfect opening credits showcase a freeze frame of creator Rob Liefeld’s coffee, a picture of Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds as the “Sexiest Man Alive,” and an honest description of the cast & crew. All to the inappropriate tune of “Angel of the Morning.” Deadpool is still an origin story, but it’s intercut with a recreation of the leaked test footage. From its red & black mock Spider-Man design to his use of guns & katanas, Deadpool is a Fox owned superhero that actually leaps off the page. The badass costume looks awesome and the white eyes work surprisingly well.

Deadpool is so cheap that he has to take a taxi to his enemies. Dopinder is fun, but he’s not from the comics. To the tune of “Schoop,” Deadpool crassly informs the audience that Wolverine helped get him his own movie. Hugh Jackman may not physically appear, but his presence is felt throughout. The use of his “Sexiest Man Alive” magazine is a particular highlight. I think I prefer the random chaos of the test footage, but the recreated highway fight is just as inappropriately funny. The R rating is put to good use when henchmen are shot, stabbed, and dismembered in the most over-the-top way possible. Deadpool’s accelerated healing means he can be mutilated any creative way without consequence. The countdown gunfight and subsequent sheskabobing directly leads to the first of many flashbacks.

Like the comics, Wade Wilson is an ex-special forces mercenary with a mouth. He gets his pay from a bar filled with other mercs that take part in a dead pool. Most of Deadpool’s obscure supporting cast appears in the film. T.J. Miller plays his friend/comic foil Weasel and Leslie Uggams is his sarcastic elderly roommate Blind Al. Deadpool has had many sexual conquests in the past, but the movie settles on Vanessa as his love interest. She’s sort of a discount Mystique in the comics, but here she’s a hooker with a heart of gold. Morena Baccarin fast became a welcome presence in superhero projects. Wade’s relationship with Vanessa is humorous, but it is taken seriously. After a steamy, sort of cringy holiday sex montage, Wade proposes shortly before discovering he has late stage cancer.

Back in the present, Colossus sees a report of Deadpool’s violent shenanigans on TV in the X-Mansion. This version of Colossus is very comic book accurate. He has the giant metal CGI body, Russian accent, and acts as a noble member of the X-Men. Negasonic Teenage Warhead is his trainee. She’s an extremely obscure Mutant that was only added for her cool name. More bizarre is that her powers were changed after striking an unrelated deal with Marvel. Deadpool’s primary antagonist is Ajax. One of his long time enemies with a high pain tolerance. Ed Skrein is your standard British villain. Like in the comics, Wade volunteers for an experimental Weapon X type procedure that’ll make him a superhero. As long as the super suit isn’t green or animated. The physically imposing Gina Carano is Angel Dust, another Mutant working with Ajax. Expect Ajax real name is Francis. Something Wade mocks until his Mutation is unlocked through torture.

I guess his disfigured face is hideous, but it’s nothing compared to how gruesome he looks in the comics. Pretty much the entire revenge plot consists of Wade finding Francis so that he can fix his face and return to Vanessa. The funniest scene for me personally is Deadpool attempting to fight Colossus after he and Negasonic arrive in the X-Jet. Even funnier is Deadpool cutting off his hand before another flashback. After Weasel’s constant face jokes, Wade gets his name from the dead pool board. Then he murders several criminals, makes his costume, and begins breaking the fourth wall. Eventually everything comes together and Wade decides to give Vanessa a chance. He goes to her strip club where they take full advantage of the R rating by showing several naked ladies. It’s one of Stan Lee’s funniest cameos as the stripper MC. Unfortunately, Vanessa is kidnapped and Deadpool loads up his arsenal of guns to kill Francis. He also recruits Colossus & Negasonic while making a joke about the studios obvious lack of money for other X-Men members.

They all take a taxi to what looks suspiciously like a Helicarrier. Cue “X Gon’ Give it to Ya,” followed by Deadpool hilariously forgetting his guns. Angel Dust makes a totally impractical superhero landing and fights Colossus in a brutal fight. Meanwhile, Negasonic blows things up. Deadpool cuts through everyone expect for the sneaky use of Bob (Agent of Hydra). Deadpool fights Francis and narrowly rescues Vanessa. Although Colossus gives a passionate speech about being a hero, Deadpool just abruptly kills Francis. Proving Deadpool is the anti-hero we know him to be. Vanessa crudely accepts Wade’s face and they croon to “Careless Whisper.” Followed by a clever after-credits parody of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a Nick Fury joke, and confirmation of Cable. Deadpool has all the R rated insanity I hoped to see from an adaptation like this. Even with a lower budget, it became the highest grossing R rated movie internationally, and earned a whole new legion of fans. I just wish studios didn’t use its success as an excuse to give other properties an unnecessary R rating. Deadpool worked because a passionate cast & crew were dedicated to making the most faithful superhero adaptation they could.

16. Deadpool

Deadpool is shocked

Preceded by: X-Men: Days of Future Past & X-Men: Apocalypse

March of the Sentinels

X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best X-Men team up 20th Century Fox has ever done. Since it brings together the original X-Men trilogy, X-Men: First Class, and Wolverine. Making it the biggest Marvel ensemble event at the time. I hadn’t been this excited for a new X-Men movie in a long time, but the thought of seeing both the new and original cast together was too big not to get excited. Especially after how the Mutants were treated in X-Men: The Last Stand. I left the theater overjoyed to have finally gotten the closure I needed. As a result X-Men: Days of Future Past became the highest grossing movie in the franchise and the first with a score over 90%. It was even nominated for an Academy Award.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is both based on and named after the famous X-Men storyline Days of Future Past. A comic I actually read before the movie came out for a change. The heavier science fiction/post-apocalyptic themes were definitely different than the movie’s more grounded portrayal of the X-Men. Yet they still manage to stay pretty faithful to the comic while continuing to follow their own continuity. Although director Matthew Vaughn intended to return, he decided to make other comic book adaptations instead. After 11 years and many offers to return, X-Men: Days of Future Past was finally the movie that brought back original director Bryan Singer…

13. X-Men Days of Future Past

The X-Men of the future

X-Men: Days of Future Past may follow the core ideas of the comic, but there are still logical differences that the franchise couldn’t avoid. In the comic, Mutant hunting Sentinels rule a post-apocalyptic world where Mutants are either killed or put in camps. The movie does the same, but the Sentinels are much different than the ones in the comics. Instead of giant humanoid purple robots, they’re slender and scaly with the ability to adapt to Mutant powers. Although I wasn’t crazy about the inaccuracy, I can’t deny how terrifying they are. Days of Future Past begins with a small band of surviving X-Men overwhelmed by the attacking Sentinels. The randomly assorted team consists of Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Colossus, Bishop, Blink, Warpath, and Sunspot.

Most Marvel fans know Kitty is originally the one who travels back in time. Her consciousness is sent backwards in time to when she was still a teenage member of the X-Men. Well Kitty still plays a big part in the events of the movie. Along with walking through walls, she’s also given the power to send someone’s mind through time. X-Men: The Last Stand wasn’t the best, but casting Ellen Page was a good decision. Shawn Ashmore is now beared and finally uses Iceman’s ice bridge. Daniel Cudmore still doesn’t speak, but Colossus’ strength is always welcome. Although Singer still goes for black costumes, the new Mutants at least have accurate appearances. Bishop has his scarf and energizing gun, Blink is still an elf with handy portals, Warpath is just like his Native American namesake, but Sunspot looks too much like the Human Torch. After Kitty sends Bishop back to warn the others of the attack, the rest of the X-Men formulate a plan to prevent this future from ever happening.

Hugh Jackman finally wears yellow & blue, but it’s hidden under black armor. While Wolverine’s hair has the grey temples that he had in the comic. It’s great to have Patrick Stewart back and it’s even better to see Professor X in a hover chair. Ian McKellen doesn’t wear a helmet, but Magneto still unleashes all his power. As does Halle Berry returning as Storm. Her short white hair was expected. I just wish the kiss Storm and Wolverine share was kept in the movie. Wolverine understandably ends up being sent to the past. Since he’s always been the main character and this version of time travel makes it so only someone with accelerated healing can be sent back. Plus Wolverine was around in 1973. With Wolverine incapacitated, the X-Men make their final stand against the Sentinels. After First Class tackled Cold War themes in the 60’s, Days of Future Past now focuses on the Vietnam War of the 70’s. You can tell by the lava lamp, drugs, hippies, and afros.

