Sketchley's Translations Main Index
By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com) Ver 1.2 2021.02.02

X-men Movie Reviews


X-Men

X2

X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men: First Class

The Wolverine

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Deadpool

X-Men: Apocalypse

Logan

Deadpool 2

Dark Phoenix

X-Men

2.5 stars

Release date: 2000
Written by: Tom DeSanto, Bryan Singer
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.04.04
I think the most interesting aspect of this film is the subtext - what are they using the conflict between the government and mutants to really talk about? I like that they left that nebulous and undefined.

The movie moves along at a steady pace, taking the time to introduce characters and situations. Perhaps that's also the film's weakness? It doesn't really ramp up the pace as it steadily builds to the climax.

All the actors got their performances pitch perfect - though Halle Barry's storm has one of the weirdest and oddest quips when she finally puts down one of the villains.

Nevertheless, I like this movie for its complexity - there are villains, but in their own ways, their actions are all stemming from a morally justifiable position to protect their kind. And that lack of clear cut right vs. wrong makes this movie a challenging one if you meditate on some of the issues it presents.

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X2

3.5 stars

Release date: 2003
Written by: Bryan Singer, Zak Penn, David Hayter
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.04.04
Until X-Men: First Class, I considered this to be the best film in the X-Men series. Building on the characters and situations developed in the first film, this one not only turns up the pacing heat, but also adds a new layer of complexity - Stryker and his overt attempts to wipe out all mutants.

Continuing the trend from the first movie, this film also gives each character something to do, and the action develops from the characters' actions (not dictating them, as in lesser movies). The film also embellishes on the subtext in the first movie - this time exploring how medical science has been used to treat things that are not a sickness.

The highlight of the movie has to be Michael Reid McKay's Mutant 143 - he is both extremely tragic, underscoring one of the central themes of the movie, while being extremely scary. All without uttering a single line and only by using facial expressions!

However, one thing that I felt was lost was that Ian McKellen's Magneto loses some of his moral ambiguity from the first film. In the first film, he came across as morally misguided - doing bad things for the greater good. In this film, he appears to have lost any moral pretext in his actions - doing bad things for his own goals.

Nevertheless, it is a superior entry in the superhero film genre - in that it is about something greater than the sum of its parts.

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X-Men: Last Stand

1 stars

Release date: 2006
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.04.12
I found this movie tedious, and highly repetitive of the preceding movies in the X-men series. The worst thing about it was that the subtext present in the first two movies is completely gone. Yes, it pays lip service to it, but the soul of the preceding two movies is missing from this one. Leaving the viewer with nothing to contemplate. So, I ended up spending part of the time trying to figure out where in Vancouver and Victoria (my hometown!) they filmed the movie - that's how disengaging it was.

There were times when I felt that they should have spent more time developing a character, or playing off of the on-screen events, but it appeared like the writers were all too eager to kill off some characters and shuttle the story along to the next big thing. Alas, a payoff to that quick pacing never materialized, and in some cases (particular Professor X) it felt like the characters were doing things completely out of character.

Speaking of characters, there were way too many introduced, and the majority of them were developed only to the point of being defined by their powers (he shoots spikes, she has tattoos. They must be evil).

This film is another one that we can add to the dustbin of movies that were rushed through production and ended up becoming a stinky mess.

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

stars

Release date: 2008
Written by: David Benioff, Skip Woods
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on:
Coming soon!
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X-Men: First Class

4 stars

Release date: 2011
Written by: Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.05.01
Now this is the superhero movie I've been waiting for! Not only does it provide wonderful characterizations, character growth, 'good' bad guys, and a plot about the end of the world... it also revisits one of the pivotal events of recent history, remembers that there's a whole world beyond the borders of the usual country these movies are set in, AND challenges the actors (and by extension, the audience) with dialogue in many different languages! (German, French, Spanish, Russian... did I miss any?)

