Last week when I was blissfully celebrating the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest teen movies of all time, one of the greatest comic book movies of all time was also celebrating a milestone birthday. On July 14thX-Men, Bryan Singer‘s first step into the murky world of mutants, turned 15 years old. With Days of Future Past coming out last year and X-Men Apocalypse less than a year away, Singer really is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of superhero movies. Now I won’t lie to you, X-Men isn’t the best: it has been overshadowed by Singer’s second outing and, perhaps, by Days of Future Past itself.However, Singer brought together a fucking amazing cast and introduced Professor X’s squad of mutant heroes to the big screen. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but there is no doubt that it is a film that deserves to be recognised.
Before he made X-Men Bryan Singer admits to not being a fan of comic books. Instead he was interested in making the film more human and pick up on the social ramifications of the introduction of mutants to the world. Since it’s release 15 years ago, Singer has continued to stick his toe into the waters of superheroes and, after a brief stop at the abysmal Superman Returns, has come back to take his rightful place at the head of the good ship X.
The strength in Singer’s first film comes mostly from the amazing cast that he brought together to bring to life the people that filled so many of our childhoods. Most notably were veteran actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. They have so much fun with their characters but, in the way they have with every role, never bring anything less than their A game. Without wanting to get too deep in hyperbole, these two were born to play Charles Xavier and Magneto. I love McEvoy and Fassbender as much as the next person but they’ll always be the understudies.
Although admittedly, the pair aren’t exactly given a lot to do. For this is, first and foremost, Wolverine‘s film. Yes, this was the film that turned Hugh Jackman from some Australian actor into a bona fide God in the geek world. Wolverine is angry, funny and fucking hard. Jackman became Wolverine and over the years I’ve become more and more worried that he’s lost his grip on reality. Seriously, have you seen how fucking huge he was in Days of Future Past? Someone needs to stop him.
The list of great actors is seemingly endless with the likes of Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, and Famke Janssen. However, none of them really get much to get their teeth into; Halle Berry in particular gets short shrift as Storm who is relegated to a portable wind machine instead of the badass she is in the comics. So X-Men does have a problem with it’s massive cast and a lot of the characters remain underdeveloped.
Well aside from Paquin’s Rogue who is a central part of the narrative. Magneto, a metal manipulator who resides in the pro-Mutant/anti-Human camp, sets out to create a mutant world by turning all of human kind into the freaks they fear. The narrative is pretty simple and, after a short introduction to Magneto and some other key players, it basically gets straight to the point. There is a bit of guff that could probably have been lost here and there but Singer’s film is actually pretty lean. It’s over far too quickly for my tastes.
You could, as Roget Ebert did back in the day, argue that the conclusion isn’t quite as dramatic as it ought to be. There is something of an anti-climax but it does the job. X-Menset out to introduce us these new characters. Whilst it doesn’t do it as well as it could, it is still a highly enjoyable film. You won’t be disappointed: just eager for more. What he maybe lacks in an explosive finale, Singer more than makes up for with quality. The production design is great, the special effects were impressive at the time, and there were some truly satisfying set-pieces to enjoy. X-Men, as a first step into this new world, was a strong and important film. I defy anyone to watch it and come out truly hating it.