I have (unwittingly) come full circle. In just two reviews no less. Starting with the very latest Marvel foray, and then somehow winding up back at the very beginning? I think all my ranting about the current state of the industry when writing my first 'proper' film review/analysis for Avengers: Age of Ultron made going back to a time before all of this was commonplace an interesting proposition. I reviewed the new Avengers not for any reason other than I had recently seen it at cinema's and as the end credit's rolled (after the lackluster post-credits scene of course) I had a lot of issue's on my mind regarding the entire production. I had a lot to say, therefore it was prime subject matter for my first review and it basically wrote itself. For my second review, not having seen anything new recently, I decided to take a look at my shelf of blu ray's in my bedroom. At first I decided on the entire Spider-Man series. Quickly realising how truly gargantuan this task would be, given how much I had to say about each film in the franchise. I decided a better option would be possibly splitting it into two reviews, Sam Raimi series, then Mark Web series. It made sense, I know the character back to front. I've been (actively) reading Spider-Man for the past 25 years. Since i was five years old. He has always been my favorite superhero. In all those years since I first picked up a comic my mind has not changed one single bit. The character will always hold a special place in my heart. His stories have always kept me enthralled (especially the ultimate run) and problem's aside, I've loved every single film release so far (though some a lot more than others) but being such a fan makes the film's issues all the more glaring. I may love the films but they are definitely not faultless. In typical fanboy fashion I nitpick over everything. Basically making it perfect fodder for 'analysis'. Thus I prepared to sit down and begin picking apart Raimi's classic trilogy, but when i begun writing, it hit me. I kept referring to the X-Men franchise when discussing the development of Spidey's debut film. How they were the first Marvel superhero to be given the big screen treatment. How it's success determined Spider-Man's celluloid fate. So I changed my mind. I'll save Spidey for another day. In term's of my interest level, the super team have always only ever been second to Spider-Man anyway. With literally hundred's of X-issues in my comic collection I have a pretty extensive knowledge of the famous mutant super team, and I know the film's pretty darn well too. So as with my (proposed) Spider-Man review, I decided to split it, the first review would put a focus on the first four films in the franchise (X-Men, X2, X3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine) followed up with a second review discussing the next three films ("X-Men: First Class","The Wolverine" and finally "X-Men: Days of Future Past) again thing's didn't go to plan. When writing my article, i noticed I had already written so much and wasn't even halfway finished discussing the first entry in the series, if I was to continue with my plan of action, I would wind up with an extensive novel sized essay on the franchise, so instead I decided to concentrate all my efforts on the first films groundbreaking debut (I believe a wise choice on my behalf) not just in the 'usual' film review format, concentrating solely on the film. I also wanted to take a look at the comic book juggernaut (pun definitely intended) that inspired this adaptation. It's development. The massive Hollywood trend it started, and the continuing franchise legacy. Plus throwing in some of my own personal experience's growing up a Marvel fanboy in the 90s. So I hope you enjoy the article, and any feedback is much appreciated.
Funnily enough, while writing this i begun thinking of all the X-Men film releases that followed and came to the conclusion I could probably write just as much for each single release as I did for the first film, so perhaps I will, maybe X-Men 2 should be next on the agenda... of course after I finish up the inevitable Spider-Man review
