When plans were put in place to make an X-Men movie, people were understandably nervous. How would spandex translate to screen? Would audiences find the 5’3″ killer named Wolverine a compelling character? Were we going to see the X-Men in space with the Shi’ar and witness the birth of the Dark Phoenix? The daunting task of bringing the X-Men to the big screen fell in the lap of Bryan Singer, and to get the movie made the man had to make a number of hard creative choices, some of them quite successful, while others were huge misfires.
Bryan Singer was the director that made The Usual Suspects in 1995, and X-Men was going to be his fourth feature film directing. Singer would have to make sure the X-Men translated to the screen in a proper and respectful way. Besides being an action film, Singer saw the X-Men as an allegory for those that felt they were an oppressed minority. Spandex was replaced with leather uniforms and Cerebro was made into a giant machine, but Singer made some missteps as well. What worked? What fell flat?
20. RIGHT: STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS
Sometimes in comics and movies you see females often being damsels in distress or they need to be saved from a villain that has kidnapped them. Bryan Singer in his X-Men movies made sure to feature women that had the power to fend for themselves and not rely on a man to save them during a crisis.
Jean Grey, played by Famke Janssen was a powerful telekinetic and telepath that was able to take on William Stryker’s troops, a brainwashed Cyclops and also save the entire team by sacrificing herself in X2. Storm, played by Halle Berry fought against Toad and Sabretooth in X-Men as well as Sentinels in Days of Future Past. Mystique, Kitty Pryde and other women in Singer’s X-Men films all show self-reliance and strength to take on their enemies.
19. WRONG: APOCALYPSE AND THE FOUR HORSEMEN
X-Men: Apocalypse was Bryan Singer’s fourth outing as director and it felt like he forgot a lot of the strengths that he established in previous films. Mutants with very rich backgrounds were unfortunately boiled down into one-dimensional characters, especially the Horsemen of Apocalypse. Apocalypse was arguably the Earth’s first mutant and he’s on a quest to only have the strongest survive (and the weak destroyed).
It felt like, instead of choosing the fittest, toughest mutants on the Earth, Apocalypse chose as his Horsemen whomever showed up first.
Psylocke was a bouncer, and gone was her backstory of her mind being swapped with a Japanese ninja as well as her relationship to Captain Britain. Angel was a cage fighter and Storm was a thief that Apocalypse encountered in Cairo. Their backstories were thin and their encounters were random. Even the portrayal of Apocalypse under-utilized the talents of Oscar Isaac.
18. RIGHT: CEREBRO
In X2, Professor X almost kills every mutant on Earth (then almost kills every normal human on Earth) thanks to his powers being modified by Cerebro. Although normally depicted as a giant computer in the comics, Bryan Singer wanted to show Cerebro as less of a computational machine and more of a giant modification for whomever dons the Cerebro interface helmet.
Bryan Singer is a huge Star Trek fan and even made a cameo in Star Trek: Nemesis. If you take a look at Singer’s take, you may notice a similarity between Cerebro and the Stellar Cartography room located on the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: Generations. Did Singer let his love of Trek influence his design and look of the X-Men? Both films did have Patrick Stewart in it, so perhaps he made it so!
17. WRONG: DANGER ROOM
The X-Men have two unique things at the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters that you won’t find at Avengers Mansion, the Batcave or anywhere else. The first thing is Cerebro, the amplification device that increases Charles Xavier’s mutant mind reading abilities to an amazing degree. The second thing is the Danger Room, a training facility that keeps the X-Men at peak performance.
The Danger Room made its debut in X-Men #2 in 1963 and was an idea by artist Jack Kirby. It’s filled with deadly traps, illusions and advanced holographics, courtesy of the Shi’ar race. Bryan Singer featured the Danger Room in the end sequence of X-Men: Apocalypse, but it only was another example of a scene not living up to its potential. The Danger Room was also featured in Brett Ratner’s The Last Stand but like the scene in Apocalypse, ended too early for fans to enjoy it fully.
