The first English Hollywood movie that I ever saw in a theatre was X2: X-Men United. It was one of those ophthalmologist trips with my dad. After the doctor’s appointment, we took an out of the blue decision to go into Westend theatre, and watch this new movie. In the early 2000s Westend in Camp was one of those cool theatres that actually showed English movies in English. Today it lies in ruins having been decimated by the Multiplex Era. The only thing better than Westend was E-square on University Road. Both look pale today against the sheer size and quality of Cinepolis and PVR.
We had no freaking idea what this movie was about. After watching the film, my dad didn’t understand shit. Neither did I. But I was fascinated by what these characters could do, especially after witnessing the epic opening sequence of Nightcrawler trying to assassinate the President, and that was the start of my obsession with the X-Men.
There was no access to Internet those days, and I couldn’t satisfy my thirst to know all about this bunch of superheroes. I was just a little kid in India. Nobody buys comic books here.
But then Destiny had other plans. It was sheer happenstance that I got to watch X-Men Part 1 on Star Movies the very next month. I remember jumping with joy on having been fortunate to be on that channel at that very moment when the movie started. These were those sad days: Cable TV, no Tata Sky plus to record the show or movie, hell not even a menu to see what would come next on the movie channel. All you could do was wait for the “Coming up next” commercial to get an idea about the next thing that they were going to telecast. Sure, they used to publish their schedules for the day in English newspapers, below the Crossword Puzzle section, but my family subscribed to “Sakaal”, we still do and that wasn’t the kind of newspaper that published this kind of “important” information.
My knowledge of the X-Men universe had increased having watched both X-Men and X2. But this was just the surface that I had scratched.
Shaktiman had ended in 2005. I wasn’t really a fan anymore after having witnessed the epicness of these Hollywood superheroes. He would not be able to hold a candle to them under any imaginable scenario. I even remember they had an entire story line inspired from the X-Men, with a desi Professor X, Cyclops and male Jean Grey making appearance as Shaktimaan’s friends. It was hilarious in hindsight, but at that time it was a Sunday morning spent well.
Image: X-Men making a Cameo on Shaktiman
Cartoon Network was something that I was obsessed with. It is one of the best things that could have happened to me as a child or any child as a matter of fact. It was one of the things that I looked forward to when I came from school every day. But Cartoon Network was another catalyst for me and the X-Men. They telecast the Hindi dubbed cartoon: X-Men Evolution.
Evolution for me is the best Cartoon that I have ever watched. Nothing comes close. Evolution was 52 episodes of pure brilliance. It introduced me to all the X-Men and their crazy individual backstories and the epic adventures they had as a team. It did what the comics are supposed to do, but as an Indian kid, with no access to the comics, this show substituted the comics, pulling me further into the X-Men Universe. The animation quality, the plotlines, the voice acting: Stupendous. This show did the Apocalypse storyline a zillion time better than the movie X-Men Apocalypse (2016). And I am glad at having known Apocalypse through this show first.
The only sad thing about this show was that it ended, not that it had ran out of stories to tell, but because real life politics had interfered. Warner Brothers, owners of DC Comics (Superman, Batman & Justice League) produced this show. X-Men was a Marvel Comics property and the film rights were with Fox Studios. WB realised that they had unwittingly created a new generation of X-Men fans, which was detrimental to their other businesses. As expected, they killed the show.
Nevertheless, the show had a beautiful ending, with the defeat of Apocalypse, and a brief glimpse of what they would have tried in Season 5, had it happened: The Phoenix Saga.
Image: X-Men Evolution
But then came X-men: The Last Stand. And all us fans, got to see a bastardized version of the Phoenix Saga, play out on the silver screen. It was a good action movie, and marked the end of the first X-men Trilogy. It is also the only movie from the X-men series that I have legal ownership of in the form of an Original DVD. The rest are all pirated, not something that I’m ashamed of, but that goes with being Indian.