Ok, so this was a pretty landmark release for us comic fans. While by today's current film standards, the first entry in the X-Men film franchise may be starting to look a little long in the tooth, there is no denying it's impact. Not only on the comic industry, but 'film' making in general. As a kid i used to dream of all my favorite comic heroes being brought to life on the big screen but in all honesty it rarely happened. Sure DC had some luck with Hollywood releases, but i was never a DC kid (asides from the brilliant 90s Batman cartoon. Of course i changed my ways when i got a little older and now dig on a lot of DC. Though growing up it was Marvel! Marvel! Marvel! Besides even DC's Batman and Superman film franchises were all but dead as the 90s were coming to a close, due to all the terrible film sequel releases. The comic landscape was a very different place back then, comic books were considered niche and despite decades of staying power, seemed poised for extinction. Today, even some of Marvel's most obscure creations have become 'household' name's due to the impact of hit Hollywood films (rocket raccoon anyone?) but back then Marvel's two biggest money maker's, the one's keeping them afloat in a time of financial crisis were undeniably Spider-man and the X-Men, sure Captain America, Iron Man and the rest of the Avenger's have always been important character's for Marvel, but unlike now, they weren't nearly as popular as the two big one's. This was due to the fact that both Spider-Man and the X-Men had hugely popular, long running animated series spanning the 90's. Spawning an enormous line of action figures and merchandise. Thus making the character's more popular and recognisable with the kid's of that generation. Myself included. I was a huge fan of the 90s X-Men cartoon growing up. Unlike a lot of cartoon's of today, they didn't dumb it down for kid's. With mature adaptation's of monumental story line's from the comics, like the "Phoenix saga" or "Day's of future past". It's why, as a kid, i was so excited at the prospect of the new soon to be released spidey cartoon, currently in the works, reading about it in my official Spider-Man/X-Men monthly magazine at the ripe old age of seven. Though it was an American publication. No telling how long they would take to reach Australian shores? I would regularly get my mum to tape Ren and Stimpy (i was clearly an awesome kid haha) on Saturday morning's while I was forced to play tennis (before my parent's gave up hope I would ever like sports haha) i remember perfectly that one morning i got home and went to play the tape, "what the hell? This wasn't Ren and Stimpy"? I was shattered for about 5 seconds before i realised this was the Spidey cartoon i'd heard about. First episode too featuring the lizard, I adored those cartoon's throughout the rest of my childhood. I recently purchased both 90s X-Men and Spider-Man complete collection's on dvd and am glad to admit they still hold up very well. Kid's of today don't know what they are missing :P Spidey may have always been my favorite superhero, but i have definitely always had an obsession with everything X-Men too.
Sadly aside from the animated series, kids back then had little choice for decent adaptation's of their favorite superhero team. Another childhood memory, i remember it was my 10th birthday, my dad had taken me and my friend's out for a night at the local (showing my age) videogame arcade. Afterwards we were allowed to go the video store (Wow, again showing my age) then head home for a night of pizza and movies. My friends and I had already decided on what film to get, one we had all been reading about in our Wizard magazine's, and (in hindsight laughably) greatly anticipating Generation X, the (made for television) film based on the X-Men tie in series of the same name. Did it have Wolverine, or Cyclops? Unfortunately no, no it did not, but it did feature some character's we recognised from the comics and cartoon's, Banshee, Jubilee, Emma Frost... and we all loved it, despite it's obvious lack of budget, well known actors or popular characters. Looking back it was a dodgy 'B-grade' production, but hey, we were kid's, and we were starved for choice. Marvel rarely dabbled in film, if you wanted a film fix you had the 1990 "Captain America" (bizarrely featuring a Soviet Union Red Skull???) Dolph Lundgren's Punisher or David Hasselhoff's Nick Fury (believe it!) oh and Howard the Duck wasn't a beloved by all character because of a 'fan service' cameo during the end credits of a hit Hollywood film. He was instead despised for his movie debut, the cult George Lucas directed, oddball 80s comedy Howard the Duck. Want further insanity? How about the 90s Fantastic Four? Never released, infamous for only being created so the film right's didn't expire. Only ever available on bootleg copies, strangely recreated in the latest season of Arrested Development? Though 'admittedly' Tobias played a more believable Thing. Marvel's film venture's had been, shall we say, shameful. A little later a new X-Men inspired, live action television series was born, but to add insult to injury, it wasn't allowed to use any character's from the comic's? Hell, it wasn't even allowed to be called X-Men? Mutant-X and despite running for a healthy four season's, was absolute dreck. Featuring some truly terrible special effects and equally terrible actor's, this may be one of the worst comic book adaptation's filmed yet... and somehow I still currently own all four seasons on dvd, damn i suck.