16. RIGHT: MUTANT COMBAT
Teamwork makes Charles Xavier’s dream work! When it comes to mutant combat, there’s more to it than just punching and kicking. Mutant combat involves the usage of their powers in fun and exciting ways. Audiences got a taste of it when watching the opening scenes of X2. Nightcrawler, using a combination of his prehensile tail and his ability to teleport developed a fighting style that incapacitated dozens of Secret Service agents.
Singer dazzled us even further with the opening scene to Days of Future Past.
Colossus, Sunspot, Blink, and several other mutants used their powers together to fend off a Sentinel attack. Blink used her teleportation powers to help Warpath get the jump on the Sentinels. Later on she made a portal that Colossus jumped through to increase the impact of his attack. This kind of fight choreography shows Singer’s understanding of mutants and their powers.
15. WRONG: WOLVERINE
Don’t get us wrong; we love ourselves some Hugh Jackman. However, he wasn’t right for the role. Logan was supposed to be an angry, runty fellow standing at 5’3″ whereas Jackman stands over 6′ tall. Originally Dougray Scott was cast but dropped out due to shooting conflicts with Mission: Impossible II. Jackman was cast three weeks into the filming of X-Men.
Singer’s take on Wolverine also made him less of a killing machine. Logan in the comics had decades of combat experience, knew almost every martial art known to man and spoke over 16 languages, but Singer’s Wolverine was reduced to steel cage matches and getting knocked unconscious after fighting Sabretooth for a few seconds. Singer’s version of Logan definitely was not depicting him as the best at what he did.
14. RIGHT: NO SPANDEX
Ask any cosplayer: dressing and looking like your favorite comic book characters is not easy. Drawn characters can have amazing physiques and wear uniforms that fit perfectly without ever wrinkling or fitting improperly. In real life however we find that we don’t quite look as buff in tights and a cape as we thought. Bryan Singer also realized that and made some big changes to the look of the X-Men.
Instead of giving the X-Men the spandex outfits featured in the comics, Singer had everyone wear leather uniforms.
It prevented the characters from possibly appearing silly and made it feel a little more realistic. Singer’s idea was good but not original: Peter David had members of X-Factor wear cool blue and yellow leather uniforms starting in X-Factor #71, and that issue premiered 9 years before the X-Men movie came out!
13. WRONG: KILLING OFF CHARACTERS
One of the hard things about the X-Men is that there are tons of characters and their backstories involve complex elements that haven’t been established in the movies such as space travel and alien races. Bryan Singer worked hard to establish his version of such characters as Nightcrawler and Rogue and gave them different but poetic and compelling origins.
In X-Men: Days of Future Past, after his rescue, Magneto has an argument with Charles and lets him know that the government has captured and killed such mutants as Azazel, Emma Frost, and Banshee to name a few. It seemed pretty disrespectful for Singer to take characters developed by Matthew Vaughn in X-Men: First Class and have them so casually dismissed, briefly being mentioned in a dialogue scene.
12. RIGHT: SENTINELS
Robots have always played a nightmarish role in science fiction storytelling. In The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger was an unrelenting killing machine that would never stop. In the Matrix Trilogy, robots have enslaved society, turning them into their organic batteries. For the X-Men, they are hunted by Sentinels, robots designed to hunt and kill anyone with a mutant gene.
Singer’s version arguably outdid the comic book counterparts.
In the comics, Sentinels are gigantic in size but they don’t have the “typical death robot” look that the T-800 has. They kind of have a throwback campy feel but Singer’s portrayal of Sentinels in X-Men: Days of Future Past are absolutely chilling. It’s technology vs. biology, and Singer’s Sentinels have the ability to adapt and become more efficient killing machines. The Sentinels were able to chill their outer layer to defeat Sunspot and take opposite steps defeat Iceman.
