a critiQal film review X-Men (2000)

Plot: As the debate about mutant registration heats up, Magneto (McKellen) and his so-called Brotherhood of Mutants hatch a plot to change the world's leaders into mutants. The only ones who can stop this powerful group are the newly formed X-Men, a team of mutants lead by Professor X (Stewart).

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  • ...introduces us to complex, likable heroes (and even a villain!) that will get us coming back to the theaters time and again - and doesn't skimp on the action, either!

With the recent release of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), it seemed to be a good time for us to go back and re-visit the first 2 films in the trilogy, effectively hyping ourselves up just a little bit more for the new film later today. So, would the years since the original film’s release diminish another viewing, or would X-Men be as strong of a film today as it was back in 2000?

Hugh Jackman, as the nearly unkillable Wolverine, really stepped into the limelight for the first time in X-Men. He seems to be perfect for the role, as he combines a wild appearance and thrill-seeker attitude with a gentler side his character usually tries to hide. He makes Wolverine a very personable character, as moviegoers would love to be able to do some of the things he does and get away with them – but lack of his incredible recuperative power prevents it. The viewer experiences his life vicariously through him, and it’s just plain fun at times. At the same time, Wolverine is dealing with a past he can’t remember, and his yearning for answers is ever-apparent. It’s a much more complex character than most superheroes, and Jackman pulls it off with ease.

Jackman isn’t the only one showcasing his ability to act in X-Men, although he is the biggest stand-out. Anna Paquin gives a surprisingly good performance as the young Rogue, and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen both show once again why they are impressive actors. Famke Janssen gives a rather subdued performance as Jean Grey, but her conflicting attractions to newcomer tough guy Wolverine, despite her current relationship with Cyclops (James Marsden), are the true highlights of her performance. She does her best to keep her face unreadable around Wolverine, but the viewer can tell this story will heat up in coming films.

Halle Berry, who seems to be one of the most overrated female actors working these days, doesn’t do much to show why she is so sought after. Her performance is rather stoic, as she mutters one-liners and lets the special effects do most of the work for her. Other secondary heroes and villains, including Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) and Toad (Ray Park), basically are hired muscle for the teams and could easily be replaced by another actor.

X-Men does a good job of setting up the world of these mutants, and lays a solid framework for future films to expand on. With a plot where the villain’s scheme actually makes a kind of sense (how would mutant registration, which is compared to Jewish registration during the Holocaust, ever be condoned if all of the elected officials across the world are mutants), so while his scheme is rather fantastical, the viewer can at least understand why he’s doing what he is.

All too often, superhero films give a very simple basis for why the villains do what they do, but X-Men really caused future films to create a more plausible explanation behind the villains’ actions. Just mental strife or lunacy doesn’t quite cut it anymore.

The special effects are very impressive, and will leave viewers wondering “how’d they do that” again and again throughout the film. From a girl running through a closed door to the instant veins that appear when Rogue touches someone, to the various uses of Magneto’s magnetic field ability, the special effects will amaze and delight.

With a first film like X-Men, it’s no wonder this film series is still going strong as it’s third film hits theaters – and why superhero movies are still coming out as fast as they can be made. With just spectacular special effects, this film would have done well in the box office (just look at Spider-Man (2002)) – but this film doesn’t stop there.

It sets the basis for a whole series of films by introducing us to complex characters that will get us coming back to theaters time and time again.

If you haven’t seen X-Men yet, check it out today. Then you’ll realize why everyone is so excited about X-Men: The Last Stand (2006).

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