Just like Terminator, the indestructible Wolverine wakes up at a time when he was a bodyguard. Except he has those darn bone claws. The only downside for me is just seeing Wolverine’s Adamantium claws in the future. Logan goes to an abandoned X-Mansion where the school has closed due to Mutants being drafted. Charles Xavier has lost hope and his powers due to a drug that suppresses it. James McAvoy is hairier and probably only walks for the sake of convenience. Nicholas Hoult logically returns as Hank McCoy, but it’s obvious that his suppressed Beast appearance is because of makeup. Since Beast was never like the Hulk in terms of getting angry. Continuity has never mattered in these movies, so Charles misquotes Wolverine by telling him to “F*** off.” Logan’s purpose in the past is to reunite Charles with Erik Lehnsherr and prevent Mystique from killing Bolivar Trask. The man responsible for the creation of more comic accurate Sentinels. Trask is played by Peter Dinklage instead of Bill Duke like he was in The Last Stand. If Mystique succeeds, her DNA will be used to create deadlier future Sentinels.

Although Jennifer Lawrence was definitely big enough to get more screen time, Mystique is important in the original comic. Senator Kelly is just swapped with Trask. Mystique’s makeup is better and her seductive agile fighting skills are closer to her future self. While Mystique rescues Mutant soldiers from experimentation (including Havok & Toad), Logan, Charles, & Hank have to break Erik out of a metaless prison under the Pentagon. For apparently killing a Mutant John F. Kennedy. Instead of using a young Juggernaut, Fox exercised their joint possession of Quicksilver. Compared to Marvel, this version was American and had inaccurate silver hair, silver jacket, and goggles. Yet Evan Peters’ Quicksilver ended up being the better take. He breaks Erik out of prison (and even hints at their possible relation). Easily the best scene in the movie is Quicksilver moving so fast that he saves everyone to the tune of “Time in a Bottle.” Then they send him away for being too powerful.

Both Magneto & Mystique discover that the other Mutants from First Class were carelessly killed off. Charles clashes with Erik, but they work together long enough to find Mystique at the Paris Peace Accords. They arrive in time, but everything falls apart when Logan sees a young Stryker and snikts Kitty in the future. The Rogue Cut features a whole sidequest where Rogue is rescued and taken to finish Kitty’s work. Anna Paquin only makes a brief cameo in the finished film. Instead of simply rescuing Mystique, Erik decides she needs to die. Beast defends her and in the process, the world discovers the existence of Mutants. Mystique disguises herself long enough to get away, but the attack gives Trask enough reason to convince the President to active the Sentinels. Nixon is a bit over exaggerated though. Charles and Erik go their separate ways with different goals in preventing the future. Charles regains his powers and wheelchair, but still needs an extra push. After experiencing Logan’s pain, he has a very heartfelt talk with his future self.

Meanwhile, Erik regains his Magneto helmet and infuses the plastic Sentinels with metal. Michael Fassbender’s performance and costume are closer to Magneto than ever before. After Charles uses Cerebro to locate Mystique in Washington, Days of Future Past is split between future and past. In the future, the X-Men are cornered by invading Sentinels. Storm harnesses the power of lightning and Magneto uses it to detonate the X-Jet. The rest of the new Mutants give it their all, but it’s all for not. Magneto is fatally wounded, Storm sadly dies, and the rest of the Mutants are killed one by one. In the past, Charles locates Mystique, but Magneto literally drops a stadium around the White House. He turns the Sentinels against Wolverine and Beast, while Mystique continues to target Trask. In a reverse callback to a comic where Magneto removes Wolverine’s Adamantium skeleton, Magneto impales Wolverine’s body with metal and throws him in a river. Leaving the fate of the future in Xavier’s hands.

Similar to the first movie, Magneto turns guns against the President. Mystique subdues him and finally decides not to go through with it. It was genuinely satisfying to see the horrible future erase at the last possible second. I was even more satisfied to see a brighter 2023 where Xavier’s School is better than it was before. Rogue & Iceman are together, Kelsey Grammer briefly appears as Beast, Storm is okay, Kitty & Colossus are teachers, and both Jean & Cyclops are alive. Finally erasing The Last Stand from existence. Logan has a heart to heart with Charles and the future looks bright. Origins: Wolverine seems to be erased too after Stryker picks up Logan in the past. Expect revealing it to be Mystique makes no sense. The after-credit scene revealing a young pyramid constructing En Sabah Nur was the final push towards imitating the MCU. The stakes in Days of Future Past feel higher than they’ve ever been before. It was impressive to see Singer go all out with the X-Men after his more subtle debut. The ensemble cast works surprisingly well no matter the time period. After wiping the slate clean, X-Men: Days of Future Past should have been enough to end the X-Men franchise on a high note.

14. X-Men Days of Future Past

The X-Men of the past

Preceded by: The Wolverine & Followed by: Deadpool

A Canadian Wolverine in Japan

The Wolverine is the most underrated film in the X-Men franchise. Probably because it’s the first one without X-Men in the title. Every other 20th Century Fox production had to have any number of Mutants they could fit into the story. Much to the detriment of Wolverine’s first solo outing X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Along with a weak CGI filled take on his famous origin and overly sanitized bloodless PG-13 rating. While X-Men: First Class was a return to form for the team, The Wolverine was the same for the fan favorite Mutant. It was easily the least complicated movie made and that’s probably why people forget about it. It was even the first X-Men movie my brother and I saw by ourselves.

As I said before, Wolverine has a surprisingly extensive history. One of his most well known storylines is his time spent in Japan. The 1982 limited series was written by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. Since it was Hugh Jackman’s favorite storyline, it was only a matter of time before it got made. The only problem was director Darren Aronofsky dropping out and Japanese earthquakes delaying production. James Mangold was later hired to direct and the rest is history. He may have appeared in every other movie before, but this was truly the first genuine Wolverine movie…

11. The Wolverine

Wolverine in Japan

The Wolverine for the most part ignores X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but it does begin with a flashback to one of the many wars Logan’s fought. Specifically the World War II events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Logan is in an underground Japanese prison, but he saves a frightened enemy soldier and takes the impact of the atomic bomb. His graphic healing process makes it clear that this is a Wolverine movie that isn’t afraid to get violent. It’s still PG-13, but there’s definitely more blood and claws cutting through people. As well as the now traditional F-bomb. The Unleashed Extended Cut is R rated, but it’s mostly just additional CGI blood splatter. The Wolverine is the first X-Men movie to reference X-Men: The Last Stand. Since the repercussions of its controversial ending couldn’t be ignored forever.

Despite X-Men Origins: Wolverine having an alternate after-credits scene of Logan drinking in Japan, The Wolverine takes place after Logan leaves the X-Mansion. Where he’s become a hairy mountain man living in the Canadian wilderness. Logan stays out of conflict after he was forced to kill his beloved Jean Grey. He also deals with the existential crisis of outliving everyone he loves. Hugh Jackman turns Wolverine into more of an outsider than he already was. This was also when he finally became a huge jacked man. Since superhero actors had just been getting more and more muscular since Jackman first began playing Wolverine. Although her heavenly dream sequences are strange, Famke Janssen is a welcome return. Jean helps Logan better accept his actions over the course of the film.

When a group of hunters illegally poison a grizzly bear, Logan returns seeking justice. That’s when he’s greeted by Japanese assassin Yukio. In the comics, she’s just a human ninja, but here she’s a precognitive Mutant badass with a samurai sword. Yukio speaks on behalf of the soldier Logan saved. Wealthy industrialist Ichirō Yashida wishes to personally thank him in Tokyo, Japan. The Wolverine has a very small cast almost entirely made up of Japanese actors and actresses. Some are established stars in their home country like Hiroyuki Sanada and Haruhiko Yamanouchi. While others are newcomers like models Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima. As Logan learns Japanese customs, he also receives a shorter haircut.

A dying Yashida makes him an offer to remove his healing factor in order to saves his own life and give Logan an honorable death. He refuses, but Yashida’s American doctor poisons him with a device that slows his healing. For the first time leaving Wolverine more vulnerable. The doctor is poisonous Mutant Viper. A jointly owned Marvel villain affiliated with Wolverine. They just couldn’t refer to her as Madame Hydra. Although she could have been played by someone more high profile, a lesser known Russian actress plays her instead. Yashida dies unexpectedly and the Yakuza attack his funeral. Logan claws his way through them, but his decreased healing slows him down. When the Yakuza try to capture Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko, Logan goes on the run as her bodyguard. Mariko is one of many Wolverine love interests. She stands out a bit more than the comics since she occasionally uses martial arts. Their relationship develops over time.

