Reviewed by John Hussey
With the recent release of Logan, the tenth instalment within the X-Men film franchise (and the final depiction of Hugh Jackman‘s iconic Wolverine), it seems fitting that I should go back to the very beginning. So without further ado, let us begin my X-Men retrospective.
Back in 2000 it was certainly a dark time for superhero fans because the film industry had seen a plummet, resulting in the superhero genre becoming a massive joke after repetitive crappy interpretations (with Batman and Robin being the main culprit). But things were slowly beginning to turn around as Marvel started to creep in (though it technically wasn’t Marvel Studios directly due to the fact they had – at the time – sold the distribution rights to a lot of their franchises due to financial difficulties) and began to show the world that the superhero genre wasn’t quite dead, and that it could still make a massive impact.
X-Men started to sway people to want to watch a good superhero tale again, accompanied with the thought they might actually start seeing a deep narrative, filled with good action, and characters, rather than a massive joke. Blade had already established that the genre could be packaged as something different through taking it to a more adult based audience. X-Men tried to balance things out by being serious, and adult-themed, whilst also giving the kids something to enjoy.
With a lot of comic-book stories, and characters, I am a little hazy. Though at least with the X-Men franchise I was more aquatinted with it before seeing this film adaption. Most fans who hadn’t read the comics would’ve grown-up understanding the X-Men via the 1990s cartoon series, X-Men: The Animated Series. For some reason or another I simply couldn’t get into this version of the franchise, and instead took a liking to the next slated animated series, X-Men: Evolution. For me personally this was the definitive interpretation of the characters and the story, and so I greatly judged, and compared, X-Men to this cartoon in order to judge it.
Sadly, X-Men wasn’t a great adaption of its source material (a problem that a lot of superhero films shared at the time). They were more bothered with looking flashy, or cool, rather than trying to understand the source material and adapt it faithfully. Luckily we now have Marvel Studios to fall back on in order to enjoy a great superhero flick, but back then we weren’t so lucky. Sometimes I think we were blind to the fact that a lot of the superhero films we got at the time we’re actually really bad, but having not seen a great superhero film it was hard to judge because we didn’t know any better.
As stated above, I judged this film based on my liking of X-Men: Evolution, which is clearly unfair because it’s a different product and would surely be different. Having said that it would be exactly the same as if I was comparing the film to the original comic-books. At the end of the day I’m simply looking for my favourite characters to be represented properly, allowing me to feel the same satisfaction as I got from watching the cartoon. And I simply don’t get that from this film.
Sure X-Men is good, but that’s about as far as my positivity goes. It doesn’t really try to be anything special, and that’s where it falls flat fairly quickly. It lacks any real scope and in many ways feels cheaply put together, like it was some kind of afterthought, or 20th Century Fox’s desperate attempts to look hip by pushing out an X-Men movie just because they now own the rights to the franchise. It’s all fine and dandy having this power but at least use it wisely. Don’t just stand there looking like a complete and utter arse. Fucking do something with the power you’ve been bestowed with.
I will admit that X-Men is really good at developing the theme of indifference, and tolerance. The main point of this film is the demonstration of mass-fear created by the media. The government officials of America are incredibly quick to judge the Mutant world by treating them as a threat to their society, almost as if they were a terrorist group, or, better still, weapons of mass-destruction. It is the simple notion of being frightened of the thing that you don’t understand.
This clever plot-thread introduces us to opposing sides Professor Charles Xavier (i.e. Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (i.e. Magneto). It’s the very straightforward conflict of one side believing there is hope for a better tomorrow, whilst the other side is determined to make their rival see that their hopes are simply a delusion. But to give Magneto credit he does have many legitimate reasons as to why he should hate humanity. After all, it is clearly depicted in the opening scene that Magneto was a tragic survivor of the German holocaust, forced apart from his parents as they were sent to their deaths.
If X-Men: First Class is anything to go by then Magneto was then consecutively tortured so that his abilities could be harnessed. His character then becomes more tragic, and ultimately you can reason with his motives (though his means can still be considered rather harsh, and near enough psychotic). In Professor X’s case we have little, to no reason, to side with him other than the bullshit excuse of “he’s the good guy”. He goes on about how Mutants and humanity can live together in peace and yet we are given no reason to believe this, having witnessed most of the film depicting humanities injustice against Mutants due to mass paranoia.
