Saturday, June 04, 2011

X-Men

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 5/19/06 w/ Extensive Revisions.


The comic book from Marvel about a group of mutants who become superheroes known as X-Men arrived to the comic book world from the mind of Marvel's comic book main man Stan Lee (who also created Spider-Man) and Jack Kirby in 1963. The X-Men comic book became very popular among its fans with its array of characters in a battle between good and bad mutants over their survival as the good are known as X-Men who believe that humans and mutants can work together while running a school teaching young mutants. Throughout the years, the comic's popularity spawned cartoons and comic book spin-offs where finally in 2000, a movie about the X-Men was finally ready to be made.

To create the first X-Men film, producers and Stan Lee turned to screenwriter David Hayter to write a script with additional help from fan and Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon. For their choice to direct the film, the turned to Bryan Singer who already created some buzz with his debut feature, 1995's The Usual Suspects and 1998's Apt Pupil which starred Ian McKellen. In the first X-Men movie, the plot revolves around a mutant named Magneto and his hatred for humans as he is in conflict with former friend named Charles Xavier. In the middle of this conflict, a young girl named Marie who has runaway from home and found refuge in a mysterious mutant named Logan (aka Wolverine) where they find themselves in the middle of a war. With a cast that included McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Ray Park, Tyler Mane, Rebecca Romijn, Bruce Davison, and Shawn Ashmore. The X-Men movie is a fun, entertaining film that is a bit faithful to the comic book.

Fear emerges with humans over the growth of mutant population as Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) tries to assure the U.S. government that mutants are a threat much to the chagrin of Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison). One mutant who doesn't like humans is Erik Leshnsherr/Magneto (Ian McKellan) who used to be a friend of Grey's mentor Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Meanwhile, a young girl named Marie/Rogue (Anna Paquin) has ran away from home after accidentally kissing a boy that drains his powers where she ends up in Alaska meeting a strange man named Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Logan fights humans for a living as an attempted attack has him taking Marie with her only to be attacked by huge mutant beast named Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) as they're saved by a couple of mutants named Scott Summers/Cyclops (James Marden) and Ororo Munroe/Storm (Halle Berry).

Logan and Marie arrive at Xavier's school for young mutants where Logan meets Jean who is revealed to be telepathic along with the more powerful yet wheelchair-bound Xavier who offers to help Logan recover lost memories. Meanwhile, Magneto makes plans of his own with his frog-like mutant Toad (Ray Park), Sabretooth, and the ever-changing Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) as she abducts Senator Kelly for an experiment. Back at Xavier's school, Logan learns about Marie's powers after a nightmare he has where she leaves as Xavier finds her through his Cerebro machine where Logan tries to convince her to go back to Xavier's as they're attacked by Magneto and his henchman with Scott and Ororo trying to help Logan.

Realizing what Magneto wants all along as well as information from an ill Senator Kelly, Xavier tries to figure out what Magneto is up to only to be poisoned by a trap set up by Mystique. With Jean using Cerebro to find Magneto's henchman, Logan teams up with the X-Men to battle Magneto and his team.

While the film does provide a lot of entertainment in terms of action, humor, and drama, it also carries some flaws. While David Hayter's script, that also featured work from Tom DeSanto and Singer, has problems in weaving out the development of some of the characters while hashing out lines that end up being uninspiring at times. Director Bryan Singer does manage to bring in a film that keeps the audience interested. Despite the flaws in its plot and presentation, Singer does create moments where everything does excite the audiences including the battle between the X-Men and Magneto's Brotherhood where it reveals the reluctance of the X-Men in playing the superhero character. They're not perfect yet they all have cool powers and wanting to do the right thing. While Singer does excel in telling the story, he still couldn't develop some of the characters due to the script's shortcomings. While there's full development from Logan, Magneto, Xavier, Jean Grey, and on a lesser extent, Rogue. The rest though are played as second fiddle where from the standpoint of purists, it's pretty upsetting despite the fact that they have some great moments.

