Now that the 20th Century Fox era of the X-Men has fizzled out on a disjointed unsatisfying final note with Dark Phoenix, what better time to remind ourselves of the trilogy that started it all. While Richard Donner’s Superman, and a decade later, Tim Burton’s Batman proved there was a market for superhero movies, it was X-Men back in 2000 that kickstarted the superhero genre for the 21st Century.
The trilogy has never looked better than in glorious 4K Ultra HD, which at times is a double-edged sword as near 20-year-old CGI looks even more outdated. However, it’s not a movie’s fault that it hasn’t aged well as CGI has evolved dramatically since the year 2000. What the first film does so well is set up these characters in a believable world, and with some inspired casting choices with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the leaders of the opposing sides, X-Men took the material seriously. It was by no means a humourless affair with a few quips being thrown around (that “what happens to toads when they’re struck by lighting” line still gets a laugh for all the wrong reasons), but David Hayter script is a masterclass of dramatic efficiency.
Easily the best of the original trilogy is X2, everything is bigger, the stakes are higher, and even though the abundance of new characters threatens to overwhelm the story, it’s everything a sequel should be and more. Out of all three movies, it’s X2 that has the grand set pieces that you’ll appreciate all the more with the 4K upgrade. The opening sequence with Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) teleporting his way through the White House is as breathtaking today is it was in 2003. Wolverine’s nightmarish flashbacks to his Weapon X past are all the more vivid, and the multitude of action sequences still impress. As sequels go, X2 can still proudly sit next to the likes of Terminator 2, and Aliens as sequels that surpass the original.
Here’s a run of words I never expected to put together and mean it. Brett Ratner’s 100-minute misstep aka The Last Stand is no longer the worst big screen take on the Dark Phoenix Saga. By all accounts, Ratner’s movie isn’t good; there are some nice touches with Kelsey Grammer as Beast, but overall the trilogy closer falls well short of offering fans a satisfying conclusion. Just as importantly, The Last Stand does a botch job of one of the most beloved comic book arcs in X-Men history. As brilliant as 4K might be, a pristine picture can’t distract from the underwhelming note the original trilogy ended on, even if it wasn’t the end for many of the characters.
Looking back over the 20th Century Fox era of Marvel it has been an uneven (often frustrating) ride that paved the way (along with Spider-Man) to forge the superhero genre as the powerhouse it is today. Fox should be applauded for taking bold risks with Deadpool, and Logan in a time of formulaic superhero movies. They wouldn’t have been able to do that without the X-Men trilogy, and even if the time travelling exploits of Days of Future Past erased the events of the original trilogy, the 4K Ultra HD Box Set is a worthy addition to your collection.