It’s strange to go all the way back to the very beginning of the X-Men franchise when so much has happened since. It is worth going back to see how much has changed, evolved and improved since the 2000 movie that arguably started the superhero “Movie Golden Age” we are going through now.
My last review focused mostly on the great casting and poor villains and how under-whelming the whole experience seemed after we have seen so many, amazing superhero movies since. What is apparent in X-Men though is the template for the more successful superhero movies.
First of all, it takes itself seriously. This always had to be the case after the disaster of Batman and Robin. It also had to be the case because of the source material. This is a movie about a man with extendable claws, a man who fires lasers from his eyes and a villain who’s power seems to be a huge tongue! Play this for laughs and you kill the series from the beginning. Play it as a serious, straight action movie; you get the success that followed.
You can also see the beginning of the stand-out stars of the series. Patrick Stewart’s Professor X and Ian McKellen’s Magneto were always going to command the movie and they are perfectly cast. The biggest success has of course been Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and it is no surprise that he has played the character a whopping 7 times!
The bigger surprise is how integral to the future films Mystique would become. This is the first issue with a franchise as big and as long as X-Men. Mystique and a past relationship with Professor X is a key part of both First Class and Days of Future Past but as the events of this movie is supposed to be after those two, it is jarring that she is so under-played and feels like a bit-part player. (The same could also be said Sabretooth compared to the Liev Schreiber version from Wolverine’s Origin movie). This is of course the biggest issue with a vast, multi-film franchise and something that Marvel will have to start thinking about with their universe too.
Mystique is an example of how good the effects are though. Her changing skin, Cyclops lasers and Wolverine’s claws are all imagined brilliantly considering this movie is 14 years old. It still holds up as a credible superhero movie but it does feel very simplistic.
Superhero films have evolved. Nolan’s trilogy has demonstrated that superhero movies can be epic. Avengers has shown that a multi-cast movie can be successful and other movies in the genre have moved away from the simplistic, good guys vs bad guys, three act, straight-forward formula. This is where going back to a movie like X-Men can demonstrate how much we’ve moved on but also shows the weaknesses and how ordinary this movie is.
Overall, X-Men deserves the credit (or blame) as the movie that started it all. It also demonstrates the successful template that other superhero movies will steal, adapt and improve on. This means that X-Men is a credible, if somewhat ordinary superhero movie that suffers from its age. It also suffers from being slighty odd considering how much has changed in the series now.
Rating – 3
1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)