Gimmie an X!
While we started this run with a terrible flick (ugh, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, why?) it doesn't take long for our linear path through the X-MenLaunched in 1963 and written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men featured heroes distinctly different from those featured in the pages of DC Comics. Mutants who didn't ask for their powers (and very often didn't want them), these heroes, who constantly fought against humans who didn't want "muties" around, served as metaphors for oppression and racism. Their powerful stories would form this group into one of the most recognizable superhero teams in comics (and a successful series of movies as well). time line to bring us to a good movie. The original movie. The one that started the whole franchise for Fox. At the time the filmed like a bit of a gamble -- it was still two years out before Spider-man would make mad-bank at the Box Office; a big superhero movie in 2000 still seemed like a bit of a gamble. But then, Fox didn't exactly spend a lot of money on the movie -- only $75 Mil which, in, what, the craft services budget for an Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. movie?
But, for the relative low expectations for a superhero movie back in the day, X-Men was a success, both commercially ($273 Mil at the Box Office) as well as critically. The movie received high marks when it came out, from fans and critics alike, and would be a solid enough little hit to spawn all the various sequels and spin-offs that dot the landscape. it also helped to prove that superhero teams could be filmed, seriously, and released to general acclaim.
It certainly helps that the original X-Men is a fun movie that treats its subject matter seriously. Say what you will about Bryan Singer (who is about as scummy as they come in Hollywood and the man should never be allowed to work again, something that probably should have happened years ago), but he did have a solid vision for this movie. The X-Men in the movie stand in for any number of oppressed peoples, and the movie is solid when it hits upon those themes, and does it well. That said, I found myself not paying as much attention to the politics of the movie this time around simply because Bryan Singer filmed it and everything he's apparently done in his personal life taints whatever message he might have wanted to convey here (hard to talk about oppression and hate, and have your message actually be listened to, when you're raping young men, just sayin'). But even if we ignore the complexities of the behind-the-scene issues and politics, there is a fun movie to be had here.
Of course, it's really Wolverine's movie. Wolvie (Hugh Jackman, of course, starting his world record-setting run as the character) was the most popular character in the X-Men comics at the time (hell, he might still be at this point), so his inclusion in the film was a foregone conclusion. What's interesting, though, is that the film is really more about his journey, his and Rogue's (Anna Paquin). Wolvie acts as our outsider, the audience stand-in so that the world of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters and, of course, the X-Men. He's in basically every scene in the movie involving the X-Men, and when the heroes go off to fight, he's naturally always at the center of it. It might say "X-Men" on the cover, but it's real "The Wolverine Show, also features some other mutants".
But before we get to Wolverine we first have to set up the plot. We open in Auschwitz at the height of World War II where families are being marched into the camp. One young boy is split up from his family but, instead of just marching off with the rest of the child prisoners, he starts screaming, putting his hands out and fighting off the guards trying to pull him away. He seems connected to the gates, and they start to bend towards him as if he were a powerful magnet. That child would eventually grow up to be Magneto (Ian McKellan), master of magnetism and leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, a group of super-powered mutants looking to make the world safe for their kind (even if that means wiping out the rest of humanity).
Standing against Magneto is Charles Xavier, aka Professor X (Patrick Stewart), a man with massive powers of telepathy and mind control. He runs a school that acts as a safe place for mutants -- it trains them in their powers while also giving them the knowledge they need to operate in the real world. Secretly the school also serves at the base for the X-Men, a team of mutants set to protect all of humanity, mutants and normals alike. They both stand opposed to Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) who wants to introduce legislation that would force all mutants to reveal themselves and register with the government. Both mutant leaders agree that legislation like this is one step away from tyranny and the oppression of all mutant kind, but they have very different ways of addressing the problem. It comes to a head when it's revealed that Magneto has a doomsday-style device that he plans to unleash on a summit of the leaders of the world. The X-Men will have to band together to stop Magneto and save humanity.
Although the stakes in this movie are fairly high -- if the heroes fail, all of mutant-kind could be doomed to work camp-level oppression (as the opening scene makes clear) -- the movie itself is actually fairly low-key. There aren't a whole lot of sets, very few big set pieces, and only a handful of characters. At the time the movie came out it wasn't really noticeable -- -the films seemed bigger and more professionally polished than any of the superhero movies to come out before (save a BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen. movie here or there). It's a low-key, focused movie without a lot of superfluous plots or divergent storylines (just wait for the sequels for that). Everything in the movie ties in together, and while there is a big climax to the film (the world leader summit) the actual setup and staging of the film is still quite small and intimate.
That's not a knock against the movie, though, just something to notice going back after all the MCU and DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe. films to come out since X-Men's release. In some ways it feels like we've lost a little something in all the big-budget spectaculars that have become the norm now. Unlike many of the more recent superhero films to come out, X-Men prioritizes the characters after the action, making to to have us focus on the people behind the capes and cowls and understand them before it even bothers giving us a big, bombastic action spectacular.
