I should preface this review with the fact that several of my friends have come forward and admitted to liking this movie. I admit being utterly mystified by this news, and have steeled myself for the consequences of my really being wildly unimpressed by the movie. I read some X-Men comics in my high school years, and I have a higher than average comic-geek compatibility, especially for a female. I know who most of the characters are and I have always had a healthy respect for the series, oft-times based on the reverence with which it is discussed among my friends. At worst, with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, I expected it to be disappointing. I was braced from preview one of the X-Men for it to utterly blow, Schumacher-Batman style, and I will admit that it was not remotely as crappy as the last two Batman movies. However, it learned very little from that franchise.
The sets were cool, the effects were cool, but these days, with technology being what it is, we really shouldn’t be as wowed by stunning effects, as willing to forgive slapdash storytelling in the face of amazing visuals. The X-Men has some good visuals, but certainly not of titanic proportions enough to make you ignore the goofy one liners, stuttering storyline, thinly drawn characters (except Rogue) and the resulting inexplicable mess. Anna Paquin (you know, the Oscar-winning teen from The Piano) is the erstwhile lead of the movie, and if it had been part one of many films, focusing on her and discovering her X-Personitude and some dramatic “There are four lights!” type scenes with Patrick Stewart, well, I would have been happy. Instead, we have this fairly transparent humans vs. mutants tolerance theme, coupled with an intra-mutant community fracas, inexplicable and uninteresting. If the humans are ganging up on the mutants, why would the mutants then war amongst themselves? Most otherwise decent movies with a glaring plot flaw are totally uninteresting to me. For example – what should have been a cool, stylish thriller, Shallow Grave – just call the freaking cops, you didn’t do anything! An entire movie about something stupid.
Anyway, I am not saying X-Men is devoid of watchability – but when you start stringing together adequate set pieces with flimsy ridiculous reasoning, I can’t care. My friends know I can suspend my disbelief with the best of anyone – so you out there who don’t know me, please don’t think I was turned off by the mutant angle. Indeed, I wanted more mutants, more “how did we get here,” less inane banter and less motiveless silliness. The opening scene was very cool and it set me up to think the rest of the movie would be as well. Rogue interested me (despite rolling my eyes at a normal American teen calling herself Rogue *before* she is inducted into a group. Comics/graphic novels toe a very delicate line – you either have to downplay the silly stuff (I mean, can’t Cyclops wear the cool, regular-guy shades when he’s in public instead of that silly Geordi LaForge getup?) or totally work it – a la Jack Nicholson’s Joker.
You cast two fantastic actors (three if you count Paquin), McKellan and Stewart, and you keep them apart the majority of the movie? You slap a Flash Gordon rugby helmet on a Shakespearean master and expect him to out-emote it? No no no. I did enjoy very much the comic bookish (I regret not having my random X-Men comics handy to quote an artist) production design – swooping lines and gleaming metal, forbidding hallways and groovy overdone lighting. Storm looks ready to hit the red line sale at Express and the ink is still wet on Cyclops’ cK One contract. Wolverine looked like an Australian bouncer, which is good, but he was kinda more like a Labrador than a carrion-rending marmot. I was disappointed, but nearly not as much as I thought I would be. It’s obvious there will be a sequel, and maybe then they will make the movie for the people who don’t know the X-Men well and who need a little depth in their film characters.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 7/14/00
Time in minutes 104
Director Bryan Singer
Studio 20th Century Fox