While on the run, Wolverine fights a handful of Yakuza in an exhilarating bullet train sequence. His wounds are tended to, but it’s not long before Markio is captured. Logan rejoins Yukio, who mentions a cryptic (but very important) vision of how he dies. After confronting Mariko’s sleazy arranged fiancé, he discovers Yashida’s son Shingen arranged for his daughter to be killed after his father promised his wealth to her. Markio is then taken by the noble Black Ninja Clan lead by Kenuichio Harada. Will Yun Lee is in perfect fighting shape, but he’s not the Mutant Silver Samurai like in the comics. After violently removing the poisonous device from his body, Wolverine engages in an excellent claw to sword fight against Shingen dressed in Silver Samurai armor. It’s one of his best fights made better when he calls himself the Wolverine. Logan and Yukio track Markio down to Yashida’s village where they fight literal ninjas. Followed by a climax that’s honestly the only thing holding the movie back. It turns out Viper intends to chop off Wolverine’s claws in order to take his healing. Instead of a simple Mutant samurai, the Silver Samurai is an overgrown CGI mech suit.

Both the ridiculous inaccuracy and Viper peeling off her skin before fighting are tonally different than everything else in the movie. I was extra mad when the energized Adamantium sword cut through Wolverine’s indestructible claws. The suit somehow drains his healing and it was obvious that Yashida was in the suit all along. Luckily Markio stabs her grandfather long enough for Wolverine’s bone claws to come out. In the end, Logan leaves Japan and Markio to find his way in the world. A deleted scene shows his comic accurate mask & gloves in a suitcase, but what ends up in the movie is just as cool. In a mid-credit scene, Wolverine sees an advertisement for Trask Industries on TV and is greeted by a repowered Magneto and living Professor X. It’s an unexpectedly awesome tease for what came next. The Wolverine is somewhere in the middle when it comes to X-Men. It’s neither critically panned like X-Men Origins: Wolverine nor critically acclaimed like Logan. But The Wolverine deserves more credit for slowly taking chances with such an intense superhero.

12. The Wolverine

Wolverine vs. Silver Samurai

Preceded by: X-Men: First Class & Followed by: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Mutant and Proud

X-Men: First Class is the soft reboot us Marvel fans never knew we wanted. X-Men was key to the reawakening of the superhero genre, X2 proved the sequel could be just as groundbreaking, and X-Men: The Last Stand went too far and should have ended the Fox produced films. Well Fox continued to hold onto the rights, with the intention of just making solo spin-offs. When X-Men Origins: Wolverine failed, X-Men Origins: Magneto fell apart. But ideas from that film are what lead to the creation of X-Men: First Class. A 60’s period piece focusing on the friendship of both Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, how they became enemies, and how the X-Men looked in the early days. The movie is named after a similar comic, but since it’s technically a prequel, the team is obviously not the Uncanny X-Men.

I wasn’t sure how to feel about the idea when I first heard about it. I sort of looked forward to the spin-offs, but I agreed that an X-Men origin movie made more sense than one just focusing on Magneto. Especially if Ian McKellen was going to do the entire movie with an awful CGI face-lift. The first image was released and I was happy to finally see the use of classic yellow & blue costumes from the comics. Sure I remained skeptical, but X-Men: First Class was just the return to form I was hoping for. Despite normally directing more R rated comic book adaptations like Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn understood the X-Men better than most directors (although Bryan Singer was still involved as a producer)…

9. X-Men First Class

The X-Men

X-Men: First Class officially ditches the continuity established in the X-Men trilogy. While still attempting to connect the films. Professor X clearly stated when he met Magneto in the first film and meeting Jean is long past the 60’s in the third film. Character changes were also made in the prequel that aren’t present in any of the other films, but it all works out in the end. X-Men: First Class begins with the starkly different power manifestation of Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier. Erik bending a metal gate in a concentration camp is lifted directly from the first X-Men. Shots are reused, but others are replaced by the new actors. What’s also different is the perspective of Nazi scientist Klaus Schmidt. A man who essentially creates Magneto by forcing him to move a coin and killing his mother. On the other side of the coin is a young Charles living in a lavish mansion in West Chester, New York. His telepathy has already manifested and he uses it to speak to someone disguised as his mother. It turns out to be a young Mystique who becomes his foster sister. Although having an indeterminate age is accurate, Mystique never had this connection to Xavier in the comics.

The rest of X-Men: First Class takes place in 1962. Where they make the clever decision to incorporate real world history into the plot. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were so perfect as Professor X and Magneto that it seemed impossible to recapture that, but James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were just as inspired choices. McAvoy is great at portraying a young Charles Xavier with a 60’s attitude who grows into a caring mentor. Xavier still being able to walk is accurate, but baldness should’ve been a side effect of his Mutation like in the comics. Fassbender develops Erik Lehnsherr into an even more tragic figure. His friendship with Charles is believable and so is his path towards becoming one of the greatest supervillains in Marvel history. Before becoming a Hollywood icon, Jennifer Lawrence made her blockbuster debut as a more innocent Raven Darkhölme. Who understandably hides her blue skin in an attempt to be normal.

While Charles is celebrating his graduation from Oxford, Erik is hunting Nazis in the hope of finding Schmidt. A Mutant who became Sebastian Shaw, leader of the Hellfire Club. When it comes to villainous teams that the X-Men have faced, I knew the least about the Hellfire Club. In the comics, they’re an elite social club bent on world domination. So it made sense for them to be the primary threat with plans of escalating the Cuban Missile Crisis. Since Mutants are the Children of the Atom. Kevin Bacon is a threatening, but less fancy version of Shaw that absorbs energy and uses a helmet that blocks out telepaths. January Jones is a sexy Emma Frost with a revealing white outfit ripped straight out of the comics. Her powerful use of telepathy and diamond skin are way better than whatever X-Men Origins: Wolverine was trying to do. Unfortunately Jones is monotone and sort of lifeless as Frost. Shaw and Frost are the only comic accurate Club members while the lesser known whirlwind creating Riptide and red demonic teleporter Azazel are not.

Rose Byrne plays the very necessary early love interest of Charles Xavier. In the comics, Moira MacTaggert is a Scottish doctor who helps Mutants. In the movie, she’s an American CIA agent. She and Charles come together in hopes of aiding Mutants with Government assistance. They prove Mutants exist when Raven morphs into William Stryker Sr. A man in black takes them to a secret facility that happens to have Dr. Hank McCoy. Nicholas Hoult is just as good a choice to play a younger Beast with big feet. His intelligence helped create the Blackbird (X-Jet), a morse code version of Cerebro, and there costumes. However, the Beast and Mystique romance is also not from the comics. Charles and Erik end up becoming friends when Charles rescues him from attempting to kill Shaw. Together they recruit potential Mutants in a fun montage. From lesser known Mutants like the winged Angel Salvatore and adaptable Darwin to longtime X-Men like Banshee and Havok.

Hugh Jackman even makes one of the most hilarious cameos of all time. When Wolverine tells Charles and Erik to “Go f*** yourself.” The appearance alone would be enough, but the unexpected F-bomb is even better. While Charles and Erik get answers from Frost, the recruits bond over their powers and pick out their superhero names, but it’s not long before Shaw attacks. Angel sides with him and Shaw kills Darwin. Leaving Beast, Mystique, Banshee, and Havok as the titular first class of X-Men. They relocated to Xavier’s mansion where he teaches them to better harness their power. A welcome addition that other X-Men films lack. We see an early version of the Danger Room, Banshee receiving his flight suit, Havok concentrating his energy rings, Beast unleashing the animal within, and Charles helping Erik move larger objects.

Meanwhile, Erik helps Raven accept herself. Which she does when Hank rejects her blue appearance. She tries to seduce Erik (she even becomes Rebecca Romijn), but he instead convinces her not to hide. Which is the somewhat convoluted reason why she’s naked. Although her blue scales & makeup aren’t as good as what came before. At the same time, Hank’s attempt to normalize his feet results in his iconic blue fur and more beastly appearance. Before battle, Charles and Erik discuss conflicting ideologies over their first of many chess matches. The team finally don yellow & blue costumes, but it’s just the characters wearing them that’s inaccurate. They take the Blackbird to the beach in Cuba where U.S. and Soviet ships are close to firing their missiles. Both teams contribute their own unique power. Erik lifts Shaw’s submarine out of the sea and the fight ends when Erik takes revenge by pushing the same Nazi coin through his head.

