X-Men (2000)

X-Men (2000) – I have been a huge X-Men fan since the early 90s. Hell, I even liked that one-off cartoon from the 80s where Wolverine has an Australian accent for God only knows what reason (everyone knows Wolverine is Canadian!), possibly foreshadowing some of the casting of this movie… Anyway, the reason you didn’t get many Marvel Comics movies before 1998’s Blade (besides a crappy Punisher movie from the late 80s) is because the special effects required to believably portray the superpowers weren’t there yet. So by the time X-Men came out the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school, I had built up some pretty lofty expectations for what an X-Men movie should be. I had always said Patrick Stewart should be Professor X (I was a big Star Trek: The Next Generation fan also) and the producers apparently agreed with me on that one. But Ian McKellen as Magneto? Halle Berry as Storm? The little girl from The Piano as Rogue? And just who the hell was Hugh Jackman?

In the not-too-distant future, people with astounding genetic mutations that basically give them superpowers are a growing minority. Naturally this makes the non-superpowered very nervous and one Senator (Bruce Davison) has introduced legislation that will force them all to register. Two factions oppose this legislation. There’s Professor X and his X-Men: telekinetic Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden) who fires unctrollable optics blasts that need to be controlled with a special visor, and Storm who can control the weather. There’s also Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants: shape-shifting Mystique (Rebecca Romijn, then called Romijn-Stamos), the beast-like Sabertooth (wrestler and future Halloween slasher Tyler Mane), and the toad-like Toad (stunt man Ray Park, most famous for playing Darth Maul). In another plotline, Rogue (Anna Paquin) is a runaway whose touch drains people’s energy. She meets Wolverine (Jackman), a drifter with retractable metal claws who can heal from any injury (such as having metal claws erupt from his hands), who looks after her for a bit until they are attacked by the Brotherhood.

I remember at the time being very excited that the X-Men were getting a movie and that despite my initial casting misgivings the X-Men looked just like I wanted them to look. I remember also that I wanted more (and boy did X2 give it to me). There is enough of a plot to drive the action forward and have some cool mutant-on-mutant battles (and some unsubtle anti-prejudice preaching) but mostly this movie is about introducing the characters. Just over a decade later X-Men: First Class would also have to reintroduce its cast of characters but accomplished it with substantially more style. Even though it suffers a bit from exposition overload, the world-building that director Bryan Singer accomplishes is laudable. I think it’s telling that the Singer-directed X-Men and X2 and the Singer-produced First Class are the good installments of the series and that that the Singer-free X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine are by far the series’ weak links. Well he couldn’t have known at the time that the series would go off the rails during his departure. In the meantime, X-Men laid the foundation for something awesome. Well-done, sir.

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