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Marvel Movie Reflections, Issue #1: X-Men

Written by David Holland

Remember in the MCU Quarantine series when we went back in time with the Avengers to the distant past of 2012? Well buckle up, because we are going even farther today. That’s right, the year is 2000, Bill Clinton is President, using the internet requires tying up your landline (whatever those are), and Twentieth Century Fox is about to make Hugh Jackman an absolute mountain of cash.

Twenty years later, X-Men's legacy is one of compromise - The Verge
You’re gonna pay me how much? Yeah, I can wear that, sure.

Now that our MCU Quarantine Rewatch series is over, we here at I Rebel are taking a fond look back at other non-MCU Marvel films. This series is going to be slimmer than the previous one, mostly because I’m a teacher and school has started, so I don’t have time to hold your hand through a series of increasingly strained Firefly references. Let’s get down to brass tacks about what worked and what didn’t in “X-Men” (2000).

The X-ceptional:

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. These are classically trained Shakespearean actors and somehow, someone convinced them to play Professor Xavier and Magneto respectively in an era before comic book movies were sure successes. I know that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine becomes the longest running character out of this franchise, but Stewart and McKellan lend it a gravitas, playing a similar role to Alec Guinness in “A New Hope”. Xavier and Magneto are friends turned enemies and the rapport between the actors shines through in their characters.

Sir Ian McKellen: Couple photos with Patrick Stewart were his wife's idea
Somewhere on the internet is an X-Men fanfiction summarized by this picture.

When you rewatch X-Men, it is important to remember that it was constrained by the time period. Instead of an Avengers-style panning shot where we see different mutants using their powers together, things move much more slowly in this movie. But Storm’s lightning, Cyclops’ eye beam, and Magneto’s metal flinging paved the way for future comic book movies to build on X-Men’s success. I particularly like the scene in which Xavier takes control of Sabretooth and Toad and uses them to confront Magneto, who then threatens all the nearby humans with their own guns. It’s a scene that highlights both the mutant powers and the chops of the two strongest actors.

The Un-X-ceptable:

(Is this a stretch for an “X” pun? Yes. Did I use thesaurus.com to find a synonym for “bad” with an “X” sound in it? Also yes.)

It sort of seems like director Bryan Singer might actually be a terrible person, so that’s bad right off the bat. Also, when I watched this movie twenty years ago (oof, just typing that makes my joints hurt), it seemed so unlike the comic book movies I was used to that I remember being mesmerized by it. But then again the comic book movies I was used to were… well…

Batman & Robin (film) - Wikipedia
Bad.

But when I rewatched “X-Men”, I was surprised by how often characters just seem to stand around. We see some quick uses of mutant powers early on, but then we spend a lot of time getting told about the universe – mutations, good mutants, bad mutants, powers, names. At a certain point, you start to commiserate with Logan who mocks all the nicknames. A few of the actors don’t quite seem comfortable in their roles yet. I kept waiting for Cyclops to step up and be the awesome tactical leader that I remembered, and then I realized that I was confusing this movie version of Cyclops with the version from “X-Men: Legends”.

X-Men Legends (PS2) walkthrough part 1 - YouTube
This version of Cyclops also has weird ab muscles that don’t exist on normal humans.

“X-Men” gives us a taste of a universe with potential, but leaves it to future installments to make that universe feel truly worth exploring.

Final verdict:

Intrigued by the concept and X-cited to see the future installments. (Not sorry about the pun)

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