I know it’s been a while but hopefully you’ve recovered from the emotional bashing that was Avengers: Infinity War? It’s okay if you haven’t as I think many of us will be feeling the effects for months if not years, at least up until the release of Avengers 4 anyway! Until then, let’s do something to take our minds off more impending doom. Our journey through the MCU Challenge has been one of the most enjoyable things we’ve done on this site, getting the chance to look back in detail at all the previous films and discuss them with so many awesome people who had a wide range of opinions was amazing! It’s everything we wanted, something to get people talking, sharing their thoughts and in some cases making some new friends in the process! We at Jack and the Geekstalk want to keep that feeling going to we have jumped into a new adventure!
A little while back we put out a poll in Twitter to ask what film franchise we should tackle next and the X-Men universe came out on top. So here, we take the first step on the ‘X-Men Xpedition‘ (see what I did there?) by re-watching and looking back at the first film in the X-Men Cinematic Universe or XCU (is that a thing? It is now!). For your reading pleasure we give you, Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000).
So what’s the plot?
Mutants. The world is filled with people who have weird, wonderful and worrying abilities. Senator Kelly is garnering support for a Mutant Registration Bill, people are scared, Mutants and Humans alike. A young girl named Marie, later going by the name Rogue, leaves home after an ‘incident’ and stows away on a truck belonging to a mysterious, angry man called Logan. After witnessing him brandishing some metal claws which extend from his hands, Rogue and Logan are rescued from another strange and hairy man by members of the X-Men, a team of Mutants intent on protecting people, led by Professor Charles Xavier. Logan doesn’t take well to these newcomers and suspects everyone.
An old friend of Xavier’s, Erik Lensher aka Magneto, leads a small band known as the Brotherhood of Mutants, their mission is to raise Mutants above normal humans by any means necessary. After much confusion, Magneto’s plan is revealed. He intends to use Rogue’s power absorbing abilities in conjunction with a specially designed machine to imbue other people with the mutant gene, making everyone the same. Unbeknown to him, this machine only temporarily works. Anyone affected by it dies shortly after. The X-Men, send a team comprising of Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey and Wolverine, to stop the Brotherhood. A battle ensues and ultimately the X-Men are victorious, but not without cost. Rogue and Wolverine nearly die, one of the Brotherhood escapes and Magneto is imprisoned, but war is coming.
I like this film quite a lot. However, it has not aged well. We are now 18 years since It’s release and some of the effects, wire work, dialogue is laughable, but it’s still fun. Now in terms of the actual plot, I remember going into this with my only knowledge of X-Men being that of the 90s animated TV show which to this day I still hold as one of the greatest superhero TV shows of all time. The discrimination of mutants is translated well to live-action and I think the ‘public’ voice is represented well through the character of Senator Kelly. We have all seen a politician somewhere in the world spouting some campaign message which marginalises a certain group of people just for their own political gain. Senator Kelly is no different. You feel the public fear throughout the film but also how frightened some of the mutants are for their own safety.
The bar fight, Storm’s honest questioning of the Senator, Rogue’s mother’s reaction to the kiss incident all represent the different ways people feel about mutants in general.
My favourite thing about the film is the clear distinction between the X-Men and Brotherhood’s way of dealing with mutant segregation. Xavier’s X-Men will do anything they can to protect mutant and Human alike whilst he Brotherhood want to show their dominance as Homo-Superior. They have a similar agenda but go about it in very different ways. The first time we see Jean Grey she is trying to convince a room full of politicians they Mutants can be trusted.
In contrast to this, the Brotherhoods plan is to forcefully transform all other people into mutants so that everyone is the same. You understand why Magneto wants to carry out his plan, especially if you consider the opening scene of the film set during WWII showing a young Erik discovering his magnetic powers whilst being ripped from his parents arms in a Nazi concentration camp. The parallels between the plight of mutant-kind and so many other persecuted groups throughout history are obvious.
