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The X-Men and I have a long history going back to the mid-1990s when I was growing up. They were the first superhero team I fell in love with thanks to Fox's X-Men animated series. The series faithfully adapted many of the franchise's most popular comic book stories to date. And when the series made the leap to the big screen in 2000? I jumped right along with them.

As Dark Phoenix hit theaters this week, I figured it was a good time to go back through the franchise and look at its ups and downs. I'm positive and believe there have been more ups than downs, but, boy, the downs certainly have been doozies.

My favorite member of the X-Men team has always been Nightcrawler, the teleporting blue Catholic who often serves as the soul of the group. Admittedly, he's not one of the more well-known mutants like Wolverine or Cyclops. But his opening scene running through the White House taking down Secret Service agents in X2? Still one of the great scenes in the franchise.

And while people have been waiting for Marvel to take back its properties from Fox for more than a decade now, X-Men is something the company typically did well with. We won't speak of the terrible Fantastic Four adaptations. But with Disney's purchase of Fox, Dark Phoenix marks the last film in this franchise for a while. Marvel Studios' president has already said the characters won't show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for quite some time.

One undeniable fact is that without the X-Men film franchise kicking things off and making so much money in 2000, we might not have comic book movies like we do today. Aside from Superman and Batman flicks, comic book movies were typically considered risky, let alone serious stories casual fans would fall in love with. But X-Men ignited all that (along with Sony's Spiderman in 2002). For us to get to Iron Man in 2008 and Endgame in 2019, we had to start with X-Men.

And, yes, I'm aware we had successful comic book franchises prior to that like Blade. But the road to our modern cinematic comic book adaptations really leaps forward with X-Men.

X-Men and X2 were cheesy but fantastic movies. Some fans still say X2 was never topped. That's when the series peaked. Personally, I believe the franchise peaked with Logan, but I also consider that the greatest superhero movie made to date, so I'm biased.

Things quickly went downhill with X-Men: The Last Stand because its story simply cannot be adapted in one movie. The Phoenix Saga is perhaps the most famous X-Men comic book story. It sees telepathic character Jean Gray possessed by a powerful cosmic force. It's a vibrant story involving personal identity, the destruction of entire galaxies, aliens and more. It's such a huge undertaking that when the cartoon series adapted it in season three, it dedicated not one, not two, but nine episodes to the subject. You cannot boil the Phoenix down to one movie, and that's why I'm worried about Dark Phoenix. (I haven't seen it yet as I write this.)

But that story ruined The Last Stand. A Phoenix without Lilandra, the Shi'ar, the M'Kraan Crystal and the Starjammers space pirates falls flat every time. If one was going to adapt the Phoenix story to cinema, they'd need three movies at least to build everything up. Remember, when you rush a comic book story you get Justice League.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine was also terrible, butchering beloved characters with terrible effects and wretched story. But it built the foundation that, along with Ryan Reynolds' pushing, would give us the hilarious Deadpool and Deadpool 2.

X-Men: First Class is probably the most quiet film of the franchise. It doesn't feature as many popular characters, but by George do I love Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as young Magneto and Professor X. They're such fantastic counterparts to Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. This movie also gave us a soft reboot on the franchise to swap out actors.

When we got to Days of Future Past, we hit the Endgame of the X-Men franchise, in my opinion. If X2 is considered the favorite of the franchise, it faces the stiffest competition from this movie, which merges the old and young casts. It's just so good with its well-executed story and erasing The Last Stand from the timeline. I love it.

But then we got Apocalypse who is supposed to be one of the greatest X-Men villains of all time, and the movie was lukewarm at best. I was looking forward to seeing Mister Sinister be the focus of an X-Men film set in the '90s, but they scrapped that for another attempt at the Phoenix Saga.

The series has its redemption points, for sure. The Wolverine redeems X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Days of Future Past redeems The Last Stand. And Logan? Well, that's just utter perfection as far as I'm concerned. Adapting elements of the Old Man Logan story into a film with a Professor X that's old as dirt and going crazy? Combine that with an unbelievable portrayal of X-23 from Dafne Keen, and you'll see why I think this is the greatest superhero movie of all time. It can't be beat.

So, before I say goodbye to Fox's X-Men series and all its spinoffs (since New Mutants may never see the light of day), let me just say thanks to Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and all the other people who worked hard to bring these stories and characters to life over the last couple decades.

MovieStyle on 06/07/2019

Print Headline: Ups and downs of X-Men's franchise

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