Helping Singer with the visual department is cinematographer Newton Thomas Siegel for bringing some wonderful lighting, especially with the blue look for the film's early scenes in Alaska as well as the some of the battle for the atmosphere of the film's look. Production designer John Myhre and art directors Paul D. Austerberry and Tamara Deverell also do great work in creating the metallic look of the underground part of the school. The costumes by Louise Mingenbach also does great work in creating the costumes including the leather suits for the X-Men team. Visual effects supervisors Michael L. Fink and Theresa Ellis do great work in creating the film's visual effects. Steve Boeddeker also does great work on the sound design while editors Steven Rosenblum, Kevin Stitt, and John Wright do great work in capturing the action and intensity of the film. The film's music also plays to the intensity from the late Michael Kamen with his rich, bombast orchestral score with additional work from Matthew Ferraro and Klaus Badelt.

Finally, there's the film's cast where in many ways, it's just a starting point. While Tyler Mane is pretty cool as Sabretooth and Ray Park is funny as Toad, neither actor really have much to work with in their performances. Even then-newcomer Shawn Ashmore's part as Bobby Drake/Iceman doesn't have much but since it's a minor character, Ashmore got to bring a lot of charm where his role was expanded to greater use in the next feature. Rebecca Romijn brings a lot of interesting qualities and a unique presence to her role as Mystique with her wonderfully, curvy body while proving to be a real menace in an excellent performance. Bruce Davidson is great as Senator Kelly whose conservative, cynical take on mutants takes on a great development when he becomes mutated as he learns about their plight. James Marsden is fine in the role of Scott Summers though the subplot about his relationship with Jean Grey is weak as Marsden acts a bit whiny while his scenes with Hugh Jackman are filled with great tension and humor.

Halle Berry is a fine actress in her own right but whenever she’s not doing cool powers or any kind of fighting, her dramatic approach doesn't seem to work, especially with a very bad African accent. It seems throughout some of those moments, Berry seems uncomfortable in that accent where it really suffers in her performance. Anna Paquin also suffers from working with accent as she employs a Southern accent that doesn't help matters, even in some intense dramatic moments despite some nice chemistry with Hugh Jackman. Though Paquin is a very important character, it's pretty badly written in the way she's emphasized, especially among comic books purists who see Rogue as something much stronger. Famke Janssen is the best female performance of the entire cast as she reveals her own insecurities with the potential of her powers and her reluctance to be a field leader as Janssen has wonderful scenes with Stewart and Jackman.

Ian McKellen gives a great performance in the role of Magneto as a villain whose hatred against humans is understandable while his desire to rid of them is good enough to even kind of root for him. McKellen brings a complexity and superiority to his performance that stands out in every way. Patrick Stewart is also great in another complex, superior role as McKellen's opposite, Professor X. Though Stewart is more understated and optimistic, he brings a calmness and almost mentor-like quality to his role as he becomes the one person who can calm the often aggressive Wolverine. The film's real breakout performance is then-newcomer Hugh Jackman. The Australian actor brings a lot of qualities that makes the Wolverine character cool as hell. Jackman brings a wonderfully brooding yet aggressive approach to the character of Wolverine along with a sensitivity and humor to the role as he has great chemistry with his cast. In many ways, the film really belongs to Hugh Jackman.

X-Men is a very good from Bryan Singer that does create an engaging origin story despite some flaws in the script. While comic books will enjoy seeing these characters come to life including Wolverine. The film also serves as a real breakthrough for then-newcomer Hugh Jackman who makes Wolverine into his own as he's supported by a great supporting cast including Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. In the end, X-Men is a fun, entertaining film from Bryan Singer and company.

Bryan Singer Films: (The Usual Suspects) - (Apt Pupil) - X2: X-Men United - (Superman Returns) - (Valkyrie)


(C) thevoid99 2011

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