With his helmet blocking out Charles, Erik becomes the villain when he redirects the missiles. A fight between friends breaks out and Erik accidentally paralyzes Charles with Moria’s bullet. A tragic explanation to why Professor X is in a wheelchair, but I could do without the bald jokes. Erik then claims the Hellfire Club Mutants as his own and Mystique joins him too. Professor Charles Xavier decides to start a school/team of X-Men free from the government and he kisses Moria before erasing her memory. Meanwhile, the newly formed Brotherhood of Mutants recruits Frost and Erik finally becomes Magneto. Complete with comic accurate red & purple helmet. X-Men: First Class is easily the closest thing to a faithful X-Men adaptation by Fox. The look is a lot closer and the 60’s Cold War time period is the same as when the first comic was published. It’s a shame Stan Lee didn’t have a cameo. The only real problems are the constraints of the X-Men trilogy. It’s great seeing more Mutants come to life, but it would have been better seeing the original line up. The studio continues to write their own continuity, but it still ends up being the best movie since X2. X-Men: First Class is the excellent Bond era superhero Cold War thriller that kept Marvel from gaining the rights for years to come.

10. X-Men First Class

The Hellfire Club

Followed by: X-Men Origins: Wolverine & The Wolverine

The Best there is at What He Does

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the totally unnecessary origin of the best there is at what he does, but what he does best isn’t very nice. Since 20th Century Fox made it clear that they only ever cared about Wolverine, they finally just made a Wolverine movie. Despite his origin already being covered in X2 and Hugh Jackman practically being the star of all three movies. Wolverine has a very complicated history. He was created in 1974 by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and John Romita Sr. Although he initially appeared in The Incredible Hulk #180, it was his addition to the Giant-Size X-Men #1 that got him recognition. Hard to believe a short Canadian Mutant with retractable claws became such a complex icon.

After X-Men: The Last Stand killed the franchise, Fox pitched a new line of Origin films. X-Men Origins: Magneto would have been another one, but X-Men Origins: Wolverine was so panned that the idea fell apart. Director Gavin Hood’s unfamiliarity with the source material, the inclusion of any random Mutant they wanted, terrible CGI, and a sanitized PG-13 rating were to blame. Along with behind the scenes issues and leaked footage. But I was still excited to go see X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Although I was 13 at the time, I still didn’t understand how the rights to Marvel characters worked. So I confusingly thought it was part of the MCU…

7. X-Men Origins Wolverine

Wolverine is born

X-Men Origins: Wolverine recounts every detail of Wolverine’s origin. By utilizing story elements from “Weapon X,” his 1982 solo comics, and the Origin storyline. The latter was ironically made in response to the original 2000 X-Men movie. Like the comics, the movie begins as far back as 19th Century Canada. A young James Howlett’s Mutant powers manifest when the man he thinks is his father is killed. One thing I never liked was giving Wolverine bone claws before he has Adamantium. I know the Origin comic introduced them, but they just don’t feel right. Another problem is lazily making Wolverine and Sabretooth brothers. Their rivalry is complicated, but they never had that relation in the comics. When they decide to run away together, it leads to what is easily the best sequence in the movie. As Victor Creed and Logan fight in the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. The transitions are seamless and it reveals Victor becoming more savage while Logan remains protective. Then it’s all downhill from there.

Even in a bad movie, Hugh Jackman perfectly understands Wolverine’s pain. His hair is slightly longer and this was the first time he got jacked. Although I feel sort of sorry for Tyler Mane, Liev Schreiber was an excellent replacement. He’s the better actor, but his more downplayed animal appearance and generic black coat aren’t as accurate as Mane. They’re both enlisted by Danny Huston as a younger Colonel William Stryker. They join a far more randomly assorted version of Team X. One made up of Logan, Victor, technopath Chris Bradley, teleporter John Wraith, gunslinger Agent Zero, the Blob, and Deadpool himself. Despite his large superhero filmography, Ryan Reynolds always wanted to play Deadpool. When his solo movie failed to materialize, he settled on playing a PG-13 Wade Wilson mercenary. He talks a lot and his duel katana skills are impressive, but all he wears is a red vest and tactical gear. Team X is sent to track down Adamantium in Africa, but they go too far and Logan leaves the team.

Years later in 1979, Logan is living happily as a lumberjack in Canada with his new love interest Kayla Silverfox. In the comics, Silver Fox is a Native American Mutant member of Team X. Lynn Collins’ Silverfox similarly has the power to manipulate others. The most unnecessary part of X-Men Origins: Wolverine are the explanations given to parts of his character. The name Wolverine came from a tale about the moon or something, his dog tags were branded by Stryker, and his ever important brown & orange jacket came from an old couple. After Victor starts killing former teammates including Kayla, Logan faces him only to get beat with his bone claws broken. That’s when Stryker finally begins the procedure to replace his bones with Adamantium.

Although it got worse as the franchise went on, the origin scene already rewrites a lot of what happened in X2. Instead of doctors with needles, painful looking drills are inserted into Logan’s skin. As he heals, Stryker recommends wiping his memory, but that only makes Wolverine angry. His resulting claws look awful in ultra shiny CGI. Which only get worse when he stays with a sweet farm couple and comically fumbles around in the bathroom. Zero assassinates the couple, leading to an overblown helicopter chase on a motorcycle with a green screen explosion in the background. Logan then meets up with Wraith (for some reason played by Will.i.am) to get answers. Instead he leads him to the now morbidly obese Blob. Kevin Durand fits the fat suit and it’s fun to see the Mutant brought to life, but there’s no reason for him to be in the movie.

Just like there’s no reason for a young Cyclops to be captured by Stryker. Even a young Storm nearly had a cameo. But it’s not as bad as how they waste Gambit. Another fan favorite X-Men that they threw in because he wasn’t used in the X-Men trilogy. Taylor Kitsch has a weak Cajun accent, a simple trench coat, bõ staff, and eyes that only turn red when he uses his exploding cards. Too bad we’ll never see that Gambit movie. After a brief rematch with Victor, Wolverine fights Gambit in an overly cheesy CGI duel. Gambit agrees to fly Logan to Stryker’s island where he’s secretly working on a Mutant with several powers combined. A betrayed Logan leaves when Kayla is revealed to have been under Stryker’s control, but he returns to face Victor when he attacks. What’s worse is Kayla did it for her sister Emma. A terribly inaccurate take on Emma Frost who simply has diamond skin. The rest of the Mutants are freed and Professor X makes an unexpected cameo. With an even more unconvincing CGI facelift on Patrick Stewart.

The climax is one of the worst in superhero movie history. When Deadpool is revealed to be a shirtless Weapon XI with a grab bag of powers, katana’s in his arms, and a freaking sewn mouth. Because everyone knows the Merc with a Mouth’s worst quality is talking. I’ve come to expect inaccurate costumes in X-Men movies, but Fox completely butchered Deadpool. Thankfully he was redeemed several years later. Wolverine and Sabretooth team up to fight Weapon XI on a nuclear tower. Where Wolverine finally chops its head off never to be seen again. Expect for a sneaky after credits scene that breaks the fourth wall. Victor leaves as well and Logan carries a wounded Kayla to safety. Until Stryker shoots him with Adamantium amnesia bullets.

Putting an end to one of the worst films in the franchise. Yet I still find enjoyment in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. However sanitized they are, the berserk Wolverine action is still plenty of fun. Although the MA tie-in video game is way better. Plus I wasn’t hugely familiar with niche Mutants like Deadpool or Gambit at the time. So I only began to hate those terrible decisions later on. Ironically the problem with the solo outing is the opposite of the problem with the ensembles. This is a Wolverine movie disguised as an X-Men movie and vice versa. So despite the attention to detail that Wolverine has, X-Men Origins: Wolverine can’t seem to settle on an identity.

8. X-Men Origins Wolverine

Wolverine vs. Sabertooth

Preceded by: X-Men: The Last Stand & X-Men: First Class

I’m the Juggernaut B*tch!

X-Men: The Last Stand should have been enough to end 20th Century Fox’s take on the X-Men. Since it almost completely derailed the X-trilogy. X-Men: The Last Stand is clearly weaker by comparison. Not that it doesn’t have enough to both please and anger fans of the X-Men. By 2006, Marvel movies were everywhere. I was excited to see what seemed like the conclusion to the pioneering X-Men films. At 10 years old, I was a bigger fan of the X-Men. So I recognized Beast, Angel, Juggernaut, and other Mutants in the trailer. After seeing X-Men: The Last Stand in theaters, I was blown away by the fanservice, but equally annoyed at the mistreatment of key characters.

