Action Movie Fanatix Review: X-Men

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Trust A Few.  Fear The Rest.

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park, Anna Paquin, Tyler Mane

Second Unit Director/Fight Sequence: Corey Yuen

Director: Bryan Singer

2000  |  104 Minutes  |  PG-13

“You actually go outside in these things?” – Wolverine
“What would you prefer, yellow spandex?” – Cyclops

I was a huge X-Men fan growing up.  I collected comic books, video games and collector cards and of course watched the animated series.  When the movie was announced I was extremely excited but after watching it I had felt underwhelmed.  I didn’t hate it but it just didn’t live up to what I had loved about the X-Men for so long.  Because of this I have only watched each of the movies a couple times since purchasing them on DVD.  Now with another X-Movie on the horizon and The Wolverine filming I decided I should go back and revisit the original trilogy.

The X-Men are a superpowered mutant group led by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and consisting of Cyclops (James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm (HalleBerry) and now Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).  They must stop Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants consisting of Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) and Toad (Ray Park).  The Brotherhood has kidnapped Rogue (Anna Paquin) and is going to use her powers to turn all of the worlds humans into mutants.

The opening scene with a young Magneto in a Nazi concentration camp is an extremely memorable scene and really puts us in a place to somewhat understand where he is coming from.  Sir Ian McKellen is an absolutely perfect Magneto.  He brings such intelligence and class to a role that could have been dumbed down very easily by studio execs.

There couldn’t possibly be a better actor to play Professor X than Patrick Stewart.  He, of course, looks the part and definitely has that leadership quality down from his time on Star Trek The Next Generation.

Hugh Jackman has always been a pretty decent Wolverine too.  He looks the part, other than not being a short, stocky, trolly looking guy and he got the attitude and growly voice right.  The awkward Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine love triangle is well done and his complicated past with Sabretooth is hinted at (which makes sense since Wolverine probably wouldn’t even remember much of it at this point).  The scene where Wolverine steals Cyclops’ motorcycle and hits the boost button is really cheesy though.

Jean Grey looks hot.

Cyclops is a weeny, goody two shoes leader which is pretty much what he should be.  I always hated this character but he is essential to the team.

HalleBerry’s Storm is pretty much spot on although she is definitely far from the focus of the movie.

The Wolverine/Rogue relationship here mimics the Wolverine/Jubilee and Wolverine/Kitty Pryde relationships from the animated series and the comics and honestly I would have preferred they use Jubilee or Kitty Pryde here.  Rogue was too annoying and wussy here (way unlike the comics).  There was never a way to get Rogue to her true potential in this series of movies and I can’t help wondering if it would have been better to just use Jubilee or Kitty Pryde in this role.

One of the most fun parts of watching X-Men the first time for me was all of the references to other mutants in the X-Men universe.  Iceman, Pyro, Kitty Pryde and Jubilee are background characters but the X-Geek sitting in the theater watching this was loving pointing out these different characters that I already knew and loved.

I know this is nitpicking but the leather costumes just didn’t work for me.  I don’t expect them to use the blue and yellow spandex from the comics but to have a slight amount of originality in each costume would have been nice.  The later movies added a little more color and variety which was nice.  Just, too bad they didn’t do it sooner.  And of course, this didn’t make or break the movie so it wasn’t as big of a deal as some have made it out to be.

The sets and X-Gadgets are very well done.  The X-Mansion is perfectly executed.  The Cerebro room isn’t exactly like the comics but it is done in a way that makes sense here.  The Blackbird is almost identical to the comics.  Not much for me to complain about here.

The X-Men team felt a little too small.  They go charging into the final battle with only four mutants.  Magneto could probably beat all four of them himself.  I would have preferred to have seen the original five (Jean Grey, Cyclops, Angel, Iceman and Beast) plus Storm, Wolverine and maybe one or two others (Colossus definitely would have been a good fit here).  Then use characters like Jubilee, Cannonball and other members of Generation-X and The New Mutants to be the young ones around the school.  I realize that running the first movie this way would screw some things up for later movies but honestly the sequels are pretty screwy as is.  There would also be a problem with character development so some characters would be relegated to the background a bit.  Again, I think this could work by keeping the relationships between Wolverine and Jean Grey, Cyclops and Rogue at the forefront and letting everyone else fall to the back a little.

The action is all pretty well done.  The powers are very well executed and mostly accurate to the comic books.  The fight choreography is decent and I noticed that Corey Yuen is credited for some of this.  The wirework is way too obvious in many parts though.  I am not into wire-fu though so this is probably a bigger complaint for me than it may be for some.  I felt like Mystique could have had guns as she did in the comics to help her be a more formidable force in battle.  A fight between her and Wolverine seems a little lopsided but looks cool on screen.

One of my biggest problems with the movie is the premise that Magneto’s master plan is to turn all humans into mutants when his character generally despises humans and feels that he is a higher being than the humans.  Because of this plan the final battle is way too lopsided.  The reason the X-Men always had trouble with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was mostly because of Magneto.  The X-Men had the numbers but Magneto was so powerful and

Some people have speculated that director Bryan Singer’s homosexuality played a role in how he saw that mutants would be treated.  This may be true but it certainly isn’t a reason to knock the film.  There are no times where he blatantly tries to make social commentary and really doesn’t even dive into the mutant discrimination too much yet.

Overall the X-Men characters were well represented and the action and superpowers were mostly on point.  As an X-Fan it just didn’t quite feel right.  I can’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly but odds are it was many of the issues previously addressed combined.  It is by no means a bad movie but I just don’t feel like it lived up to its X-Potential.