Hello again to Fanboy Action Theater, our semi-regular look at superhero movies. We’ll be taking a gander at X-Men, the first of the three X-Men movies based upon Marvel’s most popular comic, this time around. As usual, there will probably be spoilers below, so read on at your own peril! (Honestly though, this movie came out 7 years ago. If you haven’t seen it by now, then that’s your own fault.)
The movie begins with a young Magneto (Ian McKellan) as a young boy discovering his powers during the Holocaust. Then, we see a young girl (Rogue) in Mississippi kissing a boy which makes the boy fall into a coma. Finally, we see a Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) promoting a Mutant Registration Act. It seems that more and more mutants are being born with each passing year, and that these mutants are usually endowed with great powers. The public is very frightened of what is called the growing “mutant menace.”
Rogue (Anna Paquin) has run away from home. It seems that the 17 year old mutant’s power is to absorb other people’s power by touching them. However, if she touches them too long, then that person can die. Rogue runs into Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), another mutant with a mysterious past who has the power to heal incredibly fast and has claws. While traveling together, they are attacked by Sabretooth, but are rescued by Storm (Halle Berry) and Cyclops (James Marsden). The two are then taken to Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngsters. Xavier (Patrick Stewart) explains that his school is there to teach young mutants how to handle their powers. In addition, Xavier informs them that there is an upcoming battle. On one side are Professor Xavier and his X-Men, mutants who wish to live in harmony with the rest of mankind, and those of the Brotherhood of Mutants, mutants who believe that mutants and homo sapiens cannot live together and also believe that mutants are superior to man. The Brotherhood of Mutants is led by Gandalf………..uh, I mean Magneto, an extremely powerful mutant who controls magnetism.
The crux of the movie revolves around the plot that Magnet has built a device to transform all the normal people of the world into mutants, thus forcing mankind to accept mutants as equals. However, using the machine will kill Magneto so he kidnaps Rogue to power it. Wolverine reluctantly joins the X-Men to save Rogue as well as hoping that Professor Xavier can help him uncover his past. There is the additional sub-plot of Wolverine being in love with Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who, in turn, is in a relationship with Cyclops. The highlight of the movie is the climatic battle on (and in) the Statue of Liberty between the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants (Magneto, Sabretooth, Toad, and Mystique).
Overall, X-Men is a damn good superhero movie. Its success led to the current crop of comic book movies being made. To start off, the cast is superb. Hugh Jackman is incredible as Wolverine. I can’t believe that the guy who dances on Broadway makes a kick-ass Wolverine. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal is very macho, but with a softer side hidden away. Ian McKellan rocks as Magneto. On an abstract level, you sympathize with Magneto as that he truly believes that he is fighting for his people. I thought Ian McKellan was awesome as Gandalf in the LOTR movies, but his portrayal of Magneto is even better. I honestly can’t think of anybody else who could play the part more perfectly. Patrick Stewart is solid as usual, and even Halle Berry makes Storm likable. The movie Storm is far less whiny than the comic-book Storm.
As for the effects and fight scenes, they were top-notch. A superhero movie really depends upon effects (unless it’s a movie like the Punisher) and the effects in X-Men shine. The various fight scenes are well done with the final battle being extremely good. It’s nice to see some superhero brawling with people getting thrown through walls and the surrounding area getting trashed by all the mayhem. The fight scenes are interspaced throughout the movie just right so the action doesn’t slow down too much.
One thing I don’t discuss too much in superhero movies is some underlying themes. X-Men has a tremendous theme running through the movie, namely that of prejudice. Throughout the movie, the tension between mutants and normal people is continually brought up and explored. What makes it especially thought provoking is that both sides are explored. On one hand, you feel sorry for the mutants. They didn’t ask to be mutants and wish to lives their lives peacefully (well, most of them do). On the other hand, you can understand the fear that normal people have of mutants. Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. In addition, not all mutants are good. How do you cope with somebody who can throw trucks around like matchsticks and fly? It’s not a straight black-and-white issue.
The only problem that I have with the movie is the character of Rogue. While Anna Paquin turns in a good performance, the Rogue in the movie is not the Rogue in the comics. The movie Rogue is very similar to Kitty Pryde in the comics. Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) is a teenage girl who has a close relationship with Wolverine (like a brother/sister or best friends, you sickos!). The comic Rogue is older and more self-assured. I honestly would have been happier if they had stuck with Kitty Pryde in the movie as opposed to Rogue, but I do understand that Rogue has a more dramatic dilemma. Not being able to touch somebody without killing them is a horrible curse, and the movie does portray that very well. While the fanboy in me screams for total comic adherence, I can understand the changes that they made.
Therefore, I give X-Men a …………………………… A-.