Credit, of course, is due to the leads: Stewart, McKellan and, of course, Jackman. This movie is certainly the Wolverine show, through and through, but Hugh Jackman (an actor who hadn't been in much of note before this movie) was more than up tot he challenge. Although fan-boys lamented the fact that Jackman was nothing like Wolverine (being Australian, not Canadian, and easily a foot taller than the original character), Jackman owns the performance. It's hard, now, to think of anyone that could have been better in the role, and the movie had to be the Wolverine show, at least they picked the right Wolverine for the job. He's funny, he's sarcastic, he's always on the edge of violence -- Jackman plays him perfectly.
But then, really, the whole cast is great. Plenty of the characters, main and secondary, use their time on screen to give warm, lively performances. Few of them are bland (although Anna Paquin isn't the best as Rogue), and less are outright bad (I've never warmed to Hallie Berry as Storm). But, overall, this film has a killer cast that really nails their roles and makes ever part feel lived in. For most of them this was their first big movie and they all invested fully in their big breaks.
Aside from a few sour notes in the cast (and Bryan Singer's horrible past permanently casting a taint across everything he's ever touched), I have very few complaints with this movie. For a superhero movie that came out before all the big bombast, before the MCU and DCEU, hell before even the SpidermanSure, DC Comics has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but among the most popular superheroes stands a guy from Marvel Comics, a younger hero dressed in red and blue who shoots webs and sticks to walls. Introduced in the 1960s, Spider-Man has been a constant presence in comics and more, featured in movies regularly since his big screen debut in 2002. film franchise really started up, one that only really had the Burton Batman films from a decade prior to compare itself to, this film really nails exactly what it needs to be. It was unlike anything that came before, and quickly set the template for how superheroes could be treated: funny, yet serious, without any of the camp or schlock we sometimes would get from comic adaptations. It's a lesson X-Men Origins: Wolverine could, and should, have learned when it came out a few years later.
Continuity and Issues:
A nice, early touch is that the leather jacket Logan wears in the early scenes of this film looks a lot like the leather jacket he received over in X-Men Origins The dog-tags he wears in that film, though, don't line up one-to-one with the ones he has here.
Rogue, of course, doesn't have super-strength or flight abilities. In the comics she received those from Ms. Marvel when, as a villain, Rogue used her absorption powers on the other heroine and drained the woman to death. She permanently gained Ms. Marvel's powers at this point, but since Ms. Marvel (ne Captain Marvel) isn't in the Fox X-Men continuity, that storyline couldn't be used. Makes you wonder, now that the X-Men are joining the Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe., if the powers-that-be might pursue that plot line eventually.
So, as per this movie, Charles / Professor X and and Eric / Magneto have been friends since Charles was 17. This is, of course, screwed up later in First Class when Charles is already a mid-twenties adult with a doctorate before he meets Eric. Oops.
But then, of course, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender don't really look like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan (respectively). Despite Dark Phoenix only taking place a few years before this movie (1992 to this movie's 2000 setting), the two newer actors to take on the role look much, much younger than their counterparts. This is, of course, an issue of staging each of the new-continuity movies a decade apart from the previous films -- people just aren't aging naturally in the newer films.
Mystique notes that racist people (like Senator Kelly in this flick) were the reason she was afraid to go to school as a child. But, as per First Class, Mystique lived with Charles and basically hid who she was for most of her life (at Charles's urging). I'm not saying the two ideas can't like up just that it feels like a bit of a stretch.
Supposedly Eric helped Charles build Cerebro, but, again, First Class changed that later. There, it was Hank McCoy / Beast that designed Cerebro. Sure, maybe Eric helped on the designs of a later version, but the Nazi-hunting, vigilante, working man version of Eric we see in the later movies there doesn't really seem to line up either.
And, of course, Magneto's helmet is designed to block telepathic attacks. Charles seems surprised by this, which he shouldn't be since, as we know later, Magneto has had that helmet since the 1960s.
And, yes, I realize we have a lot of continuity issues between this film and the later First Class. While the sequels to First Class exist in a new, reboot time line, that first pre-boot film technically exists in both versions. Anything that conflicts between that later film and this one is a definite continuity problem that can only be explained by comic book logic, such as ripples in the time line flowing backwards and changing things. If we don't make a stupid reason for the changes, then it's just an error between films (which it totally is).
So, wait, Logan was just hanging around Alkali Lake at this start of this movie and that's why Charles sent him there to investigate. Really? He was just hanging out by the base that made him for, what, 15 or so years? Wow, X-Men Origins really screwed up this whole section of Wolverine's past.