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To mark the arrival of X-Men: Days of Future Past in cinemas, the Burning Blogger picks out the 10 Best Scenes from the six existing films in the X-Men franchise.

I recently, in fact, wrote a post of the 20 Greatest Star Wars Moments, and that was much harder because there were so many great moments in the Star Wars movies that I had to consider; the X-Men films on the other hand, despite the fact that DOFP will mean that X-Men movies outnumber existing Star Wars movies, don’t present me with anything like as many memorable or iconic moments (though the child Magneto scene in the Polish ghetto that opens X1 and First Class would qualify as an iconic moment or image, though I haven’t included in this list).

Which isn’t in itself a criticism of the X-Men franchise – after all, nothing can really compete with Star Wars on that level – but it does also remind me of the mixed feelings I have about the X-Men movie franchise and actually about comic-book movie adaptations as an industry in general.

If I were to compile a Top 10 Best Moments list for X-Men comics, it would be a different story; I’d be here for weeks trying to make the selection and I probably wouldn’t be able to narrow it down to 10 even after that. For someone like me, the comic books are where the enduring greatness resides (or resided); however, I’m not one of the die-hard comic-book purists who refuses to even watch the movies, and actually I’ve been able to enjoy – to varying degrees – what the various filmmakers have done with the X-Men mythology in their 14-years-and-counting operation to transplant that enormous and rich mythology into cinema.

I enjoyed 2000’s X-Men 1 a lot and it’s still my favorite X-Men film. X-Men 2 was also an excellent film. Then we had X3: The Last Stand, which despite having some good specific moments, was basically an annoying, overwrought mess with too much shouting and a lot of silly dialgoue. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, meanwhile, was so boring that I didn’t bother watching its follow-up The Wolverine last year. X-Men: First Class, however, restored a better quality level to the franchise, and now we come to Days of Future Past, combining both worlds and reinterpreting a classic, iconic story from the annals of X-Men comic-book history.

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I’m cautiously optimistic about this film and am hoping for the best. In general, as varying in quality and as flawed in places as the X-Men film franchise has been, the good moments that there have been scattered across the movies are still better in my opinion than what’s been put out in the other Marvel Comics derived franchises of which there are now many (unlike when the first X-Men film was released; that film set the standard). Admittedly, however, I always connected much more with the X-Men comics during my formative reading years than to the rest of the Marvel universe, so maybe I’m just more partial to mutant affairs than to general superhero fare.

I am certainly far more interested in the Days of Future Past movie than I was in the Avengers film and believe this X-Men film has the potential to blow other films in the genre out of the playing field.

Or it could suck. I guess that’s where the nervous excitement comes from.

How much this Top 10 list will be in need of revision in the wake of Days of Future Past remains to be seen. For now anyway, these are the 10 most impressive or memorable scenes (in my opinion) from the X-Men films we’ve had so far…

10. “You Homo Sapiens and your guns…” Magneto Captures Rogue (X1)

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This is actually two scenes, but I’m treating them as one, beginning with an endearingly tender moment of friendship between Logan and Rogue. Rogue is the heart of the first X-Men film, she is its emotional core; and I’d argue that it wasn’t until the younger Erik Lensherr in First Class that a character has been so effective an emotional centre to an X-Men movie.

At any rate, Magneto soon seizes the train. Wolverine attempts in-vein to attack the elder mutant but the Master of Magnetism makes piss-easy play of dealing with him and capturing Rogue. “Young people…” he says with a pitying shake of his head.

Outside and surrounded by the police force, Magneto effortlessly seizes control of all their fire-arms, using his powers to turn the guns back on their owners. The army of cops looking on helplessly, Professor Xavier speaks to Erik by telepathically taking control of Toad and Sabretooth. The scene is brilliantly set up, cutting back and forth between Charles and Jean in the car, their faces in dimness, and Magneto out there standing off with all the police.

9. Mystique Reveals Herself to Senator Kelly (X1)

Mystique in fact has many of the coolest moments in all the films, but I’ve always especially liked this brief moment where Mystique reveals her true form to an unsuspecting Senator Kelly in the copter and gives him a good beating, informing him that “people like you are the reason I was afraid to go to school as a child”.  Across these films Mystique doesn’t just get many of the coolest moments, but also some of the best lines – and that line in particular really gets to the heart of the Mutant/Human social politics that is so key to the X-Men mythology.

Mystique probably more than any character in the films is written to embody the dual preoccupations of being a Mutant – the intense self-consciousness, the desire to ‘fit in’ while also retaining self-pride and identity. This theme is most pointedly explored  in regard to the younger Mystique in First Class, where Raven has to be influenced by Erik to have self-respect for her true form, but by the time we’re seeing the older Mystique she is the living epitome of “Mutant and proud” and has the key line to that effect in X2 when Nightcrawler (not her son in the movies, I’m guessing) asks her why she doesn’t use her shapeshifting abilities to “look like one of them” and fit in, to which she replies “because we shouldn’t have to.”

But it’s this very short scene in the first film that establishes Mystique as that particular voice for these movies.

8. Magneto’s Revenge on Sebastian Shaw (First Class)

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It’s the scene that reminds us, in case we were in any doubt, that Erik Lensherr is ultimately not one of the good guys. There’s something disturbing about watching him deliberately and callously perforate Shaw’s forehead with that coin, all the more powerful for Charles experiencing Shaw’s agony telepathically.

