"Star Trek Into Darkness" and "Man of Steel" have gotten a lot of people talking about these two franchises, inspiring a lot of debate and discussion about the proper way to treat both of them. In these cases, my mind always goes to my friends I know are the superfans of those franchises. I wonder what they think about these new movies, and how much of their opinion is defined by a lifelong love. I wonder how much my opinion is persuaded by being a relatively new convert to both of those franchises.
And then I start thinking about the franchise I'm most enamored and associated with, and the films that have been based on it. I start thinking about the X-Men. Whatever attention I've turned on my Star Trek and Superman loving friends might, in theory, be turned back on me come July (for "The Wolverine") and then again next year (for "X-Men: Days of Future Past"). And after hearing fans have strong opinions about whether or not Superman was treated right in "Man of Steel," I started wondering whether or not any of the five X-Men films ("X-Men," "X2: X-Men United," "X-Men: The Last Stand," "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "X-Men: First Class") have gotten my favorite property right. Do they even feel like my X-Men?
Surprisingly, I reached the conclusion that none of the existing X-Men films feel like my X-Men, and I actually have very little hope that any will in the near future. This isn't to say they are bad films. I love Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn's films... and I less-than-love the other two. Seriously, "X-Men" was a revelation to me back in 2000, and "X2" still holds up as being almost "Avengers"-level perfect (see, I'm a biased X-Men fan!). I even have fairly high hopes for "The Wolverine," and I am pretty excited for "X-Men: Days of Future Past." But I'm also worried that neither of these new films are going to work for me, not in the way that X-Men, when done right, work for me.
The X-Men to me are about two things: characters and the minority metaphor. The films have really done a great job with the latter part, though exploring the conflicts and overlap between Professor Xavier and Magneto's political stances, the threat posed by characters like Senator Kelly and William Stryker, and scenes like Iceman coming out to his family. All of those aspects work and make the good X-Men films stand apart from every other superhero film. The lesser films are lesser because they sacrifice the metaphor for boring punching.
However, the films rarely get the characters right and it will take a hard reboot for the franchise's problems to get fixed.