Maybe if we were given a flashback that depicted a human being kind to him in a moment of need then we could understand his reasoning a lot better, and like Magneto, have a connection with his motives. Instead the argument feels one sided, but is quickly broken down completely when their characters become generic. Professor X quickly becomes the wise old man that knows all, whilst Magneto becomes the clear villain of the piece without any real depth. Sure, his motives of believing he will become the saviour of their kind by eliminating mankind’s threat are still there but lack any real purpose as Magneto becomes a one dimensional villain.
We now come to my massive gripe with X-Men. The casting is nearly all wrong. Barely any of the actors onscreen either resemble, or act like, their comic-book counterparts. I mean I really love Sir Ian McKellen, I think he’s a terrific actor, but I really don’t think he was the right pick for Magneto. As I’ve said before I’m judging this film based on X-Men: Evolution and the Magneto within that series was awesome because of his depth and his fearsome presence. He always appeared threatening, whether it be his ominous appearance early on in the show, or because when he did appear properly to face the X-Men he was a fierce challenge (ultimately testing them in more ways than one).
Here he lacks all of that. He never once feels threatening and is just an excuse to make McKellen look good (which doesn’t take much). I feel that Magneto was made too old, thus making the conflicts feel stale, and rather dull and slow. You couldn’t have any big, outrageous Mutant battles because, let’s face it, McKellen wasn’t exactly a spring-chicken back then either. I feel McKellen really limited the character’s ability to shine and be something amazing. I’m not saying McKellen wasn’t good in the role but sometimes even the greatest of actors just aren’t right for certain roles, and sadly this was McKellen’s turn.
To add further controversy to this review I’ve never actually been fully convinced by Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine. I can already hear the angry mob banging at my door with pitch-forks and fire, but at least hear me out before you hand out the noose. It’s simply, like with McKellen, he doesn’t look the part. Yes maybe they do his hair up, give him a Wolverine-like beard, but that’s about it. Yeah he has that cocky mannerism but that’s all he is throughout the film. He’s simply a series of “Look at me, I’m a cocky-shit. Look at me, I look good. Hey, I’m Wolverine. Oh by the way, 99% of my lines will either be me throwing out a witty remark or me acting like I don’t give a shit.”
I think the only part of the film that Jackman nails is his introductory scenes. I really love how we are introduced to Logan, in which he’s a desperate traveller who is clueless about his existence due to having no memory of his past or how he obtained his Adamantium skeleton, resulting to exploiting his abilities in a cage fight to earn himself money. He truly looks beaten down and pathetic, and I guess this sets-up the perfect storyline of him building himself back up by finding a greater calling. But sadly it never really happens (at least it’s not done interestingly).
I will also say that his relationship with Rogue is a neat addition to the film and grants Logan a place to ground himself, allowing him to discard the wild beast and find himself. Though at first he doesn’t want to know her he quickly feels a great responsibility for her and wishes to look out for her wherever he can. It’s a massive shame that Rogue isn’t portrayed very well. She’s one of the greatest characters within the franchise and she’s used so sparingly in X-Men, to the point where it’s quite insulting.
She’s literally no better than a damsel and has little, to no, independence and relies mostly on Logan to rescue her sorry-arse. I suppose this film should’ve been an early warning sign as to the trajectory of superhero films which weren’t under the banner of Marvel Studios. They are made to make cheap bucks because the studios in question know that if they slap a superhero promotional card on the poster then nerdy fan-boys will come in their drones, before quickly realising that they have once again been fobbed off.
It’s that saddening niggle in the back of our minds that if we wish really, really hard that maybe non-Marvel Studios films can actually get it right. Unfortunately it is a delusional dream that will never come to fruition. Unless your Deadpool of course. I do like that the film briefly touches upon the tragedy of Rogue never being able to touch anyone but it quickly stops being a point of development and rather a point of plot convenience. Oh, I can use my ability to steal Logan’s healing capabilities whenever he accidentally stabs me or I get myself caught by Magneto and get injured.
Then of course it becomes the key ingredient to Magneto’s master-plan, in which he intends to use his own abilities (which can now miraculously manipulate the genetic structure) into Rogue so she can transform humanity into Mutants. So basically Magneto stops being a sentimental, and broken, character that wants to see mankind pay for their prejudice into a complete mad-man who is one step away from wanting world-domination.