11. WRONG: CONTINUITY
The X-Men comic always had some difficulties with continuity. Such time traveling mutants as Cable, Rachel Summers and Bishop made it hard for writers to keep track of who did what when, and alternate timeline versions of characters also made it hard for readers to know what events were accepted as being part of canon. It’s not a surprise that Singer’s X-Men movies would also suffer from a similar problem.
If Wolverine met Professor X for the first time in X-Men, then what about Logan meeting Charles in the 1970s in Days of Future Past? Why doesn’t Charles Xavier acknowledge Mystique as his childhood friend in X-Men or X2? Magneto claims he built Cerebro with Charles but it’s later established to be built by Hank McCoy. We like when Singer mirrors the X-Men comics, but don’t copy their problems too!
10. RIGHT: PROFESSOR X AND MAGNETO
Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were famous for their classical Shakespearian backgrounds. Stewart had played such iconic roles as Oedipus, Stalin, Ahab and of course Captain Picard. McKellan had played Richard III, Iago, Hamlet and more. Director Bryan Singer knew the reverence that Professor X and Magneto had amongst fans so he made sure with the casting to go big.
Stewart and McKellen took their roles seriously, taking the time to develop three-dimensional characters with relatable wants and struggles. It also helped that Stewart and McKellen had worked with each other before in the Royal Shakespeare Company. Terence Stamp auditioned to play Professor X, and oddly enough there was another person that wanted to play Charles Xavier: singer Michael Jackson! McKellan almost turned down being in X-Men to play a role in Mission: Impossible II, which ironically prevented Dougray Scott from playing Wolverine!
9. WRONG: TOAD
Ray Park showed off his fighting skills in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation but made a name for himself as Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode 1, The Phantom Menace. Park was a gymnast and master of the martial art Wushu, and although Maul only has about six minutes of total screen time, his character was one of the standout elements in the Star Wars prequels.
So did he bring his awesomeness to X-Men? That would be a no.
Toad was never that popular of a character, so Singer was able to take creative liberties. In the comics, he’s Mortimer Toynbee, a hunchback that wore a court jester type outfit. Singer made Toad more athletic and gave him an extremely long tongue. The changes didn’t add to his personality or on-screen persona, and ultimately fell flat.
8. RIGHT: X-MEN WERE TEACHERS, THEN CRIMEFIGHTERS
X-Men premiered in 2000 and the comic book movie genre was still not fully developed. Bryan Singer wanted people to take the story seriously but still enjoy the fun associated with having super powers. Yes, the X-Men traveled the globe to fight enemies to mutantkind, but they were also teachers at a school, and Singer made that the focus of the team.
In X-Men, Wolverine was brought back to the mansion and sees all of the “gifted” students at Charles Xavier’s school. Scenes also depict Storm and Cyclops teaching students academics as well as how to use their powers. Starting off the X-men as teachers first who then put on cool costumes to protect other mutants was a great way to show their intentions to educate people yet still know how to defend and protect fellow mutants.
7. WRONG: THE LINEUP
The X-Men comic premiered September 1963 and featured Cyclops, Beast, Marvel Girl, Angel and Iceman. The team had a wonderful power balance: Angel could take to the air, Jean had telepathic abilities, Iceman had the power of cold, Cyclops had powerful optic blasts, and Beast was an incredible acrobat and strong to boot, not to mention a genius. Their personalities and abilities made for excellent stories due to the strength of the characters.
X-Men premiered in 2000 and although it was great to see mutants on the big screen, the lineup was a little odd.
The film featured Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm as the main team members. Colossus, Wolverine and students Bobby Drake (Iceman) and Rogue were not a part of the team in X2 but were still involved in their adventures. Singer having Storm present but not in a leadership role diminished the character, and no Bobby meant no comedic relief.
6. RIGHT: MAKING MUTANTS COOL
Bryan Singer saw the potential the X-Men had not just because they had cool superpowers but because they were allegories to being outsiders. The trope of the outsider having qualities that at first glance are repulsive but later are embraced can be seen in Dumbo (his big ears eventually help him fly) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (his red nose helps Santa see through the fog).
