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The 8 Ball 5.20.14: Top 8 X-Men FIlm Characters
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 05.20.2014

Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!

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Top 8 X-Men Movie Characters

Welcome back to the 411 Movie Zone 8 Ball, ladies and gentlemen! It's been a busy few days for yours truly but in a good way. One of the most anticipated films of the year arrives for fanpeople this week as X-Men: Days of Future Past blasts into theaters. The Bryan Singer-directed film looks to fulfill all of our dreams as X-Men fans by uniting the two time periods of the franchise and early word has been exceptional. The cast is truly packed and inspired by that, this week I'm going to look at the best characters within the film franchise. We've seen some amazing interpretations of characters and some very, very bad ones but we'll keep it positive. So hook into Cerebro and let's take a trip in search of the greatest mutants of them all.

Caveat: Much like my Star Wars characters list from the past couple of weeks, I'm focusing specifically on the films and leaving the comic books behind. Any character from any of the X-Men universe films were eligible and in terms of ranking I was looking at them in a holistic manner: how well-written they were, how well-acted they were, their impact on both the setting and fandom and their legacy.

Just Missing The Cut

Cyclops (James Marsden)
William Stryker (Brian Cox/Danny Huston)
Deathstrike (Kelly Hu)
Yukio (Rila Fukushima)
Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon)

#8: Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming)

First up for us is the character I'm most disappointed that we won't be seeing in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Nightcrawler, born Kurt Wagner, has always been one of my favorite X-Men in the comic book series. He's a swashbuckling mutant with an ability to teleport and demonic-looking features with a very Errol Flynn-like attitude to him. The character joined the film universe in X2: X-Men United when he is used by William Stryker to make an apparent assassination attempt on the president of the United States. Nightcrawler's opening scene is one of the pinnacles of special effects work in the series to date, with his ability to teleport put to very good use all the way through the thrilling sequence. But what's better is that they got his characterization almost perfect. While he's missing the swashbuckling attitude, his Catholic roots are touched on and he looks great; they even make reference to the fact that he is Mystique's son in the books via a brief exchange later in the film. Alan Cumming did fantastic work here and he reportedly nearly made it into Days of Future Past before Singer decided that there were enough mutants as it is. Maybe if we're lucky we'll still see him somewhere down the line.

#7: Rogue (Anna Paquin)

Nightcrawler is one of my favorite X-Men, but one of the very few characters I enjoy more in the comic books is Rogue. The mutant with the ability to absorb the powers and memories of others was a love at first site situation for me and I've always been a huge fan of her throughout the years. The Rogue that we see in the film universe is in many ways different; she doesn't have the flight or super-strength nor the invulnerability of the comic book incarnation because there is no Ms. Marvel for her to take them from. But the characterization is right on par, particularly considering that the films show us Rogue at an earlier point in her life and without Mystique's influence on her. Many people are ho-hum about the character because she comes across as more of a Jubilee/Shadowcat substitute, the young girl who latches onto Wolverine and becomes his ward. But Anna Paquin was right on par with this role and she does a great job of serving as the eyes of the audience, taking us into the world of Xavier's School for Gifted Mutants. Rogue unfortunately gets sidelined a little bit in the later films as the camera turned its attention more and more to Wolverine but Paquin didn't let that hurt her work as the character and her decision in X-Men: The Last Stand to take the mutant cure is very much in keeping with her character. Now, if only we can actually get a good Gambit for her to have her real romance with, I'll be in Nerdvana.

#6: Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber/Tyler Mane)

There are people who don't like the Tyler Mane incarnation of Sabretooth from the first X-Men and I can understand that to a degree. It hearkens back to the more dated comic book-y style characterizations of the character and it pales in comparison to Liev Schreiber's take on Victor Creed in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. For my money though, Mane's Sabretooth works for the role that he's given in that first film. He's Magneto's muscle, a brute with a grudge against Wolverine for some reason or another (although to be fair, the grudge isn't made explicitly clear) and Mane captured Victor's physicality perfectly. We then got Schreiber's version of a younger Sabretooth as one of the only truly great things about the first Wolverine solo film, and we began to understand how the film version of the characters became enemies. I also don't consider the two portrayals to be incompatible, as it's entirely possible that some type of continued mutation pushed Sabretooth's look into a more animalistic appearance and even scaled back his mind a bit. There's a ton of precedent for it in the books after all. Schreiber nailed Victor's personality to a tee and Mane had the physicality down perfectly, combining into a very dangerous adversary for Logan on the big screen.

#5: Jean Grey (Famke Janssen)

Jean Grey is one of those "love her or hate her" kind of characters. On one hand, she is the centerpiece of one of the most lauded comic book storylines of all-time. On the other hand, Brett Ratner completely boned that adaptation when it came to X-Men: The Last Stand. However, it says a lot that even when the Dark Phoenix story was mishandled on an epic level, Jean Grey came out looking good and fans were still excited when she appeared (after a fashion) in The Wolverine. Famke Janssen did top-notch work in making us fall in love with Jean the way that Logan and Cyclops do in the first two films and even when the story failed her in the third, she carried the turmoil that the character felt with pitch-perfect tone. Jean is a telepath of course, and telepaths are a deceptively difficult role to play without looking cheesy; you're doing a lot of intense concentration looks and maybe an extended hand or touching your temple. Like another character higher on this list, we believe it because Janssen makes it work. Jean's a character I would love to see come back, particularly if Days of Future Past wipes out X-Men: The Last Stand like rumors say it will, so we can get the proper stories we deserve with her.