But the scene is visually arresting, particularly for that moment where Shaw is frozen, utterly helpless, his hand permanently stuck reaching in-vein for his protective helmet. There’s nothing quite so horrifying as the notion of being utterly, utterly paralysed and defenseless before someone who utterly, utterly intends to hurt you.

7. The Attack on the School (X2)

A terrific sequence, preceded by the fraught Charles/Erik scene in the plastic prison (“Erik… what have you done…?”), as Stryker’s force invades Charles’s school and the gifted students are mostly helpless in the face of the attack.

As a die-hard “Mutant and proud” X-Men devotee from formative years, this was actually one of the few scenes from these big-screen adaptations that actually touched upon my emotions a little; just the idea of all the children being attacked in their beds in the middle of the night. Featuring a number of unspecified-in-script characters from the comics (you know, the ones you have to watch the credits for to see listed by character-name), the part that personally got me most was seeing the young Siryn briefly breaking into her famous wail before being shot and silenced.

6. Training Sequence/Banshee Learns To Fly (First Class)

There’s plenty to like here in this very endearing sequence in First Class, in which Charles begins training his early recruits; Havok, Beast, Banshee, Erik, and all. Complete with several fan-pleasing moments, my own favorite moment was seeing Banshee first take flight but only after a knowing Magneto shoves the reluctant Sean Cassidy off the ledge against his will; it’s one of those great liberating moments as Banshee discovers the extent of his power, far more endearing than the equivalent Angel/Warren Worthington moment in The Last Stand.

The sequence ends with a poignant moment with Charles reaching into Erik’s mind in order to find that powerful place between “serenity and rage” and give him the strength-of-will to exert his power upon the enormous satellite dish. We have coolness, humour and rare poignancy all in one sequence.

5. Jean’s Self-Sacrifice (X2)

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Although clearly massively influenced by the death of Spock from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (even including the Jean monologue at the end just like Spock’s at the end of TWOK), this finale to the second film still works for me, regardless of the subsequent poor showing that was X3.

I was trying to choose between this and the Wolverine-kills-Jean finale to X3, but the X2 scene still wins as far as I’m concerned, although probably only because I enjoyed X2 more at the time than I did X3. It’s Jean Grey and not Wolverine who is the central hero of the initial X-Men movies, which was an interesting and not-so-obvious creative choice at the time. In general the attempt to somewhat adapt the classic Dark Phoenix Saga to cinema didn’t quite work as powerfully as it was probably intended to, but nevertheless it created some genuinely good scenes in both the second and third films.

4. Magneto the Nazi Hunter (First Class)

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Purportedly an inspiration for Marvel Now’s current Magneto solo title, the scenes of Michael Fassbender’s younger Magneto taking revenge on Nazi criminals in his quest to hunt down Sebastian Shaw is the most memorable aspect of the First Class movie.

This particular scene in the bar in Argentina is the standout, as Erik deals with the initially unsuspecting trio in merciless and ridiculously cool fashion, all the while managing a little drink – after all,vengeance is such thirsty work.

3. Nightcrawler in the White House (X2)

It’s a testament to how transcendentally cool a character Nightcrawler is that in his sole film appearance – in X2 – he pretty much steals the show. The scene in which the cinema-going audience is first introduced to Kurt Wagner sees him infiltrating the White House and attacking Secret Service agents in his attempt to get to the President. You can see the fear and dismay in the agents’ faces as the mutant teleports in and out of sight, taking out one agent after an another.

Not only the best opening scene of any of the X-Men movies, but probably the best opening sequence of any comic-book/superhero movie at all. I mean forget the zillion existing scenes of a grunting, yelling Wolverine slashing up his opponents – this one moment of Nightcrawler going to town is much more kick-arse than any of that.

2. Magneto’s Escape (X2)

Magneto/McKellin’s shining moment in the X-Men films. Incarcerated in an entirely plastic prison at the end of the first film, in X2 we find Magneto defeated and listless like a king without a kingdom; that is until the moment he senses his sudden chance to break free.

What could’ve been better than watching the Master of Magnetism violently draw all the iron out of that dumb-ass guard’s blood, masterfully form it into the tools of his escape and majestically levitate to freedom, gleefully taking out the remaining guards in the process? Seldom are we so satisfied to see the ‘bad guy’ getting his way.

1. Pyro Attacks The Police (X2)

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One of the great “Yes!” moments of the X-Men film franchise. John Allerdyce wasn’t a particularly well-written character in X2 and X3 (and was an odd character to bring into the film so prominently, given all the X-Men characters not chosen; also he was nothing like the original comic-book Pyro), but this one scene is superb, giving Pyro in this specific scene a moment far cooler than anything Wolverine’s had in all the movies, as he loses his cool and starts remorselessly taking out police vehicles with his directed flames. This isn’t mere self-defense either; he does it with increasing willingness, even glee.

I will admit there have been many miffed moments in my life where I’ve wished I was that guy with that power; man, I would put that fire to such good use. I know it’s not an obvious choice for the best scene of an X-Men film, especially for so forgettable a character in these movies, but I have to post honestly – and this scene just always does it for me.

And those are the 10 scenes that have stood out the most for me; though I’ve no doubt that fans of the films will think this list is missing some much more obvious scenes. Feel free to dispute this selection 🙂 As for Days of Future Past; will it give us any more super, memorable moments? Will it rewrite a list of this kind? We’re all about to find out.

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. vinnieh says:

    Great choices.

    Like

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