Singer took such characters as Mystique and Nightcrawler and elevated them to a whole different status. Nightcrawler almost single-handedly killing the President of the United States in the opening of X2 was epic, and seeing Iceman traveling on his ice slide fighting mutant-killing Sentinels in Days of Future Past shows that Singer knows how to make mutants look epic.
5. WRONG: SABRETOOTH
Sabretooth has often been a thorn in Wolverine’s side. Victor Creed would make sure to attack Wolverine every year on his birthday (the gift that keeps on giving) and the strong rumor was that the two were related with possibly Sabretooth being Logan’s father. Sabretooth could be as old as Logan and has a rich, complex character history, so why did Bryan Singer oversimplify the character?
If Sabretooth is Wolverine’s archenemy, why put him in X-Men as a brute who barely says anything throughout the entire movie? Sure they have an awesome fight scene in X-Men on the top of the Statue of Liberty, but Singer’s version of Sabretooth literally has no backstory or any connection to Wolverine at all. Why even bother using the character?
4. RIGHT: MUTANTS AS ALLEGORY
Bryan Singer had turned down directing the X-Men a number of times but eventually signed on when he realized how layered the characters were. Mutants were a symbol for the Other, those minorities that were outcast by the rest of society. Here is where Singer saw why the X-Men were so relatable, because for some, being a mutant was an allegory for being different in some way, something that almost everyone can relate to.
In X2 while on the Blackbird, John introduced himself to Magneto, but Magneto asked “What’s your real name, John?” The response? Pyro. The idea of being a mutant means you can reinvent yourself, reject labels, and embrace who you really are by being with other people that are different as you. Magneto tells Pyro that he’s a God among insects, reminding him that mutants, or any outsider, should not fear society.
3. WRONG: JUBILEE
Jubilee first made her appearance in X-Men #244 in May 1989. Eventually she would become a sidekick of sorts to Wolverine. That may seem odd to pair a girl that makes firework-like emissions from her hands with one of the world’s deadliest killers, but she was a fun character that kept Wolvie on his toes. She made background appearances in X-Men and X2 but fans finally got to see her as a more developed character in X-Men: Apocalypse.
Jubilee was played by Lana Condor and wonderfully captured her 1980s vibe and her iconic yellow jacket. However, you’re going to have to watch the cut scenes to see her use her powers. Given how popular she is, why didn’t Singer give her more of a spotlight when he took a character like Pyro and made him one of the main cast?
2. RIGHT: FEAR OF MUTANTS
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Counselor Deanna Troi said it’s fine to feel scared or angry, the problem is what you choose to do with those emotions. Having a fear of something different is not uncommon, and neither are people taking drastic measures to reject change. Mutants embody the very nature of change and Singer was able to give us an accurate depiction of how people, including friends and parents, would react to mutants.
In X2, when Bobby revealed to his parents that he’s a mutant, they don’t act in a loving manner. His parents asked if he could simply stop being a mutant and his own brother called the police on him out of fear. Producers hoped that if we can have a tolerance for people that can read minds and shoot lasers out of their eyes, perhaps we can have tolerance for others in real life.
1. WRONG: FORGOT THE DRAMA
In the X-Men comics, there are a number of internal power struggles that makes the comic sometimes feel less like a comic and more like a soap opera. At the X-Mansion, the leadership of the School for Gifted Youngsters, as well as the X-Men, put Cyclops at odds with Storm and even with Professor X, as well. Let’s also not forget that Logan was after Scott’s girl, and at one point Scott was having a psychic affair with Emma Frost. Oh, the drama!
Writer/producer Simon Kinberg said that X-Men: Apocalypse failed because they should have focused on the X-Men characters opposed to visual effects and explosions.
Singer instead of adapting Apocalypse storyline could have focused on Schism, in which Cyclops and Wolverine came to blows over ideology, resulting in the team dividing. X-Men would do well by having their own version of Captain America: Civil War.
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