There are people in the world called “mutants” who posses the x-gene, granting them superhuman powers. Two groups of mutants, one led by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and one led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) are at odds with how to use their powers and co-exist with the humans around them.
Let’s go back in time a little bit to the year 2000. In 2000, Batman’s film run in the 1990s had come to a halt after the Joel Schumacher films were not received well and Superman hadn’t been seen on the big screen since the late 1980s. As for Marvel comic characters, only a handful attempts in the 80s and 90s had been made to bring them to film, including Howard the Duck, the Punisher, Captain America, and Blade, with Blade being the most recent and most successful try two years prior. Enter X-Men. X-Men redefined what the superhero genre could do. X-Men showed that a superhero film could be filled both with action and character development. X-Men kicked off the superhero film boom that we are still experiencing today.
To start, X-Men boasts some impressive and spot-on casting. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magento respectively are just the tip of the iceberg. Their chemistry is fantastic as the once-friends-but-now-enemies. Both actors are acting powerhouses and gave validity to a genre that many saw as niche. Famke Janssen, James Marsden, and Halle Berry all do good in their roles but they aren’t given much to do in this film.
Fox was not naive to who the star of the X-Men franchise is. Everyone knows that Wolverine is hands-down the most popular X character. When casting Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine, they probably had no idea how defining he would become in the role. Here, though, we only see glimpses of what is yet to come. Jackman does great in the role but he hasn’t quite come into it yet. However, he looks spot on like the Logan from the comics. His entrance is exciting and Jackman’s performance leaves you eager to see him return again as the amnesiac mutant.
Besides Wolverine, only a handful of characters share the screen with him. They are Cyclops (Marsden), Jean Grey (Janssen), and Storm (Berry) on the X-Men and Toad (Ray Park), Sabertooth (Tyler Mane) and Mystique (Rebecca Romjin) in Magneto’s Brotherhood of mutants. The Brotherhood mutants don’t get much development since their purpose is to serve as antagonists. On the X-Men side, they get more development but since they all share screen time pretty evenly, it’s not enough. It is just enough, however, to get a feel for the characters and understand the dynamic and relationships between them.
When a film tries to balance as many characters as X-Men has, it can become convoluted. This film prevents that by keeping the plot simple. The X-Men are trying to stop Magneto. That’s it. There’s no major twists or reveals. It’s a good versus evil plot that is traditional but not unexpected from a movie based on comic book characters. There is another plot about mutant registration that is barely explored. It’s touched on but if developed a little better, this film could have had a great philosophical angle to it as well.
A hero is only as good as its villain. This movie’s simplicity also allows Magneto to stand out as a character that wants to do things far beyond typical bad guy reasons. He cares about his fellow mutants. Experiencing the holocaust, he has little faith in humans the way Professor X does. Magneto and Professor X are less adversaries and more two people approaching the same problem from two different ideological point of views. While Magneto may be a more campy villain this time around, he’s far from one-dimensional.
I thought X-Men was GOOD 🙂 Excellent casting all around and a simple plot are by far this film’s strong points. This movie might not be the best superhero movie out there but it displayed what the superhero genre could be, setting the stage for the genre’s popularity to really explode.
Wolverine: [After putting on his uniform] You actually go outside in these things?
Cyclops: What would you prefer? Yellow spandex?
Cast & Crew
Bryan Singer – Director / Story
Tom Desanto – Story
David Hayter – Screenplay
Michael Kamen – Composer
Hugh Jackman – Logan / Wolverine
Patrick Stewart – Professor Charles Xavier
Famke Janssen – Jean Grey
James Marsden – Scott Summers / Cyclops
Halle Berry – Ororo Munroe / Storm
Anna Paquin – Rogue
Ian McKellen – Eric Lensherr / Magneto
Tyler Mane – Sabretooth
Ray Park – Toad
Rebecca Romijn – Mystique
Bruce Davison – Senator Kelly