It was far more interesting as a concept when he turned Senator Robert Kelly into a Mutant in an attempt to make a point, making him see things from the other perspective and lose his self-righteousness. But by the end it’s a stupid idea in order to give the third act a little bit more oomph (because let’s face it, it was dull as fuck).
The character misinterpretation continues further by the lack of fucking characters. I don’t know whether this was because it was a low budgeted film or not, or simply to have both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants have equal members. A lot of the characters onscreen are an assemble of the obvious choice but even then it just makes the film feel really small. The X-Men franchise is riddled with many iconic characters and X-Men decides to limit its focus by selecting a handful of characters and doing absolutely fucking nothing with them.
It honestly felt like this film was too busy having a wank over its own self congratulatory, as if to say, “Look at us, we brought to the greasy nerds the first ever X-Men movie. Don’t our nobs look big right now?” Unfortunately the only nob that became noticeable was the one on your fucking head you twat! Yes X-Men certainly did good at bringing certain elements from the comics to life, but that’s hardly an achievement, nor does it qualify a good film (let alone a film). Bryan Singer seemed too busy with bringing the panels to life instead of actually reading the fucking things and realising what made them good panels in the first place. It wasn’t because they looked eye-pleasing, it was because they had depth and meaning you tool!
Honestly, most of the characters in this film are merely cardboard cut-outs of the iconic characters they were based off. I think sometimes you literally have to look at the small-print with these movies and realise when it says “Based off” it literally means the filmmakers took the title and then did that as they damn well pleased, meaning the title, and the character’s names, is where the comparison sadly ends. The rest of it is simply a massive fucking train-wreck trying desperately to ride the wave of popularity of the source material, whilst failing miserably to realise what actually made the source material fucking popular in the first place.
I suppose it’s simply cringe-worthy to know they barely got anything right with this film and didn’t attempt to make it seem interesting. One of my favourite aspects of X-Men: Evolution was the rivalry between Logan and Sabretooth, which added a neat extra layer to the relentless awesomeness throughout the show. Here, it’s meaningless. They have no rivalry, they don’t know each other, and each fight is rather dull and pathetic. And why the fuck is Toad such a big player in this film? It literally leaves me puzzled every time I watch him kick Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm’s arse, which ultimately makes them all look like a bunch of pansies.
And don’t get me started on the fucking pissing competition between Logan and Cyclops! All I will say is if the filmmakers thought they were being clever by adding in humour through two characters constantly bouncing insults and dominance back and fourth they were fucking wrong and deserve to be shot for being fucking imbeciles. And the less said about the forced relationship between Logan and Jean the better.
Also why are the costumes so fucking bland? It’s almost painful to observe, which makes this film (and its respective characters) feel less impressive. Literally there’s no colour schemes, no differentiation, nothing. They have no individual status and all look like complete and utter nobs in their cheaply put-together get-up which completely screams out “We couldn’t give a shit!”
You’re probably wondering why I haven’t actually touched upon this film’s narrative all that much through this “so-called” review and that’s because there’s bugger-all to talk about and instead I’m simply left with throwing shit at it until my terrible memories go away. To be fair, it’s not all that bad but it’s certainly not good either. It’s more of a pop-corn flick than anything but that makes things more insulting when you’re supposed to be watching X-Men, developing a very bland superhero formula that would trend for years to come, until Marvel Studio swung in like a majestic hero and slapped 20th Century Fox and Sony in the face with their enormous golden cock and told them where to shove their shit ideas.
I think the only thing I can say was done right was the casting of Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor X (because let’s face it, who else was going to play him?) It’s almost perfect casting, which is a shame because his talents are clearly wasted on this massive turd which has no real depth or clue. It’s a massive shame that the X-Men aren’t apart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because then they might actually be good again, instead of being grinded slowly, and painfully, until the last of their goodness is drained dry, leaving behind a discarded shell of a once great franchise.
X-Men is a wasted opportunity if I’d ever seen one, which is a massive shame. I went into this film expecting so much and each time I’m left completely unsatisfied because of all the reasons I’ve tried to explain above. Yes Mystique was good (added greatly by her sexiness), Stewart tried his best, and Jackman was at least attempting to bring Wolverine to the big screen. By the writing, the directing, and the amateur editing, accompanied with the cheesy special effects and fight chorography, just made this film look insultingly bad. I really don’t know who thought this film was a good idea but they certainly need to dig a hole, jump into, and then bury the earth back on top of them.