Apr 8, 2015

Review: X-Men (2000)

It's really weird to think that fifteen years have passed since X-Men was first released. This goes back to when Marvel Studios, then Marvel Entertainment Group, had to pretty much beg studios to make their properties into movies. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but we're talking long before they had the powerhouse status that they have now which is why they sold the film rights for X-Men to 20th Century Fox to begin with. I'm sure they dream of getting those rights back again some day, same as they do for The Fantastic Four.

I don't think that Fox had much confidence in X-Men succeeding though as they were only willing to provide $75 million for the budget. To compare, Batman Forever which had come out five years earlier had $100 million to work with. Just to be a little more current though, Mission: Impossible II had $125 million and The Perfect Storm had $120 million. All that budget goes a long way in making the CGI come alive which was something pretty crucial that X-Men needed to get right. As a result, quite a few things like characters and locations that had original had been planned were cut.


At a Glance

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Produced by: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter, Avi Arad, etc.
Written by: David Hayter
Music by: Michael Kamen
Running time: 104 minutes
Production company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Marvel Enterprises, Donners' Company, etc.
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, UGC-Fox Distribution, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $75,000,000
Box office: $296,339,527 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park, Tyler Mane, Shawn Ashmore, Matthew Sharp, Brett Morris, Rhona Shekter, Kenneth McGregor, Shawn Roberts, Donna Goodhand



Marie (Anna Paquin) accidentally puts her boyfriend in a coma by kissing him. Unbeknownst to her, she's a mutant with the power to suck the life force out of anyone she touches. She's far from the only mutant which as a group are growing in notoriety around in the world. Calls to register mutants is a sentiment shared by many people which prompts Marie, now Rogue, to run away. Finding company with another mutant named Logan (Hugh Jackman), they find themselves embroiled in a standoff between two mutant groups led by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen).


X-Men is essentially an origin story that establishes who's who and what the current situation is. Set a little bit in the future, mutants are terrifying all the regular people with their scary  super powers which gives rise to politicians like Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) who proposes to register all mutants as part of a massive directory. It's an interesting allusion to Joseph McCarthy who had it in for communists (among others) in the United States. What's a mutant to do in all this?

Charles Xavier, or Professor X if you will, believes that efforts should be made to amicably iron out the differences that exist between both sides. On the other hand, Eric Lensherr who goes by Magneto thinks that a war between humans and mutants is inevitable and he aims to strike first. The Professor X/Magneto duality interestingly enough is like the one that existed between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. X-Men could've just been a simple and to the point superhero popcorn flick, but with all this social commentary going on it goes far beyond that which is very good news.

Although its an origin film, X-Men leaves a lot of questions unanswered so that sequels can answer them of course. Wolverine's past is pretty murky for example, but we all know that almost everything  gets answered in the bevy of X-Men sequels and prequels that come out later. Wolverine along with Rogue, Professor X and Magneto are definitely the main characters of the film though, leaving everyone else more or less supporting. Overall I do think that Bryan Singer does a good job at balancing screen time for this ensemble of characters.

In terms of the action, there are some hits and misses. For me the absolute highlight is Wolverine vs. Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). It's an interesting matchup that is fast-paced and very well executed. Other ones like the Cyclops (James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry) vs. Toad (Ray Park) is pretty silly and not much of a thrill to watch. Toad is generally pretty unnecessary, but I suppose someone felt that X-Men needed some sort of comedic relief. Toad isn't the answer for me and I would've been happy with Magneto having only two henchmen in Mystique and Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) since they balance each other out perfectly.

CGI usage is on the heavier side of things, but Bryan Singer didn't have much choice with the kinds of things that needed to be done anyway. Unfortunately, there are some issues with the quality of the CGI and at times it has an adverse affect on some of the action. While you can't forget that X-Men came out fifteen years ago, I'm not so sure that the CGI looked all that great when it was first released either. 

Anna Paquin does an admirable job as the alienated Rogue and she has some great scenes with Hugh Jackman. As a last minute casting decision, it's amazing just how well Jackman works as Wolverine. Combining animalistic rage and human vulgarity, you couldn't ask for better. As much as people seem to complain about how much attention Wolverine gets, Hugh Jackman never disappoints me in his portrayal. Also, Patrick Stewart is predictably good, but no doubt that Ian McKellen deserves a special mention for the power and charisma he brings to Magneto. Great casting all around, although Halle Berry is pretty forgettable to say the least.

What X-Men achieves with a limited budget and short running time compared to more modern superhero movies is pretty astounding. It establishes a world and its characters in quick but also satisfying fashion. Combine some relatively good action with lots of social commentary and you have the roots of a very worthwhile ensemble cast superhero series. Few origin movies can lay down a concrete foundation as solid as X-Men does.



Related Reviews:

X2 [X-Men 2: X-Men United] (2003)
X-Men: The Last Stand [X-Men 3: The Last Stand] (2006)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) 
X-Men: First Class (2011) 
The Wolverine (2013)

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