Canister X Movie Review #97: X-Men (2000)
Written by David Hayter
Directed by Bryan Singer
Runtime 104 min.
4 out of 5
A small percentage of the world’s population has natural mutations in their genetic code, each manifesting themselves differently. For many, it leads to special talents and abilities, but such capabilities come at a high cost: ostracization from society. Two factions have risen: one which believes that these “mutants” and the rest of humanity can live peacefully side-by-side, and another which believes a war is coming between mutant and humankind, one in which only one side will prevail.
Welcome to the world of the X-Men.
This flick is considered by many to be the beginning of the modern day superhero film era. Yes, we had Blade before this, but X-Men really cracked the door open in terms of taking a well-known comic property and bringing it to the big screen. Not only that, but there is some serious acting firepower in this movie, namely actors who don’t do garbage, so right there that says something. Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto, Anna Paquin as Rogue—yeah, big deal stuff. Then you throw who was then an unknown into the role of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and you suddenly have a bunch of talented actors taking a serious stab at a story about mutants with superpowers.
Bryan Singer was known for The Usual Suspects before this flick, and with him at the helm, we got an X-flick that was serious, funny in the right parts, plausible and just plain cool.
They did right to take the most popular X-character—Wolverine—and tell the story primarily from his point-of-view. I mean, this role made Hugh Jackman’s career and it’s a role he’s gone back to six times, not including the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past due in 2014.
While the all-black leather costumes weren’t really my thing—I liked the more colorful ones from X-Men: First Class better, which were based off the classic comic book costumes—they brought a level of realism to the movie and prompted that joke later on when Wolverine complains about the uniforms and Cyclops says, “Well, what would you prefer? Yellow spandex?” At the same time, I’m also in the major minority of people who think that properly-armored and modernly-stylized colorful superhero costumes could work in a real world situation. There are guys going around in The Real Life Superhero Movement dressed as such and are helping police after all.
Anyway . . .
The trick with an ensemble movie is to give each character enough history and density to make them likeable and relatable from frame one. When you have only a couple hours to do that, you need to have a story that revolves around each of them so they could each have their moment in the sun long enough to get the audience involved with them. X-Men does this for the most part and it’s no easy feat.
Of course, there is the metaphor of the evils of racism throughout the movie, and how all people are equal regardless of who they are, what they can do and what they look like. This theme is strangely overt yet subtle at the same time. Kind of depends what frame of mind you’re in when watching it and your personal history and feelings on the topic.
This movie is an interesting, exciting, thoughtful and well-executed big screen adaptation of one of the biggest comic book franchises of all time. Did they nail it perfectly? No. Did they do a good job of taking the X-Men concept as a whole to the big screen? You betcha.