Movie #66: X-Men (2000)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Halle Berry, and Anna Paquin

As I’m sure I’ve stated before, I did not grow up reading comic books.  I knew, and probably still, don’t know a whole lot about the X-Men.  I get subtle references like when Cyclops (Marsden) asks Wolverine (Jackman) if he’d prefer yellow spandex (Wolverine’s comic book outfit) to the outfits they wear in the movie, but as far as back story goes, I was more or less in the dark going into viewing X-Men the first time.

In the not to distant future, mutants live within society.  Humans fear them and their abilities.  A law is about to be passed that would require a mutant registration.  This has a mixed reception within the mutant community.  On the one hand, people like Erik Lensherr/Magneto (McKellen) is opposed to it.  He thinks that mutants are the wave of the future and humans will become extinct.  He also opposes the law because he was in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.  A much smaller number of mutants like Charles Xavier (Stewart) believe both human and mutant can live alongside each other.  He holds out that there is hope.

X-Men introduces the audience to a number of major characters in the X-Men franchise, and sets the stage for the war that Magneto says is coming.  Though this is without a doubt an ensemble primary cast, Wolverine is the main character that the story revolves around.

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It’s difficult with the first film in a franchise, and there just isn’t enough time to give each individual character justice.  While Wolverine is without a doubt the main character the story revolves around, other talents and character potential goes to waste.  The filmmakers do a good job with the future movies of the franchise in developing some of those other characters, but I was disappointed to a degree with how little is explored in this one.

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There is a good balance of long-established actors (Stewart and McKellen) along with a number of up-and-coming prospects (Jackman, Marsden, and to a lesser degree Berry).  Stewart and McKellen act as leaders of good and evil, and their age and wisdom shows in their respective roles.  They are old friends, though each sees the world through a different lens.  They act as facilitators, and the younger generation in the cast does the bulk of the action and story development.

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The relationship between Wolverine and Rogue is touching.  Also interesting to see the misdirection and mistakes made by Xavier in thinking Wolverine was the one Magneto was after.  It was nice to see the caring and genuine concern Wolverine and Rogue had for one another.  Their significant age difference (even if we don’t know exactly how old Wolverine is) helped this be more of a caring relationship between friends.

The one miscast, in my opinion at least, is with Anna Paquin.  Maybe this has more to do with her character development in future films, and also just because I’m not too familiar with Rogue’s character.  Still, she just didn’t seem to work well with the other cast.  James Marsden was also a little difficult for me.  He just seems a little too spiffy-clean for my liking.

Visually speaking, the film is decent for the time that it was released.  As with Spider Man, there are clearly some moments with the animation that it’s very distinctly CGI, but that’s what the filmmakers had to work with, so I can’t fault them too much.

X-Men does a great job introducing a widespread superhero story to the big screen.  Though not too many characters are developed here, the groundwork laid in this film is developed nicely in the films that followed.  I enjoy watching X-Men, but it’s one of those I have to be in a certain mood for.  Without a doubt I’ll be reviewing all the other X-Men films before X-Men: Days of Future Past next summer.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

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