The reason for the history lesson? Im trying to put in perspective the shape of the comic industry at the time i grew up in. It's easy to forget, with how marketable big budget, superhero epics are these days, that not that long ago, the genre/movement was pretty much dead. The 90s wasn't a good time for comics, Marvel were feeling the pinch, a sinking ship that was ready to be abandoned. Even Spider-Man who had always been Marvel's 'rock', the one constant keeping them afloat while other title's weren't selling... wasn't selling. You can blame that on a convoluted mess of a storyline involving a clone and a conspiracy that rocked the very foundation of the beloved character. Leading to an all new Spider-Man (Ben Reilly) taking over the mantle. Marvel may have had some recent success with a similar idea, however Miles Morales (unlike "Reilly") was handled with care and introduced in an intelligent way. Sure fans at first were pissed off because they missed Peter Parker, but luckily Brian Michael Bendis is a brilliant writer and quickly turned Miles into something of a popular cult character with the fan's. Ben Reilly, while in (long, long passing) time, has also become something of a beloved cult icon among certain fans. Mainly for his infamous story becoming legend due to it's notoriety. It's now Spider-Man history (though I doubt the wound left by One more Day will ever heal in time) in recent year's there's been something of a Scarlet Spider resurgence, due to certain thing's happening. First, fan's remember the kickass awesome, 90s grunge Scarlet Spider costume design fondly (it rules) also helping save him from pure fan hatred, a better retelling of the dreaded clone saga was released titled "The Real Clone Saga", minus all the convolution, and 'twist' Reilly doesn't die at the end this time. Then the Ultimate line put it's own spin on the "Clone saga" not to mention, the more recent fan favorite Scarlet Spider rebirth with Peter's other (forgotten) clone Kaine in the lead. Not to mention original Scarlet Spider's super recent return all these year's on for the epic "Spider-Verse" event, but honestly it's taken decade's for the character to achieve popularity. At the time he was a poorly handled mess of a character, introduced in an overly complicated fashion. A mystery that ran on far too long spanning years (real time) and many different writers, until it finally reached it's anticlimactic conclusion. Long after the loyal fan's had given up caring. Man, i should really be saving some of this information for my upcoming Spider-Man film review, oh well, go hard or go home i say. We'll cross that bridge when it comes. While Spidey was struggling with clones as well as a dramatic loss in fans, Marvel's other biggest earner the X-Men weren't faring much better. With the massive comic spanning event Onslaught giving the clone saga a run for its money in the horribly written, overly convoluted, messy, profit killing stakes.
Something about Professor X's mind merging with Magneto's? Becoming an all powerful force? Featuring tie-in's to all of Marvel's major comic titles (Spider-Man, Avengers, Fantastic Four etc) overly complicated and poorly written, the comic event left fans fed up. Other notorious 90s X-tales that did their part in killing the franchise? The story of new X-Men member Joseph? The young and heroic mutant who happens to look exactly like Magneto? hmmm you would think Marvel would have learned to avoid 'clone' stories. Or how about the introduction of (maligned) Nate the X-Man from the "Age of Apocalypse" timeline? Convoluted story line's and an ever growing cast of character's made it a hard book for new reader's to pick up. Not to mention, strangely forgetting that at it's core, X-Men has always worked as an allegory for rising above oppression, racism, bigotry and persecution. Unfortunately losing said message among the many (overly) complicated science fiction tales featuring alternate timelines and characters, time travel and different realities. All these poorly written stories were quickly losing fans in an already niche marketplace. The industry was dying, Marvel were filing for bankruptcy. The end was near. Then in 2000 a miracle happened, something that was akin to the arrival of a white knight in the final hour, or a life preserver being thrown overboard seconds before drowning. A film adaptation of Marvel's beloved X-Men franchise hit cinemas. With all the care given of a proper Hollywood big screen release. This was huge. Sure Marvel had previously had some recent luck with a film adaptation of the comic book character Blade the vampire hunter, featuring actor Wesley Snipes in the title role. While the film's success may have paved the way for X-Men's eventual release, it wasn't marketed as a comic book film, and it definitely wasn't superhero. X-Men was uncharted territory. With all recent superhero film foray's proving unmarketable more than likely flopping at the box office (Batman and Robin/Spawn/Tank girl/Judge Dredd...) X-Men was a possible game changer but still proved a highly risky move. Luckily it was a success. This was the one that had finally given proof to something comic fan's had known all along, these character's and stories would make kick ass action films. People often complain about X-Men's film incarnations being owned by Fox instead of Marvel, but they clearly don't understand the financial stateMarvel found themselves in at the time. Optioning off the character's to different film studio's is what helped save them from eventual death and in all probability would have led to them selling off not only the film right's but complete rights all together, as the now billion dollar company was going under, more than likely DC (not being in the best financial state either at the time) would have stepped in and brought character right's dirt cheap. Now that's an interesting thought, all of Marvel and DC's character's under the one banner? But enough of that, ill leave the alternate timeline's to X-Men. Basically Marvel weren't film maker's, they were a comic company and didn't know the first thing about movie making, as seen in all their previous live action foray's. The only reason Marvel still had the right's to Avenger's character's, when they did finally decide to start doing things themselves and create a film studio of their own, is because at the time, the character's just weren't bankable enough to sell off, who would buy them if the comic's were already not turning a profit? It's easy to treat Fox as the bad guy, stopping Marvel from using their own creations, but in the grand scheme of thing's, they were the first company in a long time to take a comic based film seriously, to show all the care and attention needed for a great film adaptation. In one fell swoop, starting a resurgence and creating what would, in time, be known in "Hollywood" as the 'Superhero movement'. A movement that has continued to this very day, going from strength to strength with each passing year. If that wasn't enough, also saving "Marvel" from probable bankruptcy, thus, more thank likely saving our beloved industry as we currently know it. All of that happened due to this one film release, how many film's can brag about that? None. When you stop and think about it, us comic fan's have a lot to thank "Fox" for, so next time you spot a glaring canonical issue or plot inconsistency in the "X-Men" series (of which there are many) just think none of this superhero infused world we currently live in, would even have been possible without "Fox's" first contribution to the effort, think about that before you hit the forum's slagging "Fox" off for ruining you're childhood, instead they just might have saved it, keeping all you're childhood favorite's still relevant all these year's later. That should be commended.
