The X-Men Series: A Compelling Portrait of Otherness

If you’ve never seen an X-Men movie, here’s everything you need to know about the longest-running superhero movie franchise…

Starring: Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables), Patrick Stewart (Star Trek), Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings), Halle Berry (Catwoman), James Marsden (27 Dresses), Famke Janssen (How to get away with Murder),  Anna Paquin (True Blood), Shawn Ashmore, Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), James McAvoy (Atonement), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy), Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbours), Kevin Bacon (Footloose), January Jones (Mad Men), Zoe Kravitz (Divergent), Lucas Till, Evan Peters (American Horror Story), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Ellen Page (Juno), Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones), Olivia Munn (The Newsroom), Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

What’s it about? Mutants fighting as superheroes. Or more precisely:

X-Men (2000): Introduces us to Charles E. Xavier (Stewart), or Professor X, a powerful mutant with the ability to read minds, who runs a school for the “gifted”, i.e. mutant children. To make sure they have enough extracurricular activities on their resumé, his best and brightest (Marsden, Berry, Janssen) assemble as the X-Men (X for the gene carrying the mutation) to protect humans from harm. When maverick Wolverine (Jackman) drops off run-away teen Rogue (Anna Paquin), the X-Men ask him to help them stop Charles’ greatest nemesis, his old friend and ally Erik Lensherr (McKellen), alias Magneto. Erik, a Holocaust survivor, wants to wage war on mankind because he believes that mutants are the next step in human evolution and that there can be no peace between mutants and men.

X2 (2003): Several months have passed since the X-Men defeated Magneto and imprisoned him in a seemingly impregnable plastic chamber. When a mutant attempts to assassinate the president, he sets off a chain reaction of anti-mutant measures by the government. Meanwhile, a scientist named William Strykers the school, leaving Wolverine, Rogue and the rest of the X-Men no choice but to form an uneasy alliance with Magneto to stop Stryker and rescue Professor X.

X- Men: The Last Stand (2006): When a cure for mutation is created, the mutant community is divided into those who long to be normal, like Rogue, and those that are proud of their mutant powers and identity. So Magneto recruits a large team of mutants including a resurrected Jean Grey (Janssen), to destroy the cure. As her Phoenix powers wake within her, Jean threatens to destroy anything in her way, even the X-Men.

X-Men: First Class (2011): This prequel takes us back to the 1960s, when Charles E. Xavier had a full head of hair, when Erik and Charles were best friends and allies, and when the deceptive Mystique was just a girl struggling to accept her mutant identity. In 1962, CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Byrne) discovers the existence of mutants and recruits Professor Charles E. Xavier (McAvoy) to help the US-government bring down Sebastian Shaw (Bacon), a megalomaniac mutant who plans to start a nuclear war to increase his powers. To prevent Shaw from destroying the world, Charles teams up with his childhood friend Raven (Lawrence), Erik (Fassbender), and a group of young mutants. But first he must teach them to control their powers.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014): In the future, mutants and the humans that help them are slaughtered by powerful robots named Sentinels. As Professor X, Wolverine, Magneto, Storm (Berry), Kitty Pryde (Page) et alea team up to defy them, Charles concludes that their only hope of saving mutantkind from annihilation is to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to prevent the incident that made it possible for the Sentinels to be created.

What’s it really about? Essentially, mutants are a metaphor for any group of people marked by qualities that a certain culture categorizes as different to the normative, or simply “Other”. In western culture this still applies to people who do not identify as heterosexual, are transgender, or non-white. Furthermore, the X-Men movies are an allegory for the Holocaust, a point that is stressed in First Class when we learn about the terrible things that Magneto was exposed to as a young jewish boy in a polish concentration camp.

Pick if:

  • You’ve sold your soul to Marvel– whether they’ve got you hooked on their graphic novels, or their movies, or both
  • You like superhero movies such as Captain America, Iron Man, Deadpool, Spiderman and so forth
  • You’re looking for a fun, action-packed film to watch on a date, on your own, or with your friends: X-Men is the kind of movie that both men and women can enjoy: it’s got elements of comedy, romance, and drama, it tells a compelling story about outcasts banding together to save the world, it features great stunts and visual effects, and it’s about friendship and brotherhood
  • You appreciate franchises (such as The Avengers, The Lord of the Rings or The Fast and the Furious) because they allow you to build a long lasting relationship with a cinematic universe and the characters that inhabit it
  • You enjoy movies that manage to hold the balance between large-scale effects and character dynamic. Yes, it’s awesome to see Magneto uproot an entire baseball stadium, or watch Mystique take out an entire room of soldiers armed with nothing but her thighs (seriously, the girl’s got sick combat skills), but it’s the multi-faceted relationships between the X-Men that has always been the heart of the series: the sibling-ish bond between Charles and Raven, the strained bromance between Charles and Erik, the rivalry between Cyclops and Wolverine, and the understated romances between Bobby & Rogue, Hank & Raven
  • You’re a fan of ensemble casts: it’s a joy to watch Fassbender, McAvoy, Jackman & Co buzz of each other; you can really tell that they had the time of their lives making these movies

Top 5 Most memorable quotes:

Charles: Listen to me very carefully, my friend: killing Shaw will not bring you peace.
Erik: Peace was never an option.

Hank McCoy: My boy, I have been fighting for mutant rights since before you had claws.
Wolverine: Did he just call me boy?

Charles: There are thousands of men on those ships. Good, honest, innocent men! They’re just following orders.
Erik: I’ve been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again.

[Cyclops doesn’t know if Logan’s an imposter]
Wolverine: It’s me.
Cyclops: Prove it!
Wolverine: You’re a dick.
Cyclops: Okay.

Erik: Does it ever wake you in the middle of the night? The feeling that one day they will pass that foolish law or one just like it, and come for you? And your children?
Charles: It does, indeed.
Erik: What do you do, when you wake up to that?
Charles: I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul who comes to that school… looking for trouble.

 

Top 3 Most memorable scenes:

1. Bobby “comes out” to his parents, X2

2. Eric and Charles train the mutant kids; First Class

3. Eric and Charles get into an argument on the plane; Days of Future Past

Magic Music Moment: As a shootout begins between Charles and Eric and National Security agents, Quicksilver dashes around the lab with the speed of light, re-arranging bullets and furniture to make sure that noone gets hurt, while listening to “Time in a bottle” by Jim Croce.

 

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