A lot of the final result can be blamed on studio interference and Bryan Singer’s departure. After directing both X-Men and X2, Singer left to work with the competition. Leaving his already successful superhero franchise in the dust. He was eventually replaced by Brett Ratner. A director who often favors style over substance. Which lead to them butchering one of the most acclaimed comic book storylines. Both the Dark Phoenix Saga and “Gifted” storylines were blended in a way that fit the established continuity. Despite the restrictions that previous X-Men movies had, it’s clear that some kind of effort was made to increase comic book accuracy. However misguided it was in the end…

5. X-Men The Last Stand

The X-Men

X-Men: The Last Stand opens in a similar way to the original X-Men. By showing two different Mutant’s manifesting their power in a way that’s important to the plot. The first flashback features Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr visiting one of their new students. This was the earliest use of digital de-aging in film. It may be a common practise now, but here Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen look airbrushed. They meet a young Jean Grey at her house where she shows off her omega level power of telekinesis. While lifting objects, we get a quick cameo of Stan Lee hosing and Chris Claremont mowing. Claremont wrote the Dark Phoenix Saga. A famous X-Men storyline where Jean becomes unstoppable after absorbing the Phoenix force. I read the arc later on and it’s vastly different than what the movie does. The second flashback features a young Warren Worthington III horrifically clipping his Angel wings. Which inspires his father to create a Mutant cure. An idea present in the “Gifted” storyline. The cure comes from a Mutant boy based on Leech.

Since X-Men: The Last Stand was the most expensive movie made at the time, they were free to go all out. We finally see the Danger Room which is mostly a virtual reality simulator. Fans will recognize its simulation as the Days of Future Past storyline. It was awesome to finally see a Sentinel on the big screen (even if it’s just a head). Another comic nod is the Fastball Special where Colossus throws Wolverine at an opponent. After three movies and a growing career, it’s clear that Fox only ever cared about Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is always top of his game, but he really didn’t need to be the star this time around. Especially after Logan already discovered his origin. On the other hand, Halle Berry is finally given the presence she deserves. Since an omega level Mutant like Storm is way more important than how she was portrayed in the previous movies. Storm embraces her leadership role, her weather manipulation is way more hands on, and she sides against the cure. Her shorter hairstyle is also reflective of Berry.

Once again, Cyclops is mistreated. It’s a crime that James Marsden never got a chance to do justice to such an important X-Men. Scheduling conflicts meant the unforgivable decision by the studio to kill him off. When Jean rises from the ashes, she kills Scott off-screen. A major difference between the comic, is that Jean became the Phoenix through a cosmic entity. Other Marvel superheroes were involved and her devastating power reached galactic proportions. In the movie, the Phoenix is simply an alternate personality that Professor X repressed. It’s nowhere near as epic, but Famke Janssen is good at switching between Jean and Phoenix’s lustful rage.

Meanwhile, Magneto and Pyro return to build a greater Brotherhood of Mutants. Hoping to destroy the cure. Along with a handful of bizarre randoms are generic versions of Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight, and Kid Omega. Although inaccurate, Dania Ramirez does standout as a speedster version of Callisto who can sense Mutant powers. She helps Magneto find Mystique and other potential recruits. In true comic fashion, Magneto dispatches of several trucks with ease. Rebecca Romijn has way more lines, badass moments, and suggestive shots, but she’s also shortchanged. As Mystique becomes human early on when shot by the cure. Magneto coldly abandons her and leaves with his new Brotherhood.

X-Men: The Last Stand is very overcrowded, but it does make good use of those new additions. Kelsey Grammer was inspired casting as Beast. His blue fur and introduction reading a book upside down is ripped straight out of the comics. Beast currently works with the President, but it only made sense for him to be a longtime friend of the X-Men. Nightcrawler was left out with no explanation. Although it’s easy to figure out makeup was the reason. Ben Foster spreads his Angel wings by denying the cure, but he’s barely in the movie otherwise. Rounding out the original X-Men is Shawn Ashmore as Iceman. Anna Paquin is severely reduced after Rogue considers the cure. She’s also jealous of Bobby and Kitty. After two separate recast cameos, Kitty Pryde is finally played by established actress Ellen Page. Her walking through walls is surprisingly good in a fight. Daniel Cudmore is also on the team as Colossus, but he barely has any lines.

On the villain side is a surprisingly accurate Multiple Man and Juggernaut. Vinnie Jones brings a moderately faithful unstoppable Juggernaut to life. Except he’s a Mutant with no relation to Xavier. Professor X and Magento reunite with different ways of reaching the Phoenix possessed Jean. A fight breaks out between Wolverine, Storm, Juggernaut, and Callisto in Jean’s house. As Jean’s power grows, she shockingly disintegrates the Professor. Another unforgivable studio decision that enraged me at the time. A distraught Magento takes the Phoenix to join the Brotherhood, but she’s mostly stuck in the background until the movie figures out what to do with her. Logan attempts to get her back while evading an attacking spike Mutant. Then Magneto sends him away after giving an ironic speech about Mutant domination. The army switches to plastic cure weapons and Beast rejoins his fellow X-Men. Only then does Wolverine lead Storm, Beast, Iceman, Shadowcat, and Colossus in a last stand against Magneto. They take the X-Jet to Alcatraz and Magneto gets there in an impressively powerful sequence where he moves the Golden Gate Bridge.

The final battle is a fun mix of superpowers and fan pleasing moments that no other X-Men movie had. Makes me wish this was the time they replaced the black leather outfits. Wolverine snikts Mutants, Beast goes full beast, Storm brings the thunder, Iceman puts up ice walls, Colossus is unstoppable, and Kitty runs through everyone. When Magneto sends Juggernaut to kill the cure, Kitty runs in to stop him. Leading to a ridiculous (but hilarious) recreation of the meme, “I’m the Juggernaut B*tch!” They both run through walls, but Juggernaut is defeated by the boy’s close proximity. The other Mutants try to kill Worthington II whose caught by Angel at the last second. Storm defeats Callisto with a lightning blast. And I cheered the moment Iceman defeated Pyro by finally becoming ice. Another gasp came when Wolverine distracts Magneto long enough for Beast to cure him.

Leaving Phoenix as the remaining threat. She destroys everything around her and it’s clear Wolverine’s healing is all that can stop her. Very similar to Van Helsing, Jackman is forced to kill the woman he loves while shirtless and screaming. Making it the last unforgivable major X-Men death in the movie. In the end, Storm runs Xavier’s School, Beast becomes an ambassador, Rogue decides to cure herself, Wolverine sticks around, and Magneto’s powers seem to be returning. In an after credit scene, Xavier seems to have entered the body of one of Moira MacTaggert’s patients. X-Men: The Last Stand ends up being a mixed bag. The Mutant action is way more of a spectacle with greater comic accuracy. Fan favorite characters were equally welcome. Especially since the budget finally made it possible to cram everyone in. The biggest problems continue to be a noticeable shift in direction and killing off characters that were so much more in the comics. The conflicting Dark Phoenix Saga and idea of a cure suffer as a result. X-Men: The Last Stand both honors and dishonors its rich source material.

6. X-Men The Last Stand

The Brotherhood of Mutants

Preceded by: X2 & X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Weapon X

X2 was the best Marvel sequel made at the time and it still holds up as one of the best in the X-franchise. X-Men proved modern superhero movies could be successful and other Marvel adaptations proved they were here to stay. So 20th Century Fox greenlit X2 immediately. Rather than go with a mostly original story, X2 incorporates two separate X-Men storylines into its plot. Return to Weapon X is a storyline dealing with the shadowy organization that made Wolverine. God Loves, Man Kills is a storyline that features human villain William Stryker and his war on Mutants. Both storylines perfectly blend together to make a sequel that’s bigger, deeper, and more action packed than its predecessor.

By 2003, I was a huge fan of Marvel superheroes. My knowledge of the X-Men grew after playing a video game and seeing them in a comic. I still wasn’t an expert, but I recognized characters a bit more. So I was just as excited to see X2 in theaters. There was definitely more superhero action to enjoy, but more suggestive scenes were uncomfortable to watch with my parents. Bryan Singer made the wise choice to fully develop established characters rather than overcrowd X2 with too many new Mutants. Giving Nightcrawler and Lady Deathstrike more opportunity to stand out…

3. X2 X-Men United

The X-Men

X2 has one of the best openings in any superhero movie. As Nightcrawler attacks the White House to the tune of Mozart’s Requiem. It’s a high energy introduction that makes perfect use of his teleportation. The bigger budget finally made it possible to use Nightcrawler, but Beast and the Danger Room were still too expensive. Angel, Gambit, and the Sentinels were left out for similar reasons. Although a human Dr. Hank McCoy can still be seen doing an interview on TV. The Danger Room set was built, but nothing was filmed on it. Alan Cumming was always the best choice to play Nightcrawler. He may not be wearing his signature red costume, but every other complex piece of his character is utilized. Just like the comics, Nightcrawler is a blue demonic looking German Mutant former member of the circus with a strong Catholic faith. His faith centers the movie, but it does limit his bamfing mostly to rescue. While his jokester personality is only hinted at. As is the possibility of him being Mystique’s son. Similar to Mystique, Cumming’s blue makeup was more extensive with the addition of angelic symbols.

