CBR interviewed Variety writer Tom McLean, author of Mutant Cinema: The X-Men Trilogy from Comics to Screen.
CBR: Most comic fans think they're practically experts on the X-Men films. They know with certainty, for example, that the second one is the best, and the third one is absolutely awful. What can "Mutant Cinema" tell them that they might not already know?
Tom McLean: There are a lot of things fans may not know. What makes the X-Men films landmarks of the genre is the faithfulness with which the comics were brought to the screen. This has been proven to be the right approach to making comic book movies, as proven by both the successes and failures in the genre ever since.
But "X-Men" managed to disprove the idea that superhero comics, with their vast cast of characters and interminable continuity, could never be made into movies that would appeal to the general public. That process was not easy, especially given the anemic $75 million budget the first film had. So it's useful to break down the process and examine how these films turned the vast, sprawling X-Men universe into successful films -- which elements worked exactly as they appeared in the comics and which had to be tweaked, altered, merged, or dropped entirely.
And that's exactly what "Mutant Cinema" does, making it fun for both fans of the comics and people interested in the mysterious ways of Hollywood in general (and the making of superhero movies in particular).
Is the third film really all that bad, in your opinion?
"X-Men: The Last Stand" is almost universally reviled as the worst of the X-Men films, and while I agree that it didn't live up to the standard set by "X2," I think many fans mistakenly blame director Brett Ratner, or Bryan Singer for leaving the franchise, or the writers and actors. The truth is the film was made under the most difficult of circumstances, which were dictated by the studio's need to get the film out for a predetermined release date. That film was made in almost exactly one year from start to finish and everyone who worked on it -- from Ratner to the makeup crew to the visual effects houses -- really busted their butts to get the movie done.
The result was a film that half worked -- the cure plot works very well, especially in letting the characters cut loose in the Alcatraz showdown with an energy that succeeded in a way that Singer's more restrained action sequences did not. The Dark Phoenix plot, on the other hand, just stops half way through the film and, despite the great scene between Jean and Xavier, never gets going again and limps to a finish that falls way short of the comic book version.
Understanding all the ways the comics and movies connect offers fans a new perspective on the material from both media, which is what I hope "Mutant Cinema" does. In short, the third X-Men movie isn't as good as "X2," but it is better than a lot of people are willing to give it credit for. Given how "Superman Returns" turned out, I think it's a mistake for folks to think that Singer would have done any better with a third X-Men film.