Magneto doesn’t necessarily want payback, he wants an end to discrimination, just like Xavier and his X-Men. Speaking of that opening scene, I still to this day think it is one of the hardest hitting and most poignant scenes in the entire franchise. Brilliantly shot and acted it’s effect is only slightly watered down by having been recreated for X-Men: First Class.
All this seriousness aside, it’s still a superhero film so there is plenty of action! As one of the first family friendly superhero films the action isn’t particularly high octane but we do get some exciting scenes such as the train station, after Toad forces Scott into blowing a hole in the roof, Professor X takes control of him and Sabretooth to try and convince Magneto to let Rogue go. Turning the weapons of the police against them using his magnetism is an awesome visual treat, hinting at the scale of his power!
Logan and Mystique’s fight inside the Statue of Liberty is brilliant. Quite a long sequence showing off both characters’ fighting ability, Logan’s tracking skills and Mystique’s shape-shifting.
Other fights in this portion of the film are not as good though, case in point: Storm vs Toad. Not much of a fight but resulting in one of the stupidest lines in the entire saga! “Do you know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same things that happens to everything else!” There is one shot in the film which is cool but when you think about it makes no sense! Behold! The acrobatic Wolverine!
The film displays the various mutant powers well, considering some had never been seen before. translating the wild and wacky characters from comic to live action can be challenging but Bryan Singer was able to make them accurate and realistic at the same time. Wolverine’s healing factor, Rogue’s power absorption and Mystique’s shape-shifting all look like they could actually be real! And the way Professor X’s psychic abilities are shown is really cool. The film is often criticised for the muted colour tones, particularly in relation to the costumes (predominantly black leather) but I think of all the characters were in comic accurate outfits straight away the film would have been laughed out of cinemas!
Something that has become a staple of most superhero films today is the comedy. The seriousness of the story contrasts nicely with some jokes, wise cracking and sarcastic comments. Logan is usually responsible for these but Scott gets a few in as well. My favourite comedic line? “What do they call you? Wheels?” Logan and Scott’s verbal sparring is great, I’m just sad that there’s not more of it!
Hugh Jackman was born to play Wolverine. The hair might be a bit suspect throughout the series but he fulfils the role perfectly. The right balance of gruff no nonsense isolation with heartfelt heroism comes so naturally to Jackman. Wolverine’s rage is on display more on the later films but Jackman carries the character with an air of mystery and barely contained anger.
You know very little about the character, barely more than he knows himself and it draws you in, makes you want more. Logan starts the film as someone out for himself but by the end he is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. It’s his honourable core that Professor X sees in him and we see it too as the film progresses. I’m going to restrain myself from saying too much as Wolverine gets developed much more in other films and I’ll talk about it then. For now let’s just say, Wolverine is the mutant we all wanted to be!
Here’s where we get to the one character I don’t like. Marie aka Rogue, she is essentially the core character to the story and is the least engaging. Whether it’s a lack of acting ability, the deep southern accent or her incredibly distracting eyebrows, I detest her being on screen other than when she is interacting with Logan.
Is it bad that a small grin crosses my face when she gets stabbed in the chest? I think my main problem is that the character shares very little with her comic counterpart. The accent and her absorption ability aside, this could be an entirely different character. Where’s the super strength? The flight? The invulnerability? I was hoping she would get some of these powers through successive films but alas!
Patrick Stewart is Professor Charles Xavier, end of. He looks the part and acts effortlessly. His confidence, intellect and endless pursuit of hope is there for all to see and his immense power is so strong that the film has to take him off the field in the second act!
He almost has an air of gentle nobility mixed with tonnes of humility, this makes him an incredibly likeable and engaging character. His complex relationship with Eric is one of the highlights of the franchise and it’s no wonder that Stewart and Ian Mckellan are very close friends off set!
Speaking of Eric, McKellan is the perfect contrast to Stewart’s humility. You could argue that this film is as much about Rogue as it is Eric. The film opens with the discovery of his powers, it’s his philosophy which is the driving force behind the events of the film and we even get a clear developmental arc throughout, even though there’s no redemption!!