X2 picks up right where X-Men left off. Logan is off searching for answers about his past at Alkali Lake. Since Hugh Jackman became a breakout star, he’s given a lot more opportunity to fully explore Wolverine. After winning an Oscar for Best Actress, Halle Berry was similarly given more screen time as Storm. Thankfully she drops her terrible attempt at an African accent. Storm’s weather controlling power has also gotten a lot better. Famke Janssen shows off more sides of Jean Grey. You can tell something went wrong after the Statue of Liberty. Leaving her unable to fully control her telekinesis. A field trip to a Museum gives Professor X an opportunity to show off his impressive ability to mentally freeze people around him. Patrick Stewart’s role is his biggest so far, as Charles Xavier is placed more in the action. Sadly James Marsden ends up being short changed. Cyclops gets a few good blasts in, but he’s left out of almost everything.

Leaving more room for the teenage X-Men. Anna Paquin better rounds out Rogue with a more confident comic accurate appearance and greater difficulty dealing with her powers. After his small cameo in X-Men, Shawn Ashmore proves to be a cool choice for Iceman. He’s originally a founding member in the comics, but here he’s younger and dating Rogue. His ice powers translate well to the screen even if he doesn’t become ice or use an ice bridge. Pyro on the other hand, is completely different than the comics. A recast Aaron Stanford plays a young student Pyro who uses a lighter to manipulate fire. Of course he does become more villainous over the course of the movie. The attack on the White House leads to the X-Men being split up. Storm & Jean are sent to find Nightcrawler in Boston, Wolverine watches the kids in the X-Mansion, and Xavier & Cyclops question Magneto in prison. Ian McKellen is now able to develop the many sides of Magneto.

Since Magneto’s still in a specially designed plastic prison, William Stryker is really the main villain. A Mutant hating military scientist that only Brian Cox could play. Although this Stryker has many differences from the comics. Instead of being a religious extremist, Stryker seeks to both control and exterminate Mutants using military means. Another change was making Stryker the one who gave Wolverine his Adamantium. Kelly Hu is his deadly mostly silent brainwashed right hand woman Lady Deathstrike. Who’s vastly simplified compared to the comics. Stryker’s plan consists of gaining information from Magneto about Cerebro, kidnapping Mutants at Xavier’s School, and using his illusion creating Mutant son to manipulate Professor X into mentally destroying all the Mutants.

Meanwhile, Mystique still disguised as Senator Kelly, plans to break Magneto out of prison. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is even deadlier and more seductive this time. She briefly appears without makeup, disguising herself as a sexy bar girl. In one of the more uncomfortable scenes, Mystique seduces a guard and injects him with metal. Leading to an exceptional display of Magneto’s power during a prison escape. Wolverine is similarly given a badass display of his berserker rage when he claws his way through Stryker’s soldiers. We also see plenty of cameos from other Mutants. Kitty Pryde escapes by walking through walls, Siryn alerts her fellow students, and Colossus fights off some soldiers. He’s not Russian, but Daniel Cudmore has the perfect build for Colossus even in a brief appearance. Before he has time to find answers, Wolverine leaves with Rogue, Iceman, and Pyro to regroup with Storm & Jean in Boston. They go to Bobby’s house where he “comes out” to his parents about being a Mutant. Unfortunately, his jerk brother calls the cops and Pyro makes things worse by unleashing his power.

The X-Jet arrives and it leads to an intense confrontation with the airforce where Storm creates multiple tornados, Nightcrawler catches Rogue, and Jean fails to stop a missile. Luckily Magneto is there to catch them. Like the comics, Magneto forms a temporary alliance with the X-Men. While at the same time recruiting Pyro and having his own agenda that results in humans being targeted in Cerebro. After Mystique gracefully fights off Stryker’s soldiers, she manages to get the X-Men into the underground compound. Storm encourages Nightcrawler to save the children (one of them being Jubilee) and the Professor. Jean is forced to fight a manipulated Cyclops with disastrous results. But the best fight by far is between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike. After discovering his entire bloody origin, the claws come out. It’s an awesome, positively savage fight between clawed Mutants with increased healing factors. Deathstrike clearly has the upper hand and is only defeated when injected with Adamantium.

In the end, Stryker is chained up to the flooding compound and Wolverine turns his back on him. When the X-Jet won’t start up in time, Jean sacrifices herself to save everyone. Something that shocked me as a kid, before I learned more about the Dark Phoenix Saga. Finally, the X-Men make their position clear to the President by assuring him Mutants aren’t the enemy. X2 has a vast improvement of CGI, action, and drama. The black leather suits stay the same despite other Marvel movies showing it was possible to be comic book accurate. I can still accept it since it was difficult enough pulling off each character.

More character development also meant more romance. Rogue and Iceman represent the difficulty of being a power draining Mutant with raging hormones. He’s no Gambit, but their relationship feels right for the movie. Cyclops cares very deeply for Jean and so does Logan. Since Cyclops is mostly absent, Logan and Jean share more romantic moments. Even Mystique randomly wants to get with Wolverine. Although her shapeshifting scene in the tent was mostly a studio request. Every Mutant is given their own individual time to shine. Each of them perfectly displaying their distinct superpower. The only thing that’s missing is a Stan Lee cameo. X2: X-Men United goes to show what Marvel’s Mutants could be capable of.

4. X2 X-Men United

Nightcrawler attacks the White House

Preceded by: X-Men & Followed by: X-Men: The Last Stand

Mutation: It is the Key to Our Evolution

X-Men is the comic book movie that ushered in the modern success of superhero movies. Its importance to the genre should never be understated. X-Men is also the first genuinely good Marvel movie. The key was to take the source material seriously. A problem that plagued every other Marvel movie at the time. Before X-Men, all that was made was Howard the Duck and a bunch of low budget direct-to-video crap. Blade was a step in the right direction, but Marvel was still yet to make a big budget adaptation of one of their major properties. X-Men was created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby in 1963 during the Silver Age of comics. The unique team of Mutants was celebrated for dealing with issues like prejudice.

Although Stan Lee got things started, it’s really writers like Chris Claremont who diversified the X-Men into who they are today. The success of The Animated Series just made a movie the next logical step. Ironically, Lauren Shuler Donner (wife of Richard Donner) was the one who ended up producing. I just wish Marvel didn’t sell its rights to 20th Century Fox. Bryan Singer’s familiarity with themes of prejudice made him a natural choice for director. The beginning of 2000 was a perfect time to bring special effects heavy Marvel characters to life. Making X-Men the first superhero movie I ever saw. Since my parents were big comic book fans, my brother and I saw it in theaters. At 5 years old, I became an instant fan despite knowing nothing about the comics at the time. I didn’t really become an expert of X-Men comics until way later…

1. X-Men

The X-Men

X-Men centers on the conflict between Mutants and the rest of humanity. Just like in the comics, Mutants manifest special abilities at a young age. The magnitude of their power results in them being feared and hated. Although the X-Men belong with the rest of the Marvel universe, I have to admit it makes sense for them to live in a world where Mutants are the only superpowered individuals. Otherwise, X-Men is very faithful to the spirit of the comics. Bryan Singer was sure to balance superhero action with complex character drama. While at the same time giving it a sleek early 2000’s aesthetic. Meaning colorful yellow spandex is replaced by gritty black leather similar to The Matrix. Sure it might have been difficult to take the costumes seriously, but I’ll always prefer comic book accuracy over anything else. It was 2000, so fans just sort of accepted the leather as long as the characters were faithful.

The original Uncanny X-Men consisted of Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, and their founder Professor X. The movie instead creates its own continuity in order to utilize popular Mutants from their 1975 roster change. Now the team consists of Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, and Jean Grey. Rogue became the primary teenage recruit and other important X-Men like Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, and Pyro only have cameos. While more expensive teammates like Beast or Nightcrawler had to be left out. The Brotherhood of Mutants was also changed to accommodate key villains. Archenemy Magneto now leads Mystique, Sabretooth, and Toad. All of whom have similar simplified appearances. Magneto only retains his trademark cape and helmet.

X-Men begins with a lesson on Mutation and a thrilling theme by Michael Kamen. Don’t expect to see the Marvel logo just yet. X-Men isn’t exactly a conventional origin story, but we do get a glimpse of how Magneto and Rogue manifested their powers. First with its miserable opening of Magneto discovering his ability to control metal in a concentration camp. Then in the “Not too distant future” where Rogue kissing a boy puts him in a coma. The primary conflict is between Senator Kelly’s attempt to register Mutants and Magneto’s plot to mutate the human race using a magnetically powered machine. Charles Xavier and his old friend Erik Lehnsherr represent the conflicting views of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Professor X fights for a peaceful solution while Magneto fights by any means necessary. Their complex relationship perfectly translates from the comics.

