X-Men (2000) Review

If what I understand about how films are made is correct, then Roger Mussenden deserves a special award for his work on X-Men. Roger was the person that (if my understanding is correct) has some hand in casting Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellen as Magneto and the biggest, and probably most surprising success of all, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

The scenes between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are brilliantly acted and set up the more serious tone for X-Men. This isn’t a goofy, light-hearted superhero film, like Raimi’s Spiderman had been or the attempt at the Fantastic Four film had ended up being. X-men had always been the more “grown-up” of the Marvel comics, dealing with prejudice, alienation and other more complex and adult themes.

The casting in X-Men is brilliant, particularly Stewart and McKellen

That means that casting Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, facing off against each other in some very cool, and highly charged scenes, gives X-Men some much-needed gravitas. The second (or technically third) best bit of casting in the film, was clearly Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

Wolverine was the character you had to get right and as time has gone on, it’s very easy to see Jackman as the crazed, angry and unstoppable killing machine. It’s also become a very easy part for Hugh Jackman to play, almost coming naturally to the actor, so it’s very easy to forget how well he plays the part in the first film.

It’s easy to forget how good Hugh Jackman is as Wolverine

Wolverine gets an awesome introduction as way of a bare knuckle boxing match, he then goes on to tear-up the screen and become, inadvertently or not, the main character of the film. Its Wolverine that has always been the stand-out character from X-Men and will always be the person that people want to see done right. Hugh Jackman does this brilliantly.

Of course, with any superhero film, the threat and villains have to match the heroes or there is very little point. This is where X-Men fails to hit the mark. Magneto is fantastic and Sabretooth is a decent enough match for Wolverine but the other villains have very little to them or seemingly very little to do. Mystique looks good but isn’t really used that effectively and Toad couldn’t be more of a joke villain.

With this many heroes, you need a really good threat for them to battle against

Even the actual threat that the X-Men have to deal with seems quite tame. It never really has the gravitas or extreme peril that you expect from a superhero film. There are two problems with this; more heroes means bigger threat and X-Men is now twelve years old, meaning comparisons to older superhero films are inevitable.

Once you’ve seen The Avengers take on armies of villains from another dimension, five heroes battling exactly the same amount of villains, match for match, doesn’t really excite you anymore. As superhero films have grown and gotten bigger and bigger, it means that when you revisit decent superhero films like X-Men, they are beginning to show their only twelve-year-old age.

What shouldn’t be taken away from X-Men is what came afterwards. It’s easy to forget that this movie spawned two direct sequels and two prequels (with Wolverine’s second attempt at a sole adventure coming soon too.) It is a very good superhero film but only for the time it was made. Viewed now, its slightly underwhelming.

Overall, the cast makes X-Men the successful and highly entertaining film it is. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman are brilliant as their respective characters. Unfortunately, a threat that just isn’t that big, coupled with the fact that we have seen much better and bigger since, sheds a harsh shadow over this early superhero film.

Rating 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

It’s a shame that the age of the film and a poor choice of villains is what lets the movie down.

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