Eric wants Homo-Superior to claim their rightful place and eliminate any threats to them whilst Charles wants everyone to live in harmony. Eric has so many quotable lines in the film, purely because of the way that McKellan delivers them but one of my favourites has to be “oh yes! A bolt of lightning into a huge copper conductor. I thought you lived at a school!” I don’t want to gush too much more so I’ll just leave you with the last scene of the film. This is Stewart and McKellan at their best!
I guess I should probably talk about the other mutants in the film! Lets rate them instead!
Jean Grey: Professor X wannabe played by Famke Jansen with less emotional depth than a pot of the Profs head polish.
Storm: Halle Berry giving her best superhero performance but the indeterminate accent, wig game and constant confused face make her unlovable.
Cyclops: A character that should be respected as a formidable field leader is reduced to a jealous wet fish who has performance issues. Not James Marsden’s fault though, hide an actors eyes and they are neutered somewhat!
Mystique: One of the most interesting and useful powers but a lack of dialogue and being forced to wear nothing but blue scales for the entire film seems a bit exploitative.
Sabretooth: Looking like a cross between the male model Fabio and a bear, Tyler Mane is little more than a grunting bouncer. More Snaggletooth than Sabretooth.
Toad: If Darth Maul was on Meth. Ray Park brings a likeable quality to what is essentially a disgusting character who is able to initially take down two immensely powerful X-Men!
You’ve heard enough from me for now so For the first time in this adventure, it’s time to hear from the people of Twitter and see what they thought of the film!
Kale – @Hal11K
Not the X-Men. The actors did a good job, but this is one property I wouldn’t mind seeing rebooted ASAP.
Retro Ben – @RETRO_ben_YT
Funny costumes but a forerunner for comic movies!
Logan Slavin – @DiamondSpiderP
Wolverine was great! Haven’t seen it in a while but I remember there were some good jokes!
ronnie cassol – @ronniehowlett3
1 of the best superhero movies ever. Bryan Singer nailed it. Jackman is the perfect Wolverine.
Greg and the Movies – @gregandmovies
A decent entry into the X-Men, but as a fan of the property, I find this movie a bit boring. I know all these characters and didn’t need to be introduced to them. However, it is a good introduction to people who weren’t familiar with the X-Men.
Tanner Slavin – @Tanner_Slavin
Wolverine was good. Haven’t seen this in a while. Not fresh in my head.
Also 2 things.
- I did mean for that to be a Haiku
- Once we get to Logan I’ll have a lot more to say
@TheKevcast – @kevinpurefokus
While not in my top 10 I still find it to be one of the best X-Men movies ever and I have the X-Men logo tattooed on me!
Lilian Sue – @LSue23
The black leather might not hold up as well today but I always appreciated the covert stealthiness. Love the bond between Logan & rogue, don’t know why they axed it in later films and I love the final chess game between Sir Patrick & Sir Ian. Both classy badasses.
Josh Coutts of Viva Ska Radio – @Goodshitent
Still good for what it is. 1st time I got excited just to see these characters on the screen! Yes it’s not perfect but still awesome!
Robert – @thatRobster
You can’t dislike anything that introduced us to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine! The film is a little shaky in places but it was a good start to the X-Men movie universe.
Mauricio RMC – @enrealidadnouso
The X-Men films are a little complicated because they are very associated with a personal story that I had with a girl. She was Jean and I was Logan. The problem is that Scott was waling around. Putting me a little more seriously that movie was correct. It was more action sci-fi than a “superhero movie”. The best of those characters was going to come with the next movie.
Trash Panda – @geekcartel
They looked uncomfortable and tight in person (picture of suit)
I’m a dork.
contributing DM at Vanity Fair – @StevenSimmons
I think this film is both important and terrible at the same time. So many awful character adaptations but the story itself is good. Still HATE those leather uniforms they clung onto for so long. Still, it opened the door. Going back to this film I found it to be poorly paced. I also think the action is rather tame, even for films of that era, and while I love Ian McKellen as an actor I think he is rather frail looking and not very intimidating Magneto. Stewart as Professor X is fantastic. Jackman is OK as Logan. All other casting is “meh” to lame.