Sir Patrick Stewart was inspired casting for the powerful wheelchair bound telepath. Although Professor X wasn’t specifically British, Stewart was already bald and very commanding. Equally inspired was the casting of Sir Ian McKellen as the villainous Master of Magnetism. Successfully propelling McKellen’s career a year before Lord of the Rings. Rogue goes on the run to Canada where she encounters Wolverine. Who easily beats a guy in a cage fight. It’s a perfect introduction to an iconic fan favorite X-Men. Made even better when his Adamantium claws pop out for the first time. Hard to believe Hugh Jackman was just an unknown Australian theater guy at the time, but his subtle animalistic rage made him perfect for the role. His only minor flaw was being too tall and too handsome. Since Wolverine is supposed to be a short bruiser. Jackman isn’t jacked, but his hairstyle looks good in live-action.

Oscar winning actress Anna Paquin is great at playing a young Rogue longing for acceptance despite being unable to touch, but it’s not exactly accurate. Although she fits the movie’s theme, Rogue is supposed to be a powerful seductive Mutant. Fortunately she does become more confident by the end (and even gets her iconic white streak). Logan develops a strong bond with Rogue that brings out the best in him. While driving, they’re attacked by the vicious Sabretooth. Wolverine’s archenemy whose simplified to just being an intimidating animalistic henchmen played by wrestler Tyler Mane. The X-Men make their presence known by rescuing them both. The X-Mansion in New York is their base of operations. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is filled with gifted Mutant students. While the underground base is shiny and full of X’s. The Danger Room was too expensive to film, but Cerebro makes an impression. A confused Logan is mentally guided by Professor X who introduces him to the rest of the team.

James Marsden fits Cyclops’ visor well, but it’s really the only time he shows any leadership. His love triangle with Jean and rivalry with Wolverine are just as well represented. Halle Berry was everywhere at the time, so it only made sense that she was cast as Storm. Her hair was white, she kept her cape, but she wasn’t as dark as the African Mutant and what’s the deal with her accent? Famke Janssen was equally popular at the time. Her Jean Grey shows glimpses of telekinetic power, but there’s not enough screen time for her to show it. Magneto’s plan is revealed when Mystique reveals herself. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos definitely stands out as the blue shape shifting Mutant. Instead of wearing a white outfit, Mystique is naked with scales. Giving her a sexy seductive menace. Then there’s Toad. A disgusting minor villain that Ray Park manages to jazz up with his signature acrobatics. Magneto’s plan consists of testing his machine on Senator Kelly, turning him into a Mutant, but using Rogue’s power draining abilities to increase its power, and mutate World Leaders.

When Rogue is kidnaped, Magneto displays his full power by turning everyone’s guns against them. Mystique poisons Cerebro, subduing Xavier in the process. The climax consists of the X-Men taking their awesome X-Jet to fight the Brotherhood at the Statue of Liberty. Wolverine vs. a Wolverine disguised Mystique is a fun fight, but Toad getting the upper hand on Mutants as powerful as Jean Grey and Storm is just ridiculous. At least it brings out the full weather controlling might of Storm. Ruined by the hilariously bad joke about what happens to a Toad that’s struck by lightning. Wolverine manages to claw Mystique, but she gets away. Magneto magnetically imprisons the X-Men except for Wolverine who has a berserk confrontation with Sabertooth. Their fight atop Lady Liberty is legendary. After Wolverine finally says “Bub,” Cyclops finishes him off with his optic blast. Magneto is finally defeated when Wolverine slices through his machine and lets Rogue absorb his healing. Logan leaves to seek answers about his past, Rogue is accepted by the X-Men, Mystique secretly poses as Senator Kelly, and Charles & Erik discuss humanity in a perfectly symbolic game of chess.

X-Men was definitely ahead of its time as a Marvel superhero movie. The action makes uncanny use of every unique power. Even if the CGI is a bit dated at times. Although it takes its commentary on Mutant prejudice seriously, there are still plenty of funny moments. Along with a handful of strange moments. Namely Senator Kelly becoming a disturbing water Mutant. Look out for Stan Lee’s traditional cameo as a hot dog vendor. I’ll always have fond memories of seeing X-Men as a kid learning about superheroes for the first time. Sure X-Men seems dated with its inaccurate costumes and loose approach to certain characters, but its sincere action packed style is exactly what superhero movies needed at the time.

2. X-Men

X-Men in the X-Mansion

Followed by: X2

A Thousand Generations Live in You Now

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker or as it’s officially designated, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker is the messy conclusion to what is now known as the Skywalker saga. Ending the sequel trilogy and hopefully ending Disney’s barrage of constant Star Wars movies for a long time. After The Last Jedi let me down and Solo left me unenthusiastic, I just didn’t know if I could still feel excitement for the final “Episode” anymore. Then the trailer dropped along with the title reveal and I was a screaming fan again. Promotional material leaned heavily into nostalgia with familiar music and unexpected character reveals. There was also the promise of The Rise of Skywalker being an epic conclusion.

What audiences hoped would be a thrilling Star Wars opus, ending up being the most objectively bad Star Wars movie ever made. Why is it I was more excited for the season finale of The Mandalorian then the finale of the movies that made it possible? The sequel trilogy was doomed the moment George Lucas sold its rights to Disney. They didn’t see a beloved personal franchise, they saw a corporate money making assignment. The primary focus of The Rise of Skywalker was to make everyone happy. So already respected director of The Force Awakens J. J. Abrams came back to essentially retcon past mistakes and give fans all the fanservice they wanted. Resulting in a disjointed trilogy with an unclear identity that almost single handedly ruins the entire saga. SPOILER ALERT! (you’re gonna need it)…

32. The Rise of Skywalker

Rey vs. Kylo Ren

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…, Lucasfilm Ltd., Star Wars, John Williams’ theme, Episode roman numeral, subtitle, and space opening crawl are all shown for the final time. At least until Episode X, XI, & XII come out. Before Disney does that, I had to savor the in theater experience. You can tell The Rise of Skywalker is gonna be rough from the very first sentence. With the extremely vague “The dead speak,” Emperor Palpatine is back with no build up whatsoever. General Leia sends Resistance fighters to investigate the broadcast from beyond the grave while Rey continues her Jedi training. We open on the newly dubbed Supreme Leader Kylo Ren slaughtering random aliens on an unknown planet in an attempt to find Palpatine’s location. He finds the ridiculously named Sith wayfinder which leads him to the spooky Sith planet Exegol. Emperor Palpatine has always been the true villain of Star Wars, but The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi had zero indication he’d appear. But his dark presence still gives me chills. Palpatine directly quotes Revenge of the Sith by saying the Dark side is unnatural and it’s all the explanation we get.

Snoke was just his puppet and Darth Vader’s voice is what lead Ben to the Dark side. His “genius” plan is a Final Order of superlaser equipped Star Destroyers hidden beneath the planet. Complete with red Sith Troopers. Remember that Palpatine wants Rey dead as well. Rey is now ridiculously overpowered and being trained by Leia. Who finally gets a chance to show off her knowledge of the Force. By having Rey run an obstacle course. Meanwhile in space, Poe Dameron and Finn take the Millenium Falcon to receive intel from an unknown spy about Palpatine’s whereabouts. They evade an armada of TIE fighters by performing a move that’s never been done before. Lightspeed skipping through a bunch of random planets. Once the Resistance reconvene, Rey learns about the Sith wayfinder from a convenient journal page Luke left behind. After 2 whole movies, Rey, Finn, and Poe finally become the sequel trilogies main trio. A trio that constantly bickers and has no reason to be together. C-3PO, Chewbacca, and BB-8 accompany them as well. Leaving R2-D2, Maz Kanata, Leia, Rose, and the rest of the Resistance behind.

The Rise of Skywalker then becomes a rushed scavenger hunt to planets we barely get to known. They first arrive on Pasaana (the 6th freakin’ desert planet). During a festival, Rey longs for a last name. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren rebuilds his helmet and brings in the Knights of Ren. Another one of those Force bonds reveals Rey’s whereabouts. A masked stranger intervenes, revealing himself to be none other than Lando Calrissian. Now the circle of familiar faces is complete. He points them in the direction of a Sith dagger that they find while evading Stormtroopers that fly now. Then they sink in a convenient patch of quicksand. Finn tries to tell Rey something, but it’s never brought up again. They end up underground where a giant snake lives. Except it’s a poor injured creature that Rey just so happens to know how to Force heal, because who cares at this point. 3PO finally gets something to do by reading the Sith dagger, but his inability to read the forbidden language means visiting a whole other planet. But not before Rey confronts Kylo by cutting through his ship. Chewie is taken on a First Order transport that Rey stops mid-takeoff with Kylo holding on as well. Until Rey destroys it with Force lightning in a shocking twist of events. I gasped, but I was counting the minutes before Chewie turned up alive.