I was extremely surprised with Michael Fassbender's performance. Even more impressive than the multitude of languages he speaks, is the range of genuine emotions his Magneto manifests. And then there's the actor who played the villain of the film, Sebastian Shaw. No spoilers on who he is here (as discovering it was part of the fun), but the actor plays it pitch perfect - and as the bad guys tend to make or break these kinds of films, he definitely makes this film.

And then there are the moral quandaries that are the heart of the X-men films. This movie has it in spades, and you can see the subtext from the first two movies in the series alive and healthy in this movie. And X-men: First Class ups the ante by adding a dash of anti-sexism in the form of a reminder of how far Western society has evolved. It makes me re-appreciate how broad the X-men's underlining theme of acceptance is.

No film is perfect, but in general, the things that I didn't like actually worked in the film's favour for me. I also would've preferred if they had used USSR instead of Russia; being the proper name of the country at the time the film takes place, but I understand why they didn't.

This film checked all my movie going boxes. Even Henry Jackman's score was entertaining in its own right. Recommended.


PS: in writing this review, it struck me that the title of the movie itself could be a pun!

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The Wolverine

3 stars

Release date: 2013
Written by: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank
Directed by: James Mangold
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.11.21
After 2009's 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine', I was not looking forward to this. Suffice to say, this film surprised me. It is extremely well composed, with the action growing organically out of the story, and most importantly, the pacing taking its time to tell the story correctly.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is its examination of what it means to be invulnerable, and by extension, immortal. The story develops genuine care for the outcome of the title character and the other protagonists, and even though the climactic showdown is a bit of a cheesy CG slug fest, it has some genuine story developments, and paves the wave for one of Wolverine's most important scenes in the X-Men film series.

Something that I really liked about this film is that the production staff did an admirable job of depicting modern Japan. This is most visible in the in-between scenes with the leads interacting with the locals. Which, of course, makes the contrast with the depiction of the heavily armed guards, Yakuza, ninja, and filial piety that all reek of the comic book interpretation of the Western mythological interpretation of Japan, all the more chuckle (or groan) inducing. Nevertheless... some commentators have complained about Svetlana Khodchenkova's 'stiff' portrayal of Viper. I found that a realistic presentation of Western foreigners in Japan: trying to adopt the social conventions of the host country, but never quite sure of the correct behaviour in a situation. Kudos to the production staff for getting that into the film.

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X-Men: Days Of Future Past

3 stars

Release date: 2014
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.11.27
The film was extremely well composed - getting the right balance between plot, pacing, and character. It was also great revisiting the central themes that make the X-Men film series so much more compelling and relevant than its Avengers' based cousin. And it cheered me to see the 'classic' actors back in their roles.

However, this film isn't as good as 'First Class'. Yes, it has to juggle a lot more plot and characters, but perhaps because of that, it loses that thing that comes from having a clearer story with clearly defined motivations for the characters. The darker tone was kind of refreshingly different, but I generally dislike films about impossible odds - that's what real life's for. The way that they end up beating those odds was also something that got me howling "paradox" in Doc Brown's voice, before I stopped trying to figure it all out.

That said, I really liked the 70's setting and the incorporation of real world events into the story. With the future segments being an ultimate 'what if', the past is the heart of this film, where they really dig into the central themes of the X-Men film series. I am also always blown away when an actor makes the effort to learn a foreign language for a role. In this film, we have Jennifer Lawrence speaking not one, but two, AND switching seamlessly between the two mid-conversation!

The thing that most disappointed me in the film was that at the end they press a reset button. Although it renders the events of X3 moot, it also brushes a lot of the other good stuff from the intervening movies under the rug, too (well, the stuff that happens after the events in the 70's in this movie, never mind the paradox, thank you). Nevertheless, the story is intriguing in its own right, and I really liked the performances (Peter Dinklage's Bolivar Trask was just wow. I'm not sure if they wrote the role specifically for him, but casting him adds volumes to the character, and begs some questions on the nature of mutation - making me wonder what this movie is really commenting on). I just wished that the 'classic' lineup from the earlier films in the series got a little bit more face time in.

