Set in the ‘not too distant future’ in a world where mutants exist (mostly in secret) and the majority of the human population demands that they are all registered so their unusual powers can become known and controlled. The X-Men use their powers to fight mutants like Magneto who believe that a war between mutants and humanity is an unavoidable outcome of rising tensions.
Remember when superhero movies were not a dime a dozen?? Well, back in 2000, they were not so carefully thought out, and were basically seen as adaptations of comic books that might bring in an audience but they were never going to make the big money – That was until X-Men hit our screens with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier.
So what is the gist…?
The film opens with a concentration camp and a child being ripped away from his parents, in his horror he reaches out for them and somehow manages to rip a metal gate apart through some unknown means. The child survives the holocaust and grows up to become Magneto (Ian McKellen). He believes that the signing of the new ‘Mutant Registration Act’ being pushed through by anti-mutant politician Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) will ultimately lead to concentration camps and detention facilities the like of which he witnessed in the concentration camps which is something that he will not allow to happen. Magneto’s lifelong friend Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has faith in humanity and believes that ultimately mutual trust is the only way forward for both mutants and humans.
At the same time a young girl named Rogue (Anna Paquin) kisses a boy and somehow manages to drain his life force. She runs away from home and runs into a cage fighter with metal claws named Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). The pair are later attacked by two mutants named Toad (Ray Park) and Sabertooth (Tyler Mane), and then rescued by the timely intervention of Storm (Halle Berry) and Cyclops (James Marsden). They are taken to the X-Mansion where they meet Professor Xavier who offers to help them both discover who they are and what their powers can do.
Meanwhile Magneto kidnaps Kelly and uses a machine to turn him into a mutant. Kelly is able to escape after his new mutant powers start to manifest, but the process proves to be unstable. Logan joins the X-Men in order to prevent Magneto from using the machine on the world leaders gathering in New York.
There had been a few attempts to create a decent superhero movie, The Shadow and The Phantom spring to mind, and so taking X-Men from the comic book to the big screen needed to be done carefully before it would bury the superhero genre forever. Fortunately, whilst it was not the best adaptations it was still enough to capture the imagination of audience and led to the revival of the genre and numerous adaptations of comic book heroes.
X-Men was the first film of the revival of the superhero genre. Bryan Singer directs an all star cast in a solid and action packed film which started the X-Men Franchise. The film will appeal to non-fans and fans alike. Hugh Jackman is perfectly cast as the gruff loner Wolverine, along with Patrick Stewart as Xavier and McKellen as Magneto.
Magneto’s motives stem from his experiences surviving the horror of the holocaust, and his differing opinions about humanity sets him at odds with his friend Charles Xavier. It is refreshing to see a relationship between one of the villains and one of the good guys in which they were friends. Yet both are completely sure of their allegiances meaning that they cannot find a mutually beneficial solution.
X-Men was either going to lead to the revival of the superhero films or it was going to be the death of the genre. Due to Singer’s direction and the perfectly cast actors and actresses and the success of X-Men. The majority of the Marvel Comics have since received big screen adaptations with a mixture of successes (Spider-Man) and failures (Hulk). However, X-Men is a good film that benefits from the fine performances of its cast, and leaves the door open for a sequel.
I liked this film, it was not spectacular but it does enough to create a good story. Not an especially complicated story admittedly…in fact a girl I once met told me that she didn’t understand the story and I was able to summarise it with this sentence “There are good guys and bad guys, the bad guys are trying to turn the world leaders into mutants, the good guys are trying to stop them” so complex the plot is not. But it works. The film is pretty good fun and whilst it is unlikely to win any awards it is worth a watch and helped to pave the way for numerous comic book adaptations in the future.
At the time I remember enjoying the film more than I did during a recent viewing, so perhaps the current trend has tainted my opinion of the film. It is still enjoyable and I am still going to give it a Thumbs Up
7/10 - An excellent cast and a fine director that set the standard for future Marvel Comic film adaptations.