Cast your mind back to the year 2000.
It’s a world before the zany cartoon antics of X-Men: Apocalypse. A world before Hugh Jackman jumped over a helicopter in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
A world before The Avengers turned every comic book movie into CGI explosion porn.
Heck, it was a time when a director could make a movie about a terrorist attack on a major New York landmark without having to watch his step. This was a very different era.
Sure, there were some glowy lights in Bryan Singer’s original X-Men film. We had Storm throwing lightning bolts and Toad doing stupid dances. There was a sexy naked blue woman back in a time when such things made watching a movie with your parents an awkward experience.
But it wasn’t over the top. At least not to the extent that Days of Future Past introduced, with giant shapeshifting robots and neon spaceships and time travel and all that jazz.
The original X-Men was grounded and believable—as much as is possible when it features a leather-clad James Marsden pretending that his eyes are magic.
At its core was a question of mutant politics that is a lot more meaningful than a hundred scenes of Quicksilver running around the X-Mansion as it explodes.
(Not that this wasn’t a cool scene, but that’s beside the point.)
Now, it seems, that after dabbling in nonsense on and off since Brett Ratner invented the comic book movie post-credits scene, an X-Men movie is returning to the previously successful formula of making it look as if the story takes place in a somewhat realistic setting, albeit one that's frustratingly self-referential.
In large part, this is done by banishing anyone from the movie who might feel inclined to refer to himself as “Mister Sinister”. One of the big weaknesses of Apocalypse was the titular villain (through no fault of Oscar Isaac’s), who felt about as alive as a flat piece of paper.
Or, indeed, about as realistic as a Saturday morning cartoon villain, which is fitting.
According to James Mangold, whenever the option came up to throw in a ridiculous CGI nonsense battle, his crew ran in the opposite direction:
“Now that you've seen some of the movie, I think [what] you get a better sense of is, that's exactly the kind of thing this movie avoids. Meaning, the kind of operatic highly-costumed, stroboscopic villainy... that's not in this movie. Everything is kind of as real as we can make it. The movie is trying to kind of take a step backward from that kind of spectacle, so that we get another kind of gain, you know. There's that loss, but the gain is that the movie feels extremely real and is -- as one person who saw the film said to me, 'I feel like I could go down the street and run into that Wolverine.' Meaning that this is in my world, not some shiny other world. This is actually taking place in my world.”
Sweeter words have never been spoken by an X-Men director.
If this movie delivers on its promise of a realistic, tangible world that isn’t pumped full of spectacle, but instead delivers emotional, meaningful story, this might not just be the perfect send-off to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.
Logan could end up being the all time best X-Men movie. And, blunders like The Last Stand aside, that’s really saying something.