Jul 11, 2014

[Movies] X-Men (2000)

It's easier to map out these reviews based on a theme or in sets, quite frankly - at least for my Friday movie reviews since I try to focus on older (before this blog) movies. And given I had already gotten through my Matrix series of movie reviews, I figured I might as well address another area of popular movie culture - the X-Men movies.

X-Men was probably one of the first serious attempts to bring a Marvel comic book to life on the silver screen. Sure, there had the hokey Captain America movie back in 1990 and of course we should probably consider the Punisher movie in 1989, and the 1998 Blade movie, but the one that seriously made an impact (and felt like a major part of the beginning of the superhero trend) definitely had to be the 2000 X-Men movie.

And since this was before Marvel made their own movies, this is also the period that locked the X-Men franchise in a long-term relationship with 20th Century Fox. Oh yes, because of the eccentricity of the legal world of movie rights, this is the movie that helped seal away all of mutantkind from the larger Marvel Cinematic universe. Curses indeed.

Synopsis: X-Men was a 2000 superhero action movie directed by Bryan Singer. Naturally the characters in the movie was based on the same comic book superhero team of the same name with a screenplay by David Hayter.

Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison) is determined to pass his "Mutant Registration Act" in order to allow the US government to better track the activities of mutants - people who have developed superhuman abilities due to genetic mutation. Two mutants, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen) / Magneto, have rather different views how humans and mutants should co-exist. Xavier is pushing for living in harmony with the rest of humanity while Magneto feels that the only way to protect mutants is to assert dominance over lesser humans. And the different philosophies between these two individuals is what pretty much defines the conflict in this movie.

Then we start jumping around as we introduce other characters. We first meet Marie / Rogue (Anna Paquin), who accidentally discovers her ability of draining human life force by nearly killing her boyfriend with a kiss. Then there's the highly independent Logan / Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who eventually connects with Rogue once she goes on the run. They're fated to link up with Cyclops (James Marsden) and the rest of Xavier's X-Men - an elite team of mutants trained in the use of their powers and dedicated to sort of preserving the status quo between mutants and humans. And of course we have Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), the shape-shifting mutant who is using her abilities to aid Magneto with his own plans.

My biggest issue with the movie was the rather confusing plot (and some of Halle Berry's one-liners as Storm). With so many great X-Men stories out there (including the plot lines that revolved around the Mutant Registration act) Magneto's big plan in this movie didn't really make sense. And why he had managed to gather any mutants to his side given his strange plan for humanity was a little beyond me.

But what really sold the movie was, well, seeing the X-Men on-screen. And while almost every character had its own dorky moment, that was easily forgiven by the other awesome moments of the mutants being all super awesome and such. And given the movie climate at the time, this movie represented a major breakthrough in the genre. We had finally reached a point when superhero movies could be done rather well without looking too campy or cartoony.

Patrick Stewart was totally great as Professor X. Hugh Jackman really sold us on his ability to portray Wolverine - so much so that it seems he still hasn't managed to escape the role. The rest of the cast was pretty respectable for the most part, although they didn't quite shine as much as the others. But it was still a pretty good effort.

The first X-Men movie helped prove that comic book movies were a viable investment for Hollywood, which would later prove to be both a good and a bad thing for all of us. But hey, we were all pretty happy back in 2000. So this first movie of an increasingly weird franchise still deserves 4 cheesy Storm one-liners out of a possible 5.

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