FilmOpinion

Opinion: What the ‘X-Men’ Film Series Can Learn from ‘Legion’

Victoria Stuewe ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Movies Editor

The ground-breaking X-Men film came out almost seventeen years ago, introducing superheroes that people around the world now know and love today. Since then, superhero movies have been popping up left and right, premiering every summer, and, ultimately, making millions of dollars. There have been eight films in the X-Men series so far; however, over time, they have been lacking in dialogue, punctuality, and, just plainly, fun. Other than X-Men: Days of Future Past and the recently released Logan, critics seemed to have given up on the X-Men as a worthy subject matter.

That is, until the surprisingly fascinating and thrilling television show, Legion, premiered on FX.

Dan Stevens in Legion. Photo Credit: FX Network.
Dan Stevens in Legion. Photo Credit: FX Network.

Though there was some apprehension when the series premiered, each episode did not cease to amaze both fans and critics, causing it to be promptly renewed by the network. Variety even pondered the idea of having it being a worthy option for an awards season, a feat that the X-Men film series has yet to accomplish.

So, how can an ensemble movie series with regular mutants not live out its legacy like Legion seems to do so easily? Here are a couple of reasons:

1. The smart yet simple writing

Halle Berry in X-Men. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Halle Berry in X-Men. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

A big complaint about the writing in most of the X-Men movies is that they have off-balanced dialogue and confusing catchphrases. One of the worst, in fact, comes from the original film with Storm (Halle Berry) saying, “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.” This probably was intended to be meaningful, but it falls flat and, ultimately, doesn’t make sense, making some say it’s one of the worst lines in movie history. This actually happens quite frequently with many lines that are meant to be powerful and philosophical, but they end up being cheesy, out of character, and, quite frankly, unrealistic.

Legion, however, uses silence as a tool instead of filling with meaningless statements about the world. Its dialogue is casual and flows unbelievably well, and, even if it does get a little philosophical, it doesn’t seem out of place. Logan was able to do this well, but that doesn’t excuse the rest film series as a whole.

2. There’s chemistry between every character

James Marsden and Famke Janssen in X-Men: The Last Stand. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
James Marsden and Famke Janssen in X-Men: The Last Stand. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

In some of the X-Men movies, the chemistry does work; however, there was definitely a lack of it in three of them. In the final installment of the original trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand, there are too many characters to really feel separate and meaningful relationships among anyone. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) love interest, Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), was robotic and didn’t appear to put as much effort in the film as Jackman. And finally, in X-Men: Apocalypse, as with The Last Stand, the high number of characters led to a dysfunctional film with no real character development, almost making it seem as if audiences never had the chance to know the new class of mutants.

Though Legion does have a hefty cast, it was still able to make its characters form relationships organically and realistically with each other – especially between David Haller (Dan Stevens) and Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller), despite never being able to actually touch each other due to Syd’s abilities. Additionally, the cast has chemistry throughout each episode that the film series seems to lack.

3. The CGI is subtle

Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

The two X-Men films that are the real culprits in this category are X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men Apocalypse. Wolverine’s claws and the fight scenes in X-Men Origins were so obviously fake that it’s almost laughable that they were allowed in the final cut; however, it should be said that Logan also redeemed this factor of the first in the Wolverine series. Apocalypse had, well, apocalyptic scenes and random flying objects floating everywhere, making it overstimulating and overblown.

Legion also has a scene sort of like the aforementioned flying objects, but it was made with real objects and put together in post-production. There definitely is CGI, but, when it’s used, it isn’t obvious in every scene. It’s put together cohesively and looks correct and finished in the final product.

4. Mystery drives the plot

Tahyna Tozzi and Lynn Collins in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Tahyna Tozzi and Lynn Collins in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Most of the idea of Legion comes from the fact that the audience does not know what exactly is wrong with David. But, in the film series, each new element in its plot is quite predictable and, if there actually is a surprise, the reveal is never satisfying. It causes the films, overall, to be underwhelming in the end. Once again, X-Men Origins really struggled with this point. Though there was some mystery, the big twists were either predictable or quickly resolved, making them seem meaningless.

5. Each of the characters has their own personality

Oscar Isaac in X-Men: Apocalypse. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Oscar Isaac in X-Men: Apocalypse. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

While this could be due to the fact that television shows do have the ability to spend more time on characters due to having multiple episodes rather than two hours, this problem keeps coming up whenever the film series decides to add new mutants.

While it is fun to see new and recognizable mutants in action, having their characters not be as fully developed takes away from that initial excitement and, ultimately the film as a whole. Because Wolverine has been a part of the series for so long, audiences know what he is like and who he is; however, that was done over a long period of time. For the X-Men series, these problems constantly come up in the third acts, or The Last Stand and Apocalypse. In both films, they added a slew of characters and never spent the time needed for audiences to have a connection with them. In Legion, while they do have an ensemble, they spent quality time with each one and allowed the audience to care for each character, even the villians. This feat was incredibly accomplished by the show that X-Men has yet to conquer.

 

Though it shouldn’t be this hard to make an X-Men film series, there have been many flops that have yet to be redeemed. Though they did try, even the newest prequel X-Men film series had its acclaim come to an end with Apocalypse. The studio’s attempt to make a series, however, has really succeeded. It’s difficult to think that why it would be hard to make a film of a subject that seems relatively easy to cover, but, again and again, there seems to be a disconnect when making a movie. Hopefully, filmmakers can learn from Legion’s current success, but only time will tell whether a mere television show will be able to crack the mighty film industry.

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