Faye – @ABitFilmMadFaye
For me, it tells the story brilliantly of the characters, there are great acting on, great chemistry between the case and the actuion is great. I especially like it when they worked together to free Rogue.
Markus – @TheMarckoguy
Good start for the franchise. Solid action, good acting, good plot and characters. Gave us Hughbert W Jackman.
Selene Kallan – @SeleneKWriter
Oh yes, the beginning of my WolveStorm ship. Never liked Jean Grey. The movie was quite good. Still enjoyable after 18 years. Watched it a few weeks ago again.
Comix Write Keith – @TheRealityComix
X-Men was ballsy to open with a scene taking place in a WWII concentration camp. And it’s a hard scene to watch. Can’t think of a single superhero movie that’s done anything that daring since. The practical FX were terrible. Anyone who flew or got punched LOOKED like they were on wires. I recall thinking at the time “When Xena has better stunts that X-Mena, something’s gone wrong” But those complaining about the action missed the point. The film is a drama with action elements. Not an action movie with drama elements. That point is proven in the 1st scene.
Shifu – @SpiderTrades
Waited 2 years to see this in the theatre, such anticipation! Best: Mystique, Xavier, Magneto, Wolverine (popping those claws to punctuate trailer!) Blackbird under school. Worst: Sabretooth, Storm, Toad. led the way for the MCU. 4/5.
Color Commentary – @Colorcomm3
- Just like with every X-Men movie, they did a great job with the casting of ProfessorX, Wolverine and Magneto, but the other characters always suffer at their expense.
- Jean Grey, Storm and Cyclops all came across really weak, and that definitely feels strange seeing as how if the movies are about the X-Men, they’re the ones that should be the main characters. Wolverine was only finding out about the team.
- Cyclops’s personality was changes to cow-tow to Wolverine. Instead of being the strong decisive leader of the X-Men, who is the star of many of their comics, he came off as the nerdy jealous boyfriend of Jean Grey.
- Storm received the worst treatment. Instead of being the confident and extremely powerful weather mutant that she is, she came off as somebody that ran at the first sign of something unexpected and in general just did not have a very commanding presence.
- Halle Berry as much as I love her and as beautiful as she is was very poor casting for the role of Storm.
- Overall the movie was a mediocre attempt at kick-starting the superhero genre after Marvel dipped its toes in it with Blade. It is however enough to light the spark which led to X2 which was a really good movie and then eventually to the great comic book movies that we have now.
James Carroll – @IAmJACsMusings
It’s been a long time since I’ve watched this original X-offering and it’s safe to say it’s a little creaky when compared to the current age of MCU. There is lots to like: the morphing Mystique, the Magneto/Xavier dynamic, Michael Kamen’s theme, Wolverine’s “You’re a dick” line of dialogue. These are attributes to abide: the black biker costumes, the Noughties wire work fight scenes, Cyclops’ cardboard cut-out characterisation, the unconvincing Jean-Scott chemistry. These are details to destain: Storm’s wig, the buffoonish Brotherhood members Toad and Sabretooth, Storm’s dud line “Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else”.
What is undoubtedly first class is Hugh Jackman’s performance as Wolverine who arrives on-screen fully formed, ready to snikt his claws or drop a killer putdown. It’s astonishing really, considering he was an in-production replacement for the previously cast Dougray Scott.
Well that’s it! Our new journey has kicked off and personally it’s been a blast from the past! It’s been ages since I last watched X-Men and while it is far from a perfect film and some parts have not aged well, it is ‘the’ film that paved the way for superhero ensemble films such as the Avengers. Love it or hate it you do have to admit that without X-Men the superhero film world we have now would be wildly different! I can’t wait for the next film, #2 in the X-Men Xpedition is X-Men 2 aka X2, widely considered to be one of the best in the series, let’s see if it holds up! Until next time!