So there you have it. I hope my opening monologue did a reasonable job of explaining the importance of this release, but why was this the one to change things? What made X-Men so damn special? Why was this such a success? What was it about this movie that made Hollywood realise how bankable superhero flicks are and not, say for instance, Spawn or Judge Dredd? It has a lot to do with one director named Brian Singer (Superman Returns, Jack the giant slayer) While not a comic reader, the theme's of prejudice resonated with him. He fell in love with the comic book's and 90s animated series, and was dedicated to bringing some of his favorite characters to life on the big screen. Treating the material with all the love and respect it deserved.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post regarding Avenger's: Age of Ultron, handling an ensemble cast can be hard work for even the most renowned directors, it can be a struggle giving each character appropriate limelight without leaving some by the wayside and underdeveloped. Or run the risk of losing precious story progression. Singer was a good choice for director. His previous film (the brilliant) Usual Suspects, blatantly show's how great he is at working with a large ensemble cast of actors, and also how much of a great performance he can get out of them. Kevin Spacey's role as Keyser Soze in Usual Suspect's was a career making performance and will be remembered in cinematic history as one of the all time great villain's.
So let's now discuss the casting choices. This is also a big part of what added to the success of the film. Opting to go with accomplished character actors did wonder's for the films status. Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation, American Dad) and Sir Ian Mckellan (Lord of the Ring's, The Hobbit) added a much needed 'touch of class' to preceding's. Suspension of disbelief is lessened when delivered with the integrity these two great actors produce. One hammy, scenery chewing performance and this film could have instantly came undone. Luckily everyone involved was up to the task. Well almost everyone, the one's that weren't were cleverly relegated to only one or two lines (Tyler Mane's Sabertooth being an obvious example) Patrick Stewart was clearly an obvious choice for Professor Charles Xavier look's wise, but not being an 'A' list actor, he wasn't the studio's first choice. You can thank Singer (a huge Star Trek fan) for not backing down on that casting decision. Regardless he put's in a fantastic performance as the wise and caring, fatherly figure to his team of mutant pupil's. He is genuinely likable in the part and i could honestly never imagine anybody else in the famous role (well except James Macavoy of course, but we'll talk about that in a future review) Stewart made the iconic role all his own.
Mckellan deliver's an equally fantastic performance as Eric Lehnsherr, the enigmatic villain of the piece otherwise known as Magneto. Now this guy has some decent acting chops on him. Commands attention with every line delivered, intelligent, reasonable, yet both frightening and sympathetic in equal measure. He is an interesting bad guy because we understand his motivation's. He want's to help his fellow mutant's. He has lost his respect for humankind after year's of mutant persecution. Dating all the way back to Hitler's reign of terror when he watched his parent's and loved one's forced into concentration camp's. He isn't evil, and only want's a better life for all mutantkind, only inflicting harm when humans get in the way of his cause. In his mind they are the next evolutionary step and it's about time mankind realised it. As viewer's we may not agree with his method's but we understand his motivation's. A brilliant spin on the 'typically evil' bad guy archetype most Hollywood film's follow. His longtime friendship with Charles, the rapport they share, creates an interesting dynamic between hero and villain. Breaking from the standard black or white, good vs evil scenario. Both character's are fighting towards the exact same goal, a better tomorrow for all mutant kind, free of the constant oppression and persecution. They just disagree on the means to achieve said goal.
