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X-Men paved the way

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader


The 20th Century Fox X-Men movies are probably the most important superhero franchise in movie history. While today they might be second to the more popular Marvel Studios movies like The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America, none of those films would exist without X-Men (2000).

Long before Iron Man smashed box office records and ignited the current superhero comic book movie craze or Deadpool became one of the highest grossing “R” rated movies of all-time came X-Men to a very different movie landscape back in 2000. Then, superhero movies weren’t a sure thing, they weren’t popular and they weren’t even all that respected. In fact, in the years just before X-Men there were a slew of TV movies-of-the-week that were based on then popular comic titles, of which only the super-fans seemed to tune in to watch.

The failure of these TV movies would only go onto prove the point that comic book TV movies, and therefore all things comic book related, were “just for kids.”

And while the Tim Burton Batman movies had been popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the slew of comic book related films that followed including the post Burton Bat-sequels, Captain America, The Punisher and Fantastic Four all were poorly received — to the extent that the Marvel movies were only ever released on home video here in the US or weren’t ever released at all in the case of the 1994 Fantastic Four.

And into all this would come the announcement of the first X-Men movie in the late 1990s.

For years us fans had heard rumblings of superhero movies in the works from Iron Man to Spider-Man to, yes, X-Men. But for years that’s just what those rumors were, rumors and nothing more. Year after year these announcements would be made and fans would talk about their dream casts for these films but nothing ever came to be.
Until X-Men that is.

But when the first X-Men movie was announced and trailers for it began to be released I remember feeling a little trepidation. Gone were the usual costumes of the X-Men, replaced with something more uniformly black and more The Matrix like. And while there were familiar characters like Jean Grey, Wolverine and Cyclops in the mix, there were also odd choices like Toad with his extra-long tongue and the blue/nude Mystique.

I remember thinking that the movie looked good, but that “looking good” and actually “being good” are two totally separate things. In fact, I didn’t see X-Men in the theater. I think I was too worried that my all-time favorite superhero team would be something gross and unrecognizable on the big screen and stayed away. It wasn’t until months later that I finally saw the movie on DVD and liked it.

The first X-Men isn’t a great film but it’s not a bad film either. I’d call it “good-ish.” And while this “good-ish” movie didn’t break box office records, it grossed about $400 million in today’s dollars, it did good enough that it would pave the way for other superhero movies to follow.

Movies like the first Spider-Man film series and the new Batman and Incredible Hulk movies, along with loads of really bad super-hero movies too, would follow. All because the first X-Men wasn’t total crap and was actually “good-ish.”

And now 16 years later comes a new X-Men movie, X-Men: Apocalypse that’s the eighth X-Men movie if you could the character spin-off X-Men films. Some of the X-Men movies like X2, First Class and Days of Future Past would be very good. And some like The Last Stand and Wolverine very bad.

But it’s because of that very first X-Men movie back in 2000 and that it wasn’t total crap and didn’t bomb at the box office that we have any super-hero movies to talk about or watch at all. Because without X-Men there’d be no Captain America: Winter Soldier or The Avengers which would make Marvel and Disney several billion dollars poorer.

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