Looking back now, its pretty easy to see that "X-Men" was the kick off for the latest comic book via film fad that has found its way into being one of the biggest money making trends in modern cinema. Honestly, despite some great elements to this original live action "X-Men" film, it does play it rather safe compared to what would come later for the film genre. Its still a solid franchise kick off and a rather fun adaption of the popular comic series.
The world is heading towards a war. The main population of humanity has discovered that there are mutations rapidly occurring in the DNA of many people creating 'mutants' with powers beyond our imagination. Amongst these 'mutants' in the world there seems to be a split in ideologies. One of them declares themselves to be greater than humans and superior looking to make them fear and respect them. This ideology is being pressed by a man with the moniker Magneto. The other side, lead by Professor X, pushes for a peaceful resolution. Magneto's pressure seems to be leading towards a violent ending so Professor X builds a team of his most talented students, deemed the 'X-Men', to put a stop to Magneto's new plan to even the stakes.
What makes "X-Men" such a mile marker as a comic book film is that despite the plethora of writers that came and went with scripts (with final credit eventually going to Hayter for the script) they came up with a fairly mainstream and easy to follow story that really grasped the themes of what "X-Men" was all about. Which, in its essential form, is about segregation, prejudice, and humanity's reaction to those of the outside. Having Rogue, a person who cannot tough others with her skin without pulling the life force from them, as one of the leads really hits home with this. Although I'm not sure how I agree with combining character elements of Jubilee with her, it works out in this film. This is what made the X-Men comic so riveting, and its what makes the film work too.
Sometimes it doesn't quite go far enough for my tastes. Although the symbolism is there they could have pushed some of the parallels of human history a bit further. The list of mutants and the communist list for example. Or even on a bigger scale how Magneto's plan to turn world leader's into mutants and how that goes with Constantine's conversion of the leaders to Christians to end Christian persecution could have been taken even further. Alas, this is not how it is and the film does a solid with it anyway.
To add to how well "X-Men" came out is a stellar visual director with Bryan Singer and his stunning well built ensemble cast. With its sleek visual fluidity of action to plot and its well built script, "X-Men" may move too quickly at times but keeps up the pace so that people unfamiliar with the characters or themes can get a taste of it all. Matching that with an extremely well put together cast of folk that not only look like their comic book roles but act like them too, then "X-Men" really does pull this off.
Despite my reservations that they could actually make a live action "X-Men" work, Singer, his stellar ensemble cast, and a script that gets the point across do it quite well. Of course, as a fan of the comics and original Fox cartoon I still have my issues with the film (as I mentioned not quite going far enough with its themes or just glancing over certain elements in pacing) but its a damn solid start for the franchise. Its still a lot of fun and visually very striking and recommended for action fans and comic fans alike.
BONUS RANT: I was very skeptical that Danzig didn't get the role of Wolverine, but Hugh Jackman does a better than fine job as our anti-hero. I do have to admit that they definitely made the clawed and violent prone X-Man a bit less intimidating and dark for the film which sort of made me sad, but it works for its family friendly vibe it generally puts off and the role does spark that same charisma it always had.
Written By Matt Reifschneider
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