Now for another stroke of Singer genius, ignoring the many well known actor's throwing themselves at the part and settling on a little known Australian actor by the name of Hugh Jackman (The Fountain, Chappie, Van Helsing) to play one of Marvel's most iconic superhero's Wolverine AKA Logan (much later, known as James Howlett) On appearance, looking nothing like the famous character depicted in the comics. Not short in stature. Not hairy or feral. Instead, a good looking and lean guy. It was hard to imagine this man doing the (beloved by all) character justice, causing fanboy outcry of "Batfleck" proportion's. Again, just Singer proving he know's what he is doing. While Jackman may not have exactly looked the part, he did however brilliantly capture all the little nuance's that made Wolverine, well, Wolverine. A moody loner, a tortured soul hiding a good heart under gruff exterior. With no memory of his former life, he is lost and confused. Searching for answers about his past and who he really is? Surviving in the world the only way he know's how. Jackman delivered all of these vital character trait's with a certain charm and charisma, somehow making us all forget how little he actually resembled the character (in a case of art imitating life, the comic book version of Wolverine has since been modified to appear less feral, more Jackman-esque) The role made him an almost instant Hollywood star overnight. Jackman was the actor the character deserved, seven films on (and a guinness world record set for most time's one actor has played the same superhero on film) and it's not hard to see how truly successful his breakthrough performance really was. As the film series continues, Jackman quickly becomes the undisputed face of the X-Franchise. Not just taking center stage in the X-Men film's but also gaining his very own spin off, solo Wolverine film series. Even in this first entry in the X-Men franchise, Wolverine is the focal point of the story. We see the introduction of Charles, the school, the students, the X-Men team all though his eyes. Even if it's not surprising given the comic character's popularity, he is still a good choice for the film's main protagonist, character-wise, his shrouded back story (or lack there of) and 'bad ass with a heart of gold' attitude make him a likable, relatable character, being the loner that he is, this whole underground, mutant uprising currently happening is as new to him as it to us (the viewers) making him the perfect tour guide, entering this mysterious new world of mutant's and super powers. His line delivery is top notch, leading to some truly memorable comedic moments. Especially when it come's to exchange's shared with teammate/rival for affection, Scott Summers AKA Cyclops, ably played by James Marsden (Superman Returns, The Box) both vying for the heart of teammate Jean Grey, otherwise known as Phoenix or Marvel Girl, played by Famke Janssen (Hemlock Grove, Brothers Grimm, Goldeneye) That rivalry adds yet another layer of complexity to an already complex film. Logan's (Wolverine) misplaced love of Jean is handled well, never feeling forced or ham-fisted. It only helps add to Wolverine's whole tortured soul persona. Never able to find any happiness, even if it's dangling right in front of his eyes at all times. Both Famke Janssen and James Marsden deliver decent performance's, unfortunately Marsden, while memorable in the part, never gets much of a chance to really shine. We get the impression he was team leader before Wolverine came along but the film never really capitalizes on the depth of the character. In the comic's the character has a huge amount of history integral to the series as a whole, not just leader and original member of the long running team, but also a vital part of some of the biggest, most well known X-Men lore in the history of the comic. The fan favorite Phoenix saga or Messiah Complex for instance. While also being a major connecting piece in the X-Men universe, Scott's brother Nathan Summers AKA Havok. Who has since appeared on film in X-Men first class, but unfortunately with little reference to his more famous brother, besides sharing the same last name. Or the hugely popular fan favorite Cable, Scott and Jean's time travelling son from the future, or Nate Grey: the X-Man, Scott and Jean's son from the alternate "age of apocalypse" timeline. Even Scott's dad Corsair was the leader of the space super hero team the Star Jammers. Like I said, huge history in the comic. I realise Brian Singer was already juggling numerous character introduction's, plot threads and story progression, but in my opinion a little more character development for Cyclops wouldn't have hurt. Jean fare's better, allowed more screen time to develop her relationship with Wolverine, helps add an interesting aspect to her character. Doing her best to downplay her hidden feeling's toward Logan, trying to ignore and stay true to her longtime longtime lover Scott.