With the Falcon stolen, they take one belonging to the dead Jedi hunter. BB-8 is even given his own bland sidekick D-0. 3PO’s translation is handled in the snowy mountain city of Kijimi. It’s there we meet a brand new character named Zorii Bliss. A masked warrior and Poe’s old flame who reveals he used to be a spice runner. Not that any of that matters. A cute little merchandising opportunity named Babu Frik reveals 3PO’s Sith translation will wipe his memory. It should be a poignant moment, but these characters are the furthest thing from 3PO’s friends. The wayfinders coordinates are revealed and Rey senses Chewie’s survival. They mount a rescue that takes out a ton of Stormtroopers on Kylo’s Star Destroyer. Finn & Poe are captured, but General Hux reveals himself to be the spy. Before that has time to sink in, he’s immediately killed and replaced by the more threatening Allegiant General Pryde. Even in separate locations, Rey and Kylo manage to have a lightsaber duel. Vader’s helmet gives away her location as Kylo intends to reveal the rest of Rey’s story. It turns out Rey is so overpowered because she’s the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. An unexpectedly expected twist that reinterprets Rey’s parents being nobodies and leaves too many questions unanswered.

In the most convoluted way possible, the Sith dagger has to line up with the wreckage of the second Death Star on the ocean moon Kef Bir. Thus revealing the location of the wayfinder. But not before we meet another character we have no time to care about. Jannah is a former Stormtrooper like Finn who might be Lando’s daughter I guess. Rey goes in alone where she’s confronted by an out of nowhere vision of herself as a Sith. Complete with highly impractical hinged double-edge lightsaber. Kylo destroys the only reason we’ve been going on this quest and the 2 engage in a lightsaber duel. I didn’t think it was possible, but their moderately paced back and forth duel is boring. It eventually ends when Leia reaches out to her son and very unceremoniously dies because of it. When Kylo is fatally stabbed, Rey heals him. I can’t say I was expecting Han Solo to appear, but his heart to heart talk is what brings back Ben Solo. A distraught Rey exiles herself on Anch-To, intending to destroy everything. That’s when a much softer Luke appears as a Force ghost to catch his lightsaber. He recounts Leia’s Jedi training, gives Rey her lightsaber, and lifts his X-Wing out of the ocean.

The climax (that liberally borrows from Endgame) is split between the Resistance making a final stand against the Final Order fleet and Rey confronting her grandfather. The ship battle consists of space horses and a last minute army of Rebels across the galaxy. Palpatine does a complete 180 by saying he wants Rey to strike him down so that he can live again. A blaster wielding Ben comes to her rescue and Rey gives him Luke’s lightsaber with (you guessed it) another random Force power. Ben kills the Knights of Ren like they never mattered and he stands with Rey against the Emperor. Only to reveal another bit of Force nonsense about them being something called a dyad. Their energy rejuvenates Palpatine long enough to electrify the Resistance. That’s when Rey hears the familiar voices of past Jedi giving her encouragement. The combined power of 2 lightsabers destroys Palpatine with his own lightning. Rey dies, but Ben returns the favor by healing her. They also share a random kiss before he suddenly dies himself. Everyone across the galaxy celebrates and Rey buries Luke & Leia’s lightsabers on Tatooine. Rey reveals her own yellow lightsaber and decides to adopt the name Rey Skywalker. Despite having absolutely no connection to the name. Then the Skywalker saga ends where it started. Gazing at a binary sunset…

31. The Rise of Skywalker

Rey and Chewie prepare to take off

The Rise of Skywalker is a lot like Return of the Jedi in terms of story structure. And a lot like every other Star Wars movie, because nostalgia is all they have left. There’s more emphasis on the Emperor, a Jedi confronting the Dark Side, a desperate final battle, and even Ewoks make a brief cameo. Like most directors hired by Disney, original director Colin Trevorrow quit sighting creative differences. Proving how flawed their different director each movie scheme was. Instead of finding someone new, J. J. Abrams returned. Since Rian Johnson threw away everything The Force Awakens set up, it’s no wonder Abrams practically ignores The Last Jedi. I didn’t like its total disregard for things fans love about Star Wars, but even I can admit the trilogy suffers because of it. I can’t imagine Trevorrow being any better. The Rise of Skywalker makes its fanservice clear in its title alone. Making Star Wars about the Skywalker family after all. As well as pandering to fans by giving them everything they want. Chewie gets a medal, Leia uses a lightsaber in a flashback, and prequels are acknowledged.

Like the previous films, Carrie Fisher was supposed to have a central role. Sadly, Fisher’s passing made it impossible for Leia to fully explore her potential as a Jedi. Instead of omitting her entirely, they made the unnatural decision to work around her past deleted scenes. You never believe she’s really there and her death is so abrupt that I still felt nothing. Mark Hamill shows up just to apologize for his out of character behavior and fulfill Luke Skywalker’s goal to lift an X-Wing. Harrison Ford brings his best to Han Solo, but it’s obvious he’s stopped caring. Billy Dee Williams was last to inevitably return as Lando. Williams has notably continued voicing Lando throughout the years, but his 36 year live-action reprisal is the longest in movie history. Of course Denis Lawson makes a cameo as Wedge Antilles too. No matter the era, Ian McDiarmid has always been menacing as Palpatine. I just wish his villainous plan, cheesy dialogue, or reason for living made some kind of sense. A clone of the Emperor was an idea in the comics, but the nauseating idea of Palpatine having children was not. Honestly the reveal feels more like fan fiction.

Although it does sort of save Rey for me if I know she’s related to an existing character. I never liked the idea of her being a random overpowered nobody to begin with. Unfortunately, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac aren’t a compelling trio and we still barely know any of their respective characters. Chewie has more emotion in his Wookie growls then they do when Leia dies. Rey essentially ruins the ending of Return of the Jedi by stealing Anakin’s professed redemption. What’s the point of Episode IVI if Rey just comes in and kills the Emperor all over again. Finn only exists now to scream “Rey!!!” and possibly be Force sensitive. Except any answer to that is never addressed. Poe is still just discount Han Solo without the authority. The only consistent character with a logical arc is Kylo Ren. Adam Driver is both ruthless and heroic. I expected him to redeem himself, but fighting with his father’s blaster and uncle’s lightsaber was an added bonus. I just wish his abrupt death didn’t make audiences laugh. I know Rey & Ben’s kiss had no build up, but after Finn & Rose, I’ll accept any romance they cobble together.

I’m glad Rose got reduced screen time à la Jar Jar Binks. Even though Kelly Marie Tran deserved better. Since The Last Jedi uneventfully killed characters with potential, Abrams barely acknowledges any of Johnson’s creations. For example, “Holdo maneuver” is now impossible. Unfortunately it also meant the creation of too many new last minute characters. Keri Russell hides her face as Zorii, newcomer Naomi Ackie’s Jannah was likely added for diversity, and do we seriously need another droid. Did rolling hair dryer D-0 serve any purpose? At least the only consistent presence across all 9 Episodes is C-3PO & R2-D2. Anthony Daniels never fails to be bring 3PO to life. Considering the decade, I expected some kind of LGBT moment. But the blink & you’ll miss it (easily edited) kiss between nameless lesbian extras was totally pointless. With the exception of Babu Frik, alien extras continue to be unmemorable. While the new planets go by so fast that none of them stand out.

The overall fan disappointment of The Rise of Skywalker (and the entire sequel trilogy), was enough to give the prequel trilogy a renewed appreciation. George Lucas was misguided in a lot of areas, but at least he delivered on a different, but familiar trilogy with a singular vision. The excitement of hearing familiar Jedi voices would have been 10 times better if they appeared physically. But hearing Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Expanded Universe Jedi Ahsoka Tano, Kanan Jarrus, Aayla Secura, Luminara Unduli, and Adi Gallia was just as satisfying. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker isn’t unwatchable, but it crams in more than any Star Wars movie should. I’ll just stick with the Star Wars saga that put an epic galaxy full of adventure and possibility before anything else. “May the Force be with you.”

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Rey and Kylo Ren destroy Darth Vader’s helmet

Preceded by: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi