The X-Men film series consists of superhero films based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. The films star an ensemble cast, focusing on Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Wolverine is drawn into the conflict between Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy) and Magneto (Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender), who have opposing views on humanity’s relationship with mutants. Xavier believes humanity and mutants can coexist, but Magneto believes that mutants are destined to rule humanity. The films also developed subplots based on the comics’ “Weapon X” and “Dark Phoenix” storylines.

20th Century Fox earned the film rights to the characters in 1994 and, after numerous drafts, Bryan Singer was hired to direct X-Men (2000), and he returned for X2 (2003). He left potential third and fourth films to direct Superman Returns, leaving Brett Ratner to direct X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Critics praised Singer’s films for their dark, realistic tone, and subtexts dealing with discrimination and intolerance, but Ratner’s film was met with mixed reviews. Nonetheless, each film outgrossed its predecessor, and Fox developed two separate prequel series. The first focuses on the violent past of Wolverine and consists of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and the upcoming stand-alone sequel The Wolverine (2013). The second prequel series, while it retcons many plot points from the original trilogy, focuses on the origins of the two teams, the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants, launching with X-Men: First Class (2011) and set to continue with X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).

The X-Men films contributed to a reemergence of superhero films in the 2000s.


X-Men (2000)

In 1994, 20th Century Fox and producer, Prawan Singh bought the film rights to the X-Men. Andrew Kevin Walker was hired to write, and James Cameron expressed interest in directing. Eventually, Bryan Singer signed on to direct in July 1996. Though not a fan of the comic, Singer was fascinated by the analogies of prejudice and discrimination offered by it. John Logan, Joss Whedon, Ed Solomon, Christopher McQuarrie and David Hayter wrote the script, with Hayter receiving sole credit. Filming took place from September 22, 1999 to March 3, 2000 in Toronto.

The first X-Men film introduced Wolverine and Rogue into the conflict between Professor Xavier’s X-Men, and the Brotherhood of Mutants, led by Magneto. Magneto intends to mutate world leaders at a United Nations summit with a machine he has built, to bring about acceptance of mutantkind, but Xavier realizes this forced mutation will only result in their deaths.

X2 (2003)

Fox hired David Hayter and Zak Penn to write their own scripts for the sequel which Singer would pick, with an aim to release the film in December 2002. The story was inspired by X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, though the character of Stryker was changed from a reverend to a colonel. Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris were hired to re-write the script in February 2002, writing around 26 drafts and 150 on set. Production began on June 17, 2002 in Vancouver and wrapped by November, with the release moved to May 1, 2003.

In the film, Colonel William Stryker brainwashes and questions the imprisoned Magneto about Professor Xavier’s mutant-locating machine, Cerebro. Stryker attacks the X-Mansion, and brainwashes Xavier into locating every mutant on the planet to kill them. The X-Men must team up with the Brotherhood and prevent Stryker’s worldwide genocide.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Bryan Singer wanted to shoot the third film back-to-back with a fourth. On July 16, 2004, he left to direct Superman Returns, having only completed a third of a treatment focusing on Phoenix, and introducing Emma Frost, a role intended for Sigourney Weaver and Gambit intended for Keanu Reeves. In addition, Singer also wanted to showcase more characterizations of Rogue, Iceman, and Pyro. Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn were hired the following month, and a studio executive read Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men story “Gifted”, featuring a mutant cure, suggested it be the primary story. Matthew Vaughn came on board as director in February 2005, but left due to the rushed production schedule. Brett Ratner took over in June, and filming began on August 2, 2005.

A pharmaceutical company has developed an antidote to the mutant gene, provoking controversy in the mutant community. Magneto declares war on the humans and retrieves his own weapon: the telekinetic and telepathic Phoenix, who is the resurrected former X-Man, Jean Grey. After Phoenix kills Cyclops, a final battle between the X-Men and the Brotherhood ensues, and Wolverine must accept that in order to save Jean from her second personality, he will have to kill her.

Wolverine series

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

X-Men Origins: Wolverine was directed by Gavin Hood and again starred Jackman as Wolverine. It is a prequel focusing on the character and his time with Team X, before and shortly after his skeleton was bonded with the indestructible metal adamantium. The film reveals Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber) to be his half brother. David Benioff began writing the film in October 2004; unlike the other films, it was shot in Australia and New Zealand. The film also introduces Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) to the franchise.

The Wolverine (2013)

In September 2009, Gavin Hood speculated that there would be a sequel for Wolverine, which would be set in Japan. Christopher McQuarrie, who went uncredited for his work on X-Men, was hired to write the screenplay for the Wolverine sequel in August 2009. In October 2010, it was confirmed that Darren Aronofsky would direct the film. In March 2011, Aronofsky bowed out of directing the film, saying the project would keep him out of the country for too long. On June 16, 2011 James Mangold was chosen to direct the film. Mark Bomback was hired to rewrite McQuarrie’s script in September 2011. Filming began in August 2012 in Australia. A July 26, 2013 release date has been set.The Wolverine is intended to be a stand-alone film and not a direct sequel to Origins.

First Class series

X-Men: First Class (2011)

X-Men: First Class, released on June 3, 2011, was directed by Matthew Vaughn. It stars James McAvoy as the young Charles Xavier, and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr, who becomes Magneto. It is a prequel focusing on “the formative years of Xavier and Magneto, and the formation of the school and where their relationship took a wrong turn.” The villains of the film are the Hellfire Club, featuring Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, Jennifer Lawrence also starred as Mystique. and January Jones as Emma Frost. Bryan Singer signed on to direct X-Men: First Class in December 2009, however, in March 2010 Fox revealed that Bryan Singer would be producing X-Men: First Class instead of directing.X-Men: First Class began principal photography in September 2010 in London. It was released in the summer of 2011 and received positive reviews.

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First Published: Oct 15, 2012  –  Last Updated: Jan 27, 2013