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How Fox Fixed the Worst X-Men Movie


How Fox Fixed the Worst X-Men Movie


Summary

  • X
    -Men: The Last Stand
    was overstuffed with storylines, ultimately turning off fans with its rushed and chaotic plot.
  • The film killed off key characters like Cyclops and Professor X in disrespectful and unnecessary ways, leading to backlash.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
    provided a perfect reset for the franchise, correcting the mistakes of
    The Last Stand
    and setting a new course.



When X-Men: Days of Future Past was released in 2014, fans hoped it would build on the solid momentum of X-Men: First Class, a prequel of sorts that also served as a reset for the X-Men film franchise. After a promising start with X-Men in 2000 and serving up one of the best comic book films with X2: X-Men United in 2003, the series stumbled with 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand.


The third installment was overstuffed with characters and a story that could barely sustain itself with its relatively short 104-minute runtime. Many choices were made with The Last Stand that ultimately turned some fans off, leaving them disappointed by the outcome. When X-Men: First Class emerged in 2011, it provided a launch pad to make the franchise fresh again, something it effortlessly did by going back to basics, presenting a compelling story, and featuring some of the best actors in the business in key roles.

Days of Future Past built on this creative resurgence and gave fans, arguably, the best live-action X-Men film to date, but it also served another purpose. When the film reaches its final moments, it does more than wrap up its story. The film also took what went wrong with X-Men: The Last Stand and managed to correct the mistakes of the past.



X-Men: The Last Stand was directed by Brett Ratner, who was stepping in for director Bryan Singer, who helmed the first two films. Singer departed to direct Superman Returns, so it was up to Ratner to build on the incredible ending of X2, which set up potentially telling one of the best X-Men stories on the big screen. Fans knew that The Phoenix Saga, and ultimately, The Dark Phoenix Saga, was coming, and it’s truly a comic book story that is rich with storytelling that could be translated well for the live-action format.

Sadly, however, the choice was made with X-Men: The Last Stand to loosely base the film on two story arcs. The Dark Phoenix Saga would be one, but the other would be Gifted, which alludes to a cure that could rid mutants of the very gifts that give them their special abilities. Both story arcs are worthy of the movie treatment, but when presented together, neither gets a chance to breathe.


Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) being consumed by a power stronger than her dominates the film’s first half. It then becomes a mere afterthought, ultimately making her a silent killing machine devoid of emotion. In addition to stripping the character and the story of its emotional weight, Jean is also used as a method to kill key players for mere shock value, a choice that quickly became polarizing with the fans.

X-Men: The Last Stand Killed Off Key Characters

Scott Summers/Cyclops (James Marsden) is still distraught over the loss of Jean from the previous film and decides to drive to where she “died” at Alkali Lake. Soon after his arrival, Jean appears to Scott, and this begins as a happy union, but it soon turns deadly. As the two kiss, Jean kills Scott, marking the first true unforgivable mistake of the film.


Scott plays a significant role in The Dark Phoenix comic book story, so killing him off is a big misstep. The real-life reason for this choice was that Marsden had to go off and film Singer’s Superman Returns, so his role was limited in The Last Stand. Other decisions could’ve been made, especially since fans were already insulted that his role, even in the first two highly regarded films, was already minimal. Marsden never got a chance to do much in the role, and now the slap in the face was killing him off in a disrespectful fashion.

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The second strike comes with choosing what is done to Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). After escaping to her childhood home, Magneto (Ian McKellen) learns of Jean’s resurrection, and he arrives there with his Brotherhood of Mutants to lure her to his side. At the same time, the X-Men are arriving, resulting in Magneto and Xavier trying to vie for Jean’s loyalty until the Phoenix persona takes her over again.


Not only does the Phoenix destroy Jean’s childhood home, but she disintegrates Xavier, seemingly killing him. It’s another move by the film that feels like it was made to shock audiences rather than be a necessary narrative motivation. Since so much is going on in the movie, and it’s already packed with characters and more stories to tell, the audience doesn’t get to grieve the loss of Xavier. It’s just another moment that happens before moving on to the next scene. There is no emotional consequence.

By the end of the film, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) becomes the one to finally stop the Phoenix because his healing factor and adamantium skeleton allow him to get close enough to her without meeting his end. Logan fatally stabs Jean after she emerges for a moment, begging him to kill her. Jean dying the way she does is also a matter of debate with the fans, and it just adds to another series of choices made by The Last Stand that has continued to make it one of the lesser entries of the franchise.


In 2011, X-Men: First Class was released, serving as a prequel to the first X-Men film. Primarily set in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film focuses on the relationship between Charles Xavier (now played by James McAvoy) and Erk Lehnsherr/Magneto (now played by Michael Fassbender), and the origin of their groups, the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants, as they go up against the Hellfire Club, led by Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Directed by Matthew Vaughn, the film was a box office success and received positive notices from critics and fans, and it was responsible for making the franchise viable again after the mixed reaction to The Last Stand.

