Xed Out (Commentary)

So, it turns out that the Marvel plans to recast all the X-Men when they do finally bring the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe they will be recasting the team. All New, all different.

Well, except Deadpool. Marvel is not stupid.

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This should not be shocking. But what has shocked me is that I have seen a fair number of people express hopes that this would not happen…like it was not a forgone conclusion. Both Dark Phoenix and the New Mutants have been delayed multiple times.  Fox does not seem to have much faith int he films, to the point that there is talk that the New Mutants might end up debuting on Hulu. Which is…disappointing.

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Once Disney and Fox had their deal, people kept talking like Hugh Jackman was going to charge in and slice up Thanos in Endgame.  Spoiler…he totally does!

Not really. But for some reason, people assumed the Phase Four setup would include bringing in known actors in roles they made in the Fox Movies.  I would have chalked this up to wishful thinking, but some people feel like Marvel and Disney are really slighting the X-Men Franchise.

But the truth is that there is little reason to have even considered the likelihood of just bringing over the existing cast. Our first example of Marvel bringing someone into the MCU from an existing franchise was Spider-Man.

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But they did not just carry over Andrew Garfield. They introduced a new actor and cast entirely. And it made sense.  A new Spider-Man allowed them to fit him into the Universe without dealing with old baggage.

And there is a lot of X-Men Baggage.

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The first X-Men film, directed by Bryan Singer, was generally well received.  It’s standout had been the most controversial casting, Hugh Jackman asa Wolverine.  The cast did okay, and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan won audiences over with their portrayals.

The second film was a step up, playing with its themes far more effectively and stronger performances all around. But then, Singer left for Superman and was replaced by Brett Ratner.  It borrowed from various storylines, including Dark Phoenix and Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men storyline revolving around a cure for the mutant gene.  And while it has its moments, (the sequence with a young Angel desperately cutting off his wings deserved to be in a much better film) it was a sharp decline for the franchise.

It did not help that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was…another low point.  It was decided that they would try and reboot the series, but more of a soft reboot.  A new film was going to focus on the friendship of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr. They would assemble the very first team of the X-Men.

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First Class introduced the Hellfire Club, Moira McTaggert, Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost to the franchise (well, a different Emma Frost). For the most part, it is a terrific film. Emma Frost left a lot to be desired, but Shaw was a great Villain. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender gave excellent performances. Heck, if you ignore the absurd use of Darwin, it is almost a perfect film. I mean, the early portion of the film has a great “Magneto Nazi Hunter” storyline.

The followup was meant to bring the storylines together. Featuring both the original and newer casts, Days of Future Past is quite good. And so the rebooted franchise seeme to have found its footing.

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But then came Apocalypse, and the cracks began to show. One of those big cracks was the conceit introduced in the second film of the McAvoy and Fassbender era…ten year jumps between films.  First Class was set in 1962.  Days of Future Past sent Wolverine to 1973 and Apocalypse took place in 1983. The next film is taking place in the 90’s.  First Class introduced an eighteen (or there abouts) Havok.  Like in the comics, he is the brother of Cyclops. Cyclops was not introduced until X-Men Apocalypse (along with Jean Grey, Storm, Angel and Nightcrawler). We meet Cyclops as a high school student in 1983. This makes Havok about 20 years older than his younger brother. But the actors are only about six years apart, and it is painfully clear.

The time jumps meant they could catch up to the present in a few films…but they also mean Fassbender and McAvoy are playing characters over 60 and it is painfully obvious they are nowhere near that.

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And really…the franchise keeps floundering.  Both Last Stand and Apocalypse make big misteps and are generally not a whole lot of fun. Nor is X-Men Origins.

And the standouts are rare. X2, First Class, Logan and the 2 Deadpools have been the best the franchise has had to offer.  And they are all great, but not worth trying to port an entire franchise over for.  Deadpool makes some sense, because they can blow off the change with a joke.  Having to come up with some Endgame related blended universe babble is just not necessary.

We are getting our second attempt at the Dark Phoenix cinematically, and it does not look promising. It would be best and smartest to simply let the Fox films come to a close.  Let us see a bright new start.  A fresh new class.

 

(Also…it would be nice to just distance the films from Singer as much as possible.)

 

 

Fantastic Lemonade

So…I was not a fan of the the latest stab f the Fantastic Four.  And I was not alone.  But Jamie Broadnax, whose writing I respect and enjoy, has voiced an appreciation of the film.

This challenged me to think about the film a bit harder.  Specifically, are there things I did like?  Things that I could appreciate even if they did not work?

There things I liked.  For instance, Franklin Storm.  I liked him.  He radiated a general kindness and his interactions with Johnny and Sue were welcome additions.  It’s frustrating he kind of fades away until he is needed for the “Big Emotional Motivation” towards the end.

johnny_stormI did like Johnny Storm in general.  The specifics frustrate me…Johnny as a free spirited risk taker works better for me than “Angry Risk Taker”.  Michael B. Jordan manages to still infuse some charm into the role.

I like the cast in general.  All the actors are proven talent, so the issue was never performance.  The actors did their best with questionable material.  Dr. Doom especially suffers there.  Nothing about his early behavior suggests what he will become.  There is an offhanded comment about whether the world should be saved…but once everyone gets their powers, Doom is lost and nobody seems to care.  Once he reappears he hates the world and wants to destroy…because.

The use of powers, especially by Reed, were pretty effective.

I liked the inter-dimensional travel part of the plot.  The use of science in general.  The early suggestions of Sc-Fi Adventure would have been a great path to go.  This was clearly borrowed from the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics.  I think this works well.

Leaping from there, I think would have benefited the film to have a different villain.  Victor Von Doom should have been there, but more as a scientific foil for Reed.  It might have been a good idea to borrow from the comics, unbeknownst to the rest of the crew, Doom alters their coordinates, resulting in the tragedy that gives them all powers.  And Sue would be there with them.  Not sitting back at a computer terminal.

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Instead, a different villain.  An obvious choice would have been Annihilus.  The discovery of an alternate dimension is not one way.  Save Doom for a later film in the franchise.

reed_richardsAnd then there is the whole deal of Reed running away.  Yeah, it gives Ben his motivation for anger towards Reed.  But it felt like getting rid of Reed was more because they did not know what to do with him.  The idea that Reed sees Ben in his rock form and simply runs away…just does not gel.  It would have made more sense to show Reed working with Franklin and Sue Storm with the goal of getting everybody back to normal.  The big conflict with the military regarding the attempts to turn Ben and Johnny into weapons.

There are all sorts of ways this film could have gone to be better.  A brighter color pallet for instance.  More humor.  More heroics.

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And for Pete’s sake…give Ben Grimm some pants.

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