Call me an addict but Iron Man 3 premieres in a couple of weeks and I cannot contain my excitement. In order to keep myself occupied, I decided to re-watch and review some Marvel movies. Let us begin with the one that started it all. Before the Avengers, before the Spider-man flicks, there was…THE X-MEN.
Truthfully, I wasn’t a big fan of the X-Men movies as a kid. (The movie that really brought me into the world of superheroes was the first Spider-man.) But now that I’ve re-watched the film, I kind of see why I didn’t like it before… I didn’t like it NOT because it was a bad film but because it deals with more mature themes than most superhero flicks and I was too young to comprehend these. Now, I’ve found a newly-formed love for the franchise and a deeper respect for the messages they were trying to convey.
The movie starts on a bleak note, showing us the origins of two mutants: the young Magneto growing up in Nazi Germany and a teenage Rogue finding out about her abilities through the most inconvenient means. Here we see that having special powers isn’t all it’s cut out to be and they can sometimes be more of a curse than a blessing. The scene then shifts to the present where a government meeting is being held. People are debating about whether or not mutants are dangerous and should be exposed to the public.
I can definitely see young me not understanding what was happening on-screen. The X-Men movies should be praised not only for the top-notch action sequences but also for the rather complex story-telling.
I’ll summarize the movie in this way: It’s about people with fear.
There are three opposing sides in this movie. First, we have the normal people (much like you and I) who fear the unknown. This side is represented by Senator Robert Kelly who, during the beginning of the movie, supported and promoted the Mutant Registration act which aims to expose all mutants and ban them from schools. Second, we have the “bad guys” who, when you really think about it, aren’t so bad at all. They’re afraid that the world will reject them just as what has happened before. This side is represented by Magneto (played by the terrific Sir Ian McKellen) who grew up fearing the ordinary humans and is now ready to fight back. Joining him are his mutant cronies: Mystique (Rebecca Romijin), Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) and Toad (Ray Park). Third and lastly, we have the heroes of this story… the mutants who only wish to be accepted. This side is represented by Charles Xavier (played by the always awesome Patrick Stewart) who runs a school for “gifted youngsters”. Xavier’s School boasts a large number of different, colorful characters all with varying beliefs, abilities and personalities. They, just like most other mutants, were rejected and feared but through the Professor’s guidance, are now fighting to restore balance and stop Magneto’s evil schemes. Some of Xavier’s students include Cyclops (James Marsden), Storm (Halle Berry) and Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).
We are slowly and delicately introduced to the world of mutants through the eyes of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin) who had spent their days running from their pasts with nowhere to go. They soon find solace in Professor X’s school and so the adventure begins.
As much as I’d like to analyze every single plot detail, I have neither the time nor the energy so let me just say again what I said earlier: I commend the X-Men films for having such profound themes and a great plot! Let’s leave it at that and move on to the other elements that made this movie so great.
Let’s begin with the characters. The cast was pretty solid. Everyone portrayed their roles very well, particularly Hugh Jackman as the tough-as-nails Logan who can retract adamantium claws from his knuckles. Jackman was very greatly able to balance Wolverine’s internal struggles and feral instincts.
The rest of the supporting cast were pretty good as well. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magneto, respectively, were absolutely brilliant. You can totally buy that the two were once great friends who have now gone on separate paths. Anna Paquin as Rogue was alright, I guess. She was a bit too emo, in my opinion. On the other hand, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry and James Marsden were a bit underused but I guess it’s because Wolverine is the star so they didn’t focus much on the other mutants…
That’s my number one complaint about this movie. It was a bit too Wolverine-centric. What worked in The Avengers and a lot of other ensemble superhero flicks is that everyone is given equal screen time. But, hey, Hugh Jackman filled the role so well that you wouldn’t mind having Wolverine take center stage. I do kind of wish we got to see more of Cyclops’, Storm’s, and Jean’s powers.
Now, let us proceed to the narrative. It was pretty well-paced. It’s not like most modern superhero fares wherein the filmmakers felt the need to throw in explosions every few minutes. The movie took its time and gave its characters room to breathe after their battles. It was a bit slow for me, I guess, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The deliberate matched the movie’s tone pretty well. The battle scenes were very well-staged and most characters were very well-developed.
Overall, X-Men has a terrific plot and outstanding visuals that is elevated by the charisma of its lead star. But it seemed to work more as a “Wolverine and Friends” flick than as a genuine X-Men movie.