With the follow-up, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bryan Singer was back in the director’s chair, and they would be taking on one of the most challenging X-Men stories. The story is inspired by the 1981 Uncanny X-Men storyline “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. In the comic book story, mutants are incarcerated in internment camps in a dystopian future. As an adult Kate Pryde transfers her mind into her younger self, the present-day Kitty Pryde, she brings in the X-Men to prevent a fatal moment in history that sparks anti-mutant hysteria.


X-Men: Days of Future Past Provides the Perfect Franchise Reset

X-Men: Days of Future Past would focus on two time periods, with the big change being Logan traveling back in time to 1973, rather than the X-Men, to change history and prevent an event that results in the destruction of both humans and mutants. At the start of the story, Sentinels hunt and kill mutants and humans in a dystopian 2023 future, with surviving X-Men members Kitty Pryde (Elliot Page), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Bishop (Omar Sy), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and Sunspot (Adan Canto), coming under attack by the Sentinels in Moscow. The mutants all sacrifice themselves in battle to buy Kitty time to send Bishop’s consciousness a few days into the past to warn the other X-Men about what’s to come so that they can ensure their survival.


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With the attack averted, the group retreats to a remote Chinese temple, where they are joined by Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Jackman), Charles Xavier (Stewart), and Magento (McKellen). It’s here that Xavier explains that the Sentinels were created by Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), a weapons designer who was assassinated by Raven Darkhölme/Mystique (played by Rebecca Romijn in the original trilogy and Jennifer Lawerence in the prequel films).

In response, Raven was captured, and the government experimented on her, ultimately using her mutant DNA to create Sentinels capable of adapting to any mutant power. Xavier intends to travel back to 1973 to prevent the assassination. However, once he learns that time travel will kill him, Wolverine volunteers instead because his healing factor will allow him to survive. It becomes Wolverine’s task to convince a younger and more despondent Xavier (McAvoy) that they must stop Raven from completing the assassination to save the future.


As Wolverine is tasked with preventing the assassination, the X-Men must battle an onslaught of Sentinels in 2023, and many of them perish to buy Wolverine more time in the past. During a ceremony where President Nixon (Mark Camacho) intends to unveil the Sentinels, Raven attempts to kill Trask, but Xavier uses his telepathic abilities to convince her to spare his life, which leads to the public ultimately realizing that a mutant saved the president’s life since she subdued Magneto in his attempt to cause more mayhem ahead of her assassination attempt. The Sentinel program is decommissioned, which alters the dark timeline 2023 and erases it from history.

When Wolverine awakens in 2023 at the X-mansion, he finds that Xavier’s school is thriving and all the X-Men are alive, including Jean Grey (Janssen) and Cyclops (Marsden). Not only did Wolverine save the X-Men in this film’s timeline, but he also was able to correct the wrongs of X-Men: The Last Stand, which felt like a wink and a nudge to the audience that the filmmakers realized that the film was a mistake. They intended to fix all of that with Days of Future Past.


With this reset, The Dark Phoenix Saga never happened in The Last Stand, which means Jean lives, doesn’t kill Cyclops, and they are still married as Jean playfully blows off Wolverine’s flirty advances, as it should be. Days of Future Past also doesn’t acknowledge the death of Charles Xavier since he’s alive and well in 2023. At the end of The Last Stand, it’s shown that Xavier placed his consciousness inside the body of an unconscious man. There is no real explanation for how he looks like Patrick Stewart by the time we see him again in Days of Future Past, so we’ll have to say this is another example of Singer and his writing team saying The Last Stand was wiped from existence and never happened.

The great thing about the reset is that it all happened before the X-Men rights reverted to Marvel when Disney acquired 20th Century Fox. Yes, two more X-Men films followed under the 20th Century banner, X-Men: Apocalypse and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, but some would prefer to forget those, much like The Last Stand. The masterstroke of keeping key members of that original X-Men team alive is that they can potentially be used in the future.


The upcoming Deadpool & Wolverine is rumored to have appearances by some of these characters, with Aaron Stanford’s Pyro already confirmed after appearing in the film’s first trailer. With them alive and well, it’s possible that we could see Marden’s Cyclops, Janssen’s Jean Grey, or even Berry’s Storm make an appearance. X-Men: Days of Future Past did more than give fans one of the best X-Men films to date, it also served as a proper way to course correct what went wrong with a film from the past. X-Men Days of Future Past is streaming now on Max. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, along with the possibility of many other characters, will be seen in Deadpool & Wolverine on July 26, 2024.

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