As for the rest of the X-team? Halle Berry's Storm (Swordfish, Extant) is one of the few weak links in the film. She honestly has never impressed me much as an actor. An Oscar winner, only for getting her kit off in a depressing, highly overrated film with barely a story (Monster's Ball) she has been putting in halfbaked performance's ever since. Ranging from bad (Gothica) to pure travesty of almost offensive proportion's (Catwoman) I would like to say she breaks her usual routine here, but sadly she continue's her trend of being the weakest actor in any film she happen's to star in. One infamous line in the film "what happen's to a toad when it's struck by lightning?" is highly regarded as being particularly cringe-worthy. So woeful. While admittedly a poorly written one liner, it's made even worse by her deadpan, emotionless delivery, with all the enthusiasm of a cardboard cutout. Oh and don't forget that Kenyan accent, that comes and goes... As the film's continue, she does get a little better. In Day's of Future Past she becomes a little more tolerable, still think they could have found a more suitable actor for the role instead of settling on someone just because they are well known regardless of acting ability.
Anna Pacquin's controversial Rogue portrayal is a popular fan favorite to lament and despise, but truthfully, i think she does a pretty good job. Playing the naive/innocent lost teenager convincingly, she shares good chemistry with Jackman's Wolverine, and as the father/daughter type relationship grows between the two, it add's an extra layer to the development of both character's. She look's up to him, and he, in turn, look's out for her. Showcasing Rogue's need for stability in her life, being a 'run away', its easy to see why she admire's Logan, being something of a 'run away' himself, he becomes a role model of sort's for her. Although in some way's the fanboy hate is also entirely justified. Rogue's film depiction is such a drastic change from the comic incarnation fan's had grown accustomed to, that it was basically an all together different character. Gone is the empowered, mature, southern belle we all know and love from the books and 90s cartoon, replaced on film with an angsty, confused teenager. Her super power's had also been drastically reduced in her transition from page to screen. She can still absorb someone's power by touch, but that's it. No more flying or super strength. Granted, this is understandable for a couple of reason's. First the film already had Storm with the ability to fly, and she barely got a chance to use the power on film anyway. I remember, during the toad fight scene, she flew, or at least hovered, but it was a pretty meaningless power in a film heavily rooted in reality. I notice the more 'super' of the mutant powers were downplayed, possibly deemed too unrealistic. I know, I know, I mean realistic in the sense of the film. I guess the filmmaker's didn't want to stretch the suspension of disbelief further than they already were, a trait they well and truly gave the ass as the film series continued. Another reason could be the fact that in the comic's she wasn't born with super-strength and the power of flight, instead absorbing them later through touching Miss Marvel. However this reason for her film counter-part's lack of power's is a bit unlikely, yes Fox cannot legally use the character Miss Marvel, being a Marvel owned property (with a blockbuster new film soon arriving, under her new moniker Captain Marvel) creating a similar situation to the recent Avenger's : Age of Ultron. The Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch fiasco, not being able to use the term mutant and with no reference to their father Magneto, but like Marvel did with the Maximoff twin's, it wouldn't be hard for "Fox" to do something similar. Possibly gaining power's a different way? (she did still have her absorbing power's, or just having her born with them is equally believable) easily ditching Miss Marvel's involvement all together. Thirdly, and i think this is the most likely reason, she is portrayed on screen as a fragile outcast, equally nervous and afraid. Flying about the place, punching hole's in wall's would probably have been a little at odds with her character. All that aside, i believe the biggest reason she is 'cool' to dislike among fan's is the fact she isn't Rogue at all, but Jubilee instead. I find this strange. Think about it. In the comics Rogue was at first one of the bad guy's. Raised by Mystique as part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutant's. She actually fought the X-Men, but after absorbing Miss Marvel's power's and becoming all powerful, she join's them and fight's for the good guy's. Lover to Gambit (not Iceman) and nothing more than a teammate to Wolverine. Oh and let's not forget, fully grown adult. Now we have Jubilee from the comic's, rejected by her adopted parent's when her power's first manifest as a teenager. Forced to become a 'runaway'. Professor X find's and help's her, enlist's her at his school for gifted mutant's, and then train's her up to be an X-Man. Young and naive, and still learning the rope's. She share's a father/daughter type bond with Wolverine... hmmm, it's easy to see the obvious resemblance to Jubilee which to me seem's incredibly odd the filmmaker's didn't just be a little bit more faithful to the source material and make the character on film Jubilee instead? These drastic character change's weren't even necessary in the first place. It doesn't make very much sense, all this redesigning just to have Rogue in the film? If she was some hugely popular character i might understand, but it's not like the character was any more recognisable than Jubilee to the non-comic reading public. Sure Rogue has been around longer (and I actually prefer her character personally) but she is just as well known as Jubilee. Being a major character in the hit 90s animated series as well as the star of X-Men spin off series, Generation X (the comic, not the previously talked about film, though she was the star of that too) Jubilee is just as well known, so why not just write Rogue out of the script? Perhaps Fox wanted Pacquin and were forced to alter the script, changing Jubilee to Rogue last minute because Pacquin isn't half Asian? (Actually, that's gotta be it. That's my bet, that's what im putting my money on :P ) I suppose she is an Oscar winner, a fact that was quickly forgotten year's later when the delightful trash known as True Blood became a starring vehicle for her great... ermm acting abilty.