#4: Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy)

Speaking of telepaths...Charles Xavier is a no-brainer for this list. Where to start, really? He's the founder of the team and its guiding light, the creator of a vision of mutant/human peace that has guided the team since it was founded. There would be no X-Men without Professor X and when fan were asked before we had X-Men films who they would want to play different roles, Patrick Stewart was the one and only choice ever offered for Xavier. Of course, we never thought it would happen but it did and Stewart brought to Xavier the dignity and father figure mentality that we always hoped to see on film. Stewart gave Xavier that feeling that we always wanted from him and he fit smoothly into the role without a single hiccup, so much so that when James McAvoy was cast as the younger Xavier in X-Men: First Class many were skeptical. McAvoy is a talented actor but what could he bring to the role? The answer, it turned out, was a vision of a younger version of the character that had a bit more--shall we say, personality to him and yet contained all of the man's ideals. McAvoy obviously has more to do as an actor in the role than Stewart did; his Xavier is a more active part of the team. But they both have brought gravitas to a character that needed it in order to work, making him an indelible part of movie history.

#3: Mystique (Rebecca Romijn/Jennifer Lawrence)

I always liked Mystique as a comic book character, but more for her associations than for her as a character herself. No doubt she had a cool power and a great look, but for my part I was always more interested in her connections to characters like Nightcrawler and Rogue. And yet, she's the one who ranks higher on this list, simply because she has been given much better material than the others. I and many others were skeptical when Rebecca Romijn was cast in the role for X-Men; after all, it was first significant film role and many of us X-Men fanboys wondered how a model could possibly portray a character we all knew and loved accurately. Romijn delivered far above what anyone could expect, particularly in the way she handled the physicality of the role. However, with all due respect to Romijn it is Jennifer Lawrence's work (and the script for First Class) that really elevates the character. We get a look at the person deeper underneath before she becomes the skin-bearing ass-kicker of the first films and what we see is remarkably well-done. It doesn't fit with the comic books of course, but there's nothing wrong with that as long as they do it well and Lawrence has done amazing work with the role. McAvoy recently suggested that Mystique could be the new center of the franchise if Hugh Jackman stops playing Wolverine and it's not nearly as crazy of an idea as some might think.

#2: Magneto (Ian McKellen/Michael Fassbender)

There's no other way to put this: Magneto is quite simply the greatest X-Men villain of all-time. Everyone has their favorites and I've loved many of them: Mr. Sinister, Apocalypse, the Hellfire Club, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and so on. But Magneto always tops the list of X-villains, almost without question. And it isn't just because of his nearly-limitless power; it is because he is a sympathetic villain who did terrible things but you could see where he was coming from. And his friend/enemy status with Xavier made him interesting. This is the dynamic we've seen a lot of in the X-Men films whether it is the adversarial relationship between Stewart and Ian McKellan or the more friendly (at first) dynamic between McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Both UK actors have brought a lot to the character of Magneto, who for the most part has made it through the films without any dings on him. (The depowering in Last Stand is the only one.) Magneto is the more interesting between him and Xavier because of his backstory and motivations, both of which McKellan and Fassbender have made great use of. In the elder Magneto's case he is a wizened old pro-mutant rights terrorist, fully realized in his powers and ruthless in their use. Fassbender's portrayal is more raw and exposed, not yet as removed from his horrifying experiences in World War II and while he doesn't quite have the elder role's powers he makes up for it with seething anger. Magneto has become a much more complex character than many comic book adversaries as a result of these two fine actors' work.

#1: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)

There could be only one, and let's be honest: there's no way it wasn't going to be Wolverine. As much as I love all of these other characters, they aren't the people who everyone was looking to when 20th Century Fox announced that they would be making a film based on the X-Men. You ask a hundred people who their favorite X-Man is and ninety of them are very likely to say Wolverine. Much like Xavier, fantasy casting was always rampant but was much more varied in potential choices because there was no one that just screamed the character like Stewart did the Professor. Even metal god Glenn Danzig was cited in a decent number of arguments despite having almost no acting experience, just based on his look. Leave it to Bryan Singer to cast an unknown after the studio ran through a list of more well-known actors and the results were spectacular. Jackman has gone on to be nominated for the highest awards in the industry but he will always be identified with Wolverine, a role he dove into with gusto. He has always been the lynchpin of the X-Men film universe and Jackman has established great chemistry with all of his co-stars. He became intimately familiar with whom Wolverine was as a character, using it to create the Logan that was exactly what we were looking for. All of those little touches of Wolverine are embodied in Jackman's performance; the gruffness, the fury, the honor code. Jackman became such a fan of the character that he shepherded his path through films, and while it did result in one major misstep in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, even in that the character fit in spirit to what we hoped for, even if the plot and direction were lackluster. Other people may take the role down the line, but Jackman will always be Wolverine to many of us.

Disguise of the Episode

Current Series/Season: Season One (2001 - 2002)
Episodes Watched: 16
Last Serial Completed: The Prophecy - Sydney is tested by the DSR to discover her mysterious link to a chilling 500-year-old picture and prophecy foretold in a Rambaldi manuscript. Meanwhile, after uncovering the identity of the rogue group leader, "The Man," Sloane learns through fellow Alliance of Twelve member Edward Poole that a close friend may be in cahoots with the enemy.
Episodes Remaining: 89

And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.


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