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Deadpool

3.75 stars

Release date: 2016
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Directed by: Tim Miller
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2020.12.28
Wade Wilson is a mercenary who falls in love, develops cancer, and becomes horribly disfigured in a brutal 'workshop' that essentially tortures people into becoming mutants. While he gains the ability to cure his cancer, it's not enough to heal his scars, and he runs away from his love, hellbent on revenge against the leader of the workshop. What sets this film apart, is that one of his newfound powers is the ability to break the fourth wall, and not only is he aware that he's in a comic book movie, but he also talks directly to the audience watching the film!

The film is, perhaps, the most realistic depiction of people with super powers. The film isn't shy at all about showing the blood and guts that spill out after a super-powered punch. And after watching this film, it becomes shockingly apparent how sanitized and romanticized the portrayal of super powered fights are in other movies. Also compare the Deadpool character to the stoic and uptight Colossus, who represents the more traditional, sanitized depiction of superheroes.

The highlight of the film is the excellent writing. On the one hand, you have a running series of flashbacks filling in the story and rounding out the characters that continually (and smoothly!) interrupt a major action scene. On the other hand, you have a film that is extremely self-aware with its fourth wall breaking protagonist providing what amounts to a meta-commentary on superhero films.

The film is one of those rare gems that keeps getting better not only on rewatches, but also the more you learn about it (E.g. why there are so many references to Christmas, the easter eggs, and so on). Each time I've watched it I've discovered something new, or discovered new in-jokes. I've dropped it a quarter of a star solely because on the first viewing I was very distracted by the filming locations in Vancouver and Victoria—they really didn't make much of an attempt to hide it at all!—and the unexpectedly gruesome gore. Take note: the R rating is truly earned, and it is definitely not a film for the little kids!

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X-Men: Apocalypse

stars

Release date: 2016
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on:
Coming soon!
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Logan

stars

Release date: 2017
Written by: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Directed by: James Mangold
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on:
Coming soon!
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Deadpool 2

3 stars

Release date: 2018
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by: David Leitch
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.02.02
The movie starts with Deadpool continuing his day job from before he became a super-powered anti-hero. However, on his latest job, he is unable to off his target—a gangster boss—and must retreat. The boss and his remaining minions follow Deadpool home, and while trying to get rid of Deadpool, accidentally kill his girlfriend.

Deadpool becomes inconsolable, and soon tries to kill himself in a massive fireball (if only it weren't for his healing powers). Colossus recovers him, and convinces Deadpool to join the X-men to help him recover from his loss and heartbreak. His first mission is to stop a rampaging super-kid who has been institutionalized, and—being Deadpool—things go sideways from there, with both Deadpool and the kid being sent to super-people jail.

This movie was a hilarious riot on the first viewing. However, unlike the first movie, the jokes wear thin the second or third time around, and the novelty of an antihero who can break the fourth wall is noticeably underused. The underlying theme of saving a kid to get into heaven to be with his dead girlfriend is a pale echo of the first film, where Deadpool's drive to be with his girlfriend provided the emotional driving force behind the movie and plenty of pathos to round out and make him into a three-dimensional character.

Nevertheless, we are reintroduced to a few familiar faces and a pantheon of new ones. Perhaps the producers took a page out of the Mystery Men comic, as they kill off most of the new ones within minutes of their introduction!

All in all, this is a great addition to the Deadpool series and on its own is a great parody of the 'traditional' superhero films. However, it has diminishing value on repeat viewings. Where the first movie is like Ghostbusters—with new things continually being discovered on repeat viewings—this one isn't. Perhaps they shouldn't have killed Morena Baccarin's character at the very beginning...?

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Dark Phoenix

stars

Release date: 2019
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Directed by: Simon Kinberg
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on:
Coming soon!
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