The other day I was walking through one of the major social centers in Salt Lake City. They were having some type of kid festival. The local radio station was there and conducting games for all of the children. One game they were playing was a hybrid superhero-simon-says game. The lady with the microphone would go through a whole cache of super hero’s and each time the children would have to strike the pose associated with the super hero.
She would say ‘superman’ and the kids would stretch their arms out– the Hulk, and the kids would put one fist down, like they were striking the ground. All of the children’s favorites were listed. The list included: Spiderman, Batman, the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and even Ant-man.
It took me several minutes as I walked across the plaza ,before I realized, I didn’t hear Wolverine, Magneto, Rogue or Professor X. Matter of fact, I didn’t hear a single mention of an X-Man, not one. X-Men were Marvel’s second most popular comic series and the number 5 most popular comic series of all time. So how is it ,that their members don’t even get any respect in children’s games. Even the miniscule Ant-man seems to have a better reputation. Ant-man was such a small hero, even during my outcast-junior-high- comic-king days, I didn’t care about him.
Well, the answer is simple and easily observed on many different levels. Ant-man is made by Marvel and the movie rights for the X-men are owned by Fox. Marvel has greatly strengthened their position and Fox has greatly diminished their position. Why can Marvel make Ant-man great and why has Fox flopped on the X-men? Why can Netflix make amazing adaptations of Marvel superheroes and yet Fox movies continually make money, only because people go see them, hoping they will get better? Even ABC’s Agents, of Shield ,tell a better story, and has better fight- sequences than most of the Fox Superhero movies. I will admit that Deadpool was great, but even a blind squirrel will find a nut once- in- a while. In my opinion, here is why Fox super hero movies just aren’t that great compared to Marvel-made movies. Marvel is sick of it and is willing to destroy the X-men franchise before they let Fox do it.
1. The Approach to Making the Movies: Telling a Story VS Rewriting the Story
The bottom line is movies have to make money. If not, the studios won’t make movies. But the approach to making the movies is where you can see the difference. I am not behind the scenes so I don’t know what exactly goes into making the movies. However, I can judge the final product and the final product tells me something.
These comics have been successful for more than half a century, not because of their fight sequences, but because they tell a great story. A long-term story. Fox has focused on the short-term story and Marvel has focused on the long-term story.
Marvel made movies with the intent to tell a long-term story and they hoped that each individual movie would help tell that story. The first Avengers was made to set- up the second Avengers. They put together a group that worked well. They didn’t pick all of the fan favorites and try to put as many as possible in one movie.
The X-Men movies were made with the intent to make as much money as possible. They grabbed all the fan favorites, crammed them into one movie and then hoped people opened up their wallets. In order to do this, they had to rewrite the stories. They didn’t have cohesive stories or a cohesive group on the screen. They make one movie, hoping it would make money. If it did they would make another one. If not, no big deal. Marvel seems to take the approach that they could lose money now but will make money in the long run.
2. The Action Sequences Take Advantage of Moviegoers Suspension of Disbelief
Fox tried to keep as many comic book shots in the movies as possible. The fact is, some things from comic books work well in movies and some things don’t. A still- shot of Wolverine cutting through a fire escape works in the comics. However, watching it happen for 15 seconds in a movie doesn’t work; it stretches the suspension of disbelief because it isn’t amazing or fantastic, it’s boring. Marvel figured out which of these would work and which ones wouldn’t.
In the comics, it always seemed to me that the Avengers were always self reliable. They didn’t have to rely on teamwork. The X-men always relied on teamwork. The Avengers occasionally had flaws but most of the time they didn’t change them to the point where they sometimes couldn’t function or sometimes they became a detriment. The X-men were a severely- flawed group, who overcame their challenges through teamwork. Comparing the fight sequences in the movies, the Avengers used a lot of teamwork. The X-men used very little teamwork and it made their fight sequences boring.
3. A Story Never Told or Stick to the Book
The Comic Book Movie genre is appealing to so many, because the fans of the comic book want to see what the action looks like. They want a visual walk through of their favorite stories and fights.
I am firm belief firmly that for comic movies to be any good they need to fall into one of two categories. They need to be either a story never told or they need to stick as close to the story they are telling as possible. Anyone familiar with cinema, knows that transitioning from a book or comic toa screen means something has to change. Marvel gets this. Fox does not. Fox takes the stories people love and rewrites them.
When Fox tells a story, they make a story that was new and use bits and pieces of several already told stories. You have Mystique as a member of the X-men in one film, and an adversary the next. They have Mr. Sinister, who was the villian behind the Mutant Massacre, in the comics, planned as the main villian for the next Wolverine movie; they have Riptide, who was in the Mutant Massacre in X-men First Class. They have Angel losing his wings in Apocalypse, but he actually lost them in the Mutant Massacre, They have the Morlocks who were the Mutants targeted in the Mutant Massacre as Magneto’s henchmen in X-men Last Stand. They haven’t stuck to a story or created a story from scratch; they have confused and mixed numerous story lines. The Comic Book fans are not happy with this; they have kept the Comics alive for 50 years but if they stop buying into those movies, they won’t be very successful.
The only major violation, Marvel created, was in Ant-man. Yellowjacket was a later re-iteration of Ant-man. They were the same person and never existed at the same time. However, YellowJacket was never popular, and most people don’t know about him. However, every X-man ,they have featured, is well-known.
4. Who is Copying Who?
For all of the Avenger movies and Marvel movies, people have stuck around for the post credit scenes. This has been a huge success. At the end of X-Men Day’s of Future Past, Fox copies Marvel and has their own post- credit scene. Even the promise of creating their own “mutant universe”, Fox is copying Marvel. Fox thinks that minor copying of Marvel’s ideas are going to ensure them success. All I have to say, is it is a start. But the excitement that was built with the appearance of Apocalypse at the end of Day’s of Future Past, was lost about the sametime that the opening credits of Apocalypse ended.
This past summer, Marvels Captain America Civil War, was featured in which the Avengers battle each other over a super-hero registration act. Not to be out done, X-men had to do their own spin on hero vs hero story. Apocalypse, who in the comics, always had four horseman, also has four horsemenin the movie. In the comics only one X-Man served as a horseman, Angel. In the movie all four horsemen were X-MEn. If anything, this was a cheap copy of Marvel’s Civil War.
Days of Future Past was Fox’s way of rebooting the entire X-men Franchise so they could start over and make everyone forget about everything else they have made that is X -related. The next step to create their own super- verse was the 2015 summer flop Fantastic Four. Already their own universe is starting off right where Fox left off. The very action of copying Marvel is an admission, by Fox ,that they cannot make comic movies right, without help.. They copy the movie ideas, but they refuse to copy the comic stories which have been great stories for 50 years.
With several comic book movies coming out in 2018, I am not sure I expect Fox’s Comic movies to survive without the backing of the Comic Fans. Deadpool, which is Fox’s most successful comic book film, is a step in the right direction, but Apocalypse was five steps back. Deadpool was actually closer to the comic book material and completely opposite of the other Fox films. Box Office results support this theory. I have found Dr. Strange my least liked Marvel Film but I put it on par with Deadpool. Unless Marvel can get the rights to X-men back, or Fox changes their approach to be more like what they did for Deadpool, I would expect the X franchise to be fully buried as comics and movies by the early 2020’s.
Max Bryte is an entertainment blogger for www.satellitetvlocal.com. He has been a fan of the X-men Comics since the early 80’s and regularly attends Comic-Cons around the country.