Ok enough getting side tracked. Bizarre character change's aside, let's discuss the rest of the cast. In my opinion all the supporting cast put in good performance's with the little screen time they get. This is understandable in an ensemble film, especially an 'origin' ensemble film. A choice has to be made. Who are the main players? Which character's serve the story most and which one's have to take a step back out of the spotlight? Shawn Ashmore (The ruins, Animorphs) isn't given much screen time playing Bobby Drake AKA Iceman, but he is likable, it's a nice introduction and does a good job of setting up future plot line's for the character as the 'eager to learn' team member, as well as potential love interest for Pacquin's Rogue. Pyro make's a very brief appearance before receiving a much meatier role in the following two film's (X-Men 2, X-Men 3: The Last Stand) albeit played by a different actor than the small cameo he receive's in the franchise debut film. Speaking of cameo's, eagle eyed fan's will have a fun time finding all the hidden X-Men 'blink and you'll miss them' cameo's and reference's. The Kitty Pryde scene AKA Shadowcat I found to be particularly memorable at the time. Though again, in this film, not played by Miss Ellen Page (Inception, Juno) who later took over the role in the Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Hercules) directed X-Men 3: The Last Stand. Colossus also got his big screen debut in cameo form, played by Colossus regular Daniel Cudmore. This sort of fan service was much appreciated at the time by the comic fanboy community. Myself included (Jubilee does get a tiny appearance after all) thus creating lot's analysing and discussion down the local comic shop. In similar fashion to the way, all these year's later, fan's (again myself included) are still fussing over every cameo and 'Easter egg' in Marvel (that's including Fox and Sony production's) and DC's blockbuster, world building production's. Well that's basically it for the X-team in their first film debut. Though as the film series continues, more and more fan favorite character's join the team (still can't believe we have had a Blink appearance, and yet still no sign of Cable?) with each new installment begging the question, which classic comic character is next joining the ranks? So that's the film's heroes well and truly covered, now onto the villain's.
The Brotherhood of Evil Mutant's, which is a silly name for a team apparently fighting a just cause? Were they even called that in the film or was it just referred to as The Brotherhood of Mutant's? I can't remember? Anyhoo, name's aside, it was still the famous villain team from the comic's. Led by the intimidating Magneto with Mystique being his preferred right hand, ahem, woman. It's unfortunate the rest of his teammate's suffer worse in the character development stake's than even the X-team supporting cast. Poor Toad and Sabertooth are relegated to the sideline's for the duration of the film, with barely a line. Only making an appearance when a fight scene is needed. Classic villain Mystique AKA Raven Darkhölme was probably the best possible choice (motivation-wise) to take the spotlight. Rebecca Romjin (at the time) Stamos (The Punisher, Rollerball) proving to be the perfect choice to play the shape shifting mutant. Displaying a certain creepiness in her movement's and attitude, keeping her backstory mysterious, not giving away too many detail's make's her far more memorable to me than the X-Men: First Class depiction. You know what I mean? The decidedly dumb, not to mention, forced, 'step sister to Charles plot line. There solely to give a (currently) popular actress a meatier part (thanks J-Law) I got no problem with expanding character's on screen if they prove popular and are interesting enough, but not at the cost of story, and certainly not rewrite the history of, not just the films, but also the comic to accommodate said change. Charles and Raven's close relationship never happened. Fact. I much prefer this bad ass version of Mystique and Romjin plays a convincing part. Too bad the same can't be said of her teammates Toad and Sabertooth. Sabertooth sucked. Asides from looking the part he shared none of the sadistic characteristics of his comic counter-part. With what should have been the film's classic scene, Sabertooth/Wolverine fight, something fans were dying to see on the big screen, coming across more than a little 'meh' due to his lack of lines and charisma, as well as having no real rivalry with Wolverine other than Im bad and he's on the good side. Toad isn't too much better (character development-wise) but at least gets a couple of lines and some decent fight scenes.