Image: My X-Men The Last Stand DVD.
My brother is more inclined towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), so meticulously brought to life step by step by Marvel Studios. The executives at Marvel Studios, must be such great visionaries to have had the foresight and the risk appetite to envision a never-before attempted film series that is connected so intricately and that has such a huge list of characters to deal with. What started in 2008 with Iron Man, will culminate in 2019 with Avengers: Infinity War Part 2. And I will happily be there with my brother to witness that, but like they say, the first love always remains the first love and X-Men will always trump the Avengers on any given day, at least in the world in my head.
Not that I am so blind, that I don’t realise what a fucked up mess the X-Men movies are, in terms of timeline continuity and character consistency. Because of Director Bryan Singer abandoned the X-Men Series after X2, in favour of directing the disastrous Superman reboot of 2006, the X-Men film series suffered a big setback in terms of the path in which the story would progress. X-Men Origins Wolverine is such a bad movie, that even die-hard fans can’t bring themselves to defend that piece of trash. That was the lowest point, where I did definitely question myself, Am I seriously a fan of this shit?
But then came Director Matthew Vaughn, who resurrected the film series by setting of the new trilogy with X-Men First Class. Bryan Singer took the series to new heights with the sequel X-Men Days of the Future Past. These two movies are amongst the best movies ever made and I don’t just mean the superhero genre.
I’ve watched Days of the future Past, 3 days before my CA Final attempt. I just couldn’t help it. And then I watched it again, a week after the exams with my brother. Superhero movies are one of the very few things that we have in common, and it’s led to a tradition of sorts, I have watched all the MCU movies only with one partner in that crime: my brother.
Image: X-Men Film Series.
With the full-fledged advent of the Internet inside our homes a few years ago, I came upon X-Men The Animated Series which was a cartoon show that ran in America from 1992 to 1997. It was 78 episodes of X-Men gold. I had to watch it. The crazy person inside me searched for ways and means to watch it online for free, but there were none, at least nothing that I could find. So, I bought all the 5 seasons on DVD, in an impulsive online Amazon purchase decision, which I do not regret. It cost a thousand bucks. The time I spent gorging through the 78 episodes, was my first experience of binge watching a TV show.
Image: My X-Men Animated series Collection.
I’m not a fan of video games. Partially that’s because, while growing up there wasn’t much money to buy expensive stuff like video games. But in the 9th standard, for my birthday, I went to Crossword at Sohrab Hall in Camp with my Dad to buy a book as a gift for myself. But things took a different turn when my eyes moved automatically to the Video Game Aisle, specifically to the video game: X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse. The agenda of buying a good book to read went poof! The game alone cost 999/- but as it was my birthday. Dad had to relent. This game remains the only one that I actually played in my life from start to end. It had a detailed meticulously designed plotline, the effects were amazing and for the first time I was so deeply involved in the X-Men Universe, with every decision I took inside the game, affecting the eventual outcome of the game. Defeating Apocalypse was a feat I was proud of. It was 22 hours of game play madness each time I played it. I played it 5 times.
Image: My copy of X-Men Legends II Rise of Apocalypse.
Today, I watched Logan. It’s the last time that I get to watch Hugh Jackman reprise the role of Wolverine. The movie was a swansong for this character that he has lived with for 17 years over 9 movies. It was a satisfying end to this iconic character, to say the least. I watched it with my Dad. My brother’s “preparing” for the Boards, so he had to miss this, a decision he took himself, but I doubt whether it was a sincere one. Life came a full circle; the first time having seen Wolverine in Westend with Dad and for the last time with Dad too.
Fox Studios will carry forward the X-Men with a lot of movies in the future. Will they do justice to the stories and the characters? That will always be a debate. Will I be there watching them? I think so.
But the funniest memory, that I will always have is, after watching the X2 my Dad asked me this question, “hey lok khare astat ka?” (Are these people for real?) And I couldn’t help but smile and think, “I wish!!!”