While not a perfect film, in the cinematic sense, it did suffer from a few issues here and there. Be it, the odd bit of cheesy dialogue, some under developed characters, or the over reliance on 'Matrix' styled, slow motion camera panning during fight scenes. Let's face fact's, what was a revolutionary technique in The Matrix, appear's tacky and overplayed in anything that isn't The Matrix (Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, stop standing there trying to look all innocent, you're just as guilty of this same crime) This film is more important for what it represents, an actual comic book adaptation that wasn't hammy and over the top. It wasn't aimed solely at young children. It was classy instead of corny. It was big budget, and respectful of it's fanbase. It was proof that if you treat your properties with the respect they deserve, combining a visionary director with a passion for the material, a talented cast of actors and a mature script, you can produce something truly special. In this case, a realistic, mature take on a beloved comic book. I think it was a wise choice eschewing the colorful costume's featured in the comic's and cartoon's, for black leather uniforms. If it was remade today, with everything we as an audience are now accustomed to, you could get away with featuring bright, colorful, outlandish costume's but back in 2000 it wouldn't have worked. Plus having these over the top, crazy costumed heroes, would have taken away from the dark, somber vibe that has since become a trademark of the franchise. However I would like to see proper version's of the costumes on screen one day in the future, possibly the inevitable remake will feature. You can only rewrite history so many time's before you're forced to start again from scratch. Most importantly, the film is responsible for the recent dirge of modern superhero film's currently splashed all over cinema screens the world over. Yes Spider-Man would come along two year's later and finish what X-Men started, well and truly proving how lucrative these film's can be. Not to mention how (surprisingly) 'believable' they could be with the advent of cgi (you will believe a man can ummm swing?) paving the way for Marvel to become the biggest studio in the world. Not only achieving all of the above (if that wasn't enough?) but also birthing it's own classic, smash hit film franchise in the process. Adapting a whole universe of assorted character's, across a mainline film series, a spin off film series, and a remake film series (of sorts) currently spanning seven epic films. With an all new X-Men film entry currently in production (X-Men: Apocalypse) a third Wolverine film also currently on the way, along with the introduction of two more popular character's in solo film's (Deadpool and Gambit respectively) plus the recent announcement of two new live action television show's (Hellfire/Legion) interestingly one is to be developed by Fox while the other Marvel (?) and don't forget talk of an all new team entry spin off titled.. wait for it.. X-Force!!! Wooo!! Cable is finally coming! The future does indeed look bright and limitless in potential. With word being this latest Wolverine film would be Jackman's final appearance as everyone's favorite mutant hero, and Fox putting a focus on and pumping the marketing up for the two new solo entries in the series featuring extremely popular character's Deadpool and Gambit in their very own starring vehicles, all with franchise appeal, starring Hollywood heavyweight's Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, Blade: Trinity) and (ughhhh) Channing Tatum (Jupiter Ascending, 21 Jump street) excuse me, I just feel a slight case of geek rage coming on... TAYLOR KITSCH WAS A PERFECTLY FINE GAMBIT, BAD FILM OR NOT? PLUS HE CAN ACTUALLY ACT!!! Ah, that's better. Best to let these thing's out. Its obvious Fox want to keep this franchise thriving for many years to come. They have worked hard at building this massive film universe, and it all started with this one release, the original X-Men way back in 2000. Who know's where this series could go? Recent talk of a shared universe with Fox's other Marvel property The Fantastic Four was a likely possibility, before the film's sunk at the box office pretty much killing the possibility. Even a Marvel crossover with The Avengers isn't totally out of the question as proven by the 'Marvel/Sony', Spider-Man merger, nothing is impossible for this unassuming superhero franchise. It has now been fifteen year's since the first film's release, and what a ride it's been. I'm sure we are all looking forward to seeing what the next 15 years bring for all our favorite mutant heroes.