Monday, April 28, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—X-Men (2000) ***

PG-13, 104 min.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: David Hayter, Tom DeSanto, Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Jansen, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Tyler Mane, Ray Park, Rebecca Romijn, Bruce Davidson, Shawn Ashmore

It’s easy to forget that “X-Men” was really the first of this current wave of comic book cinema to get it right. The first two “Spider-Man” movies and “The Dark Knight” trilogy really overshadowed it in the years that followed, and once “The Avengers” Phase One movies came along “X-Men” became old news, and yet somehow has managed to put out six installments with a seventh on the way in about a month. “X-Men: First Class” jump started the flagging series two years ago, and it seems Fox is determined to ride the franchise to Avengers style success, with even a Marvel style cameo for Mystique at the end of Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, opening this week. But, it was way back in 2000 that comic books finally got past the stylistic stumblings of the original Batman franchise with this movie.

The villainous plot of Magneto’s in “X-Men” isn’t particularly good, especially when compared to the complexities expected of comic book vehicles today, but it’s simplicity allowed for the success of the other elements established in this film. Instead of spending too much time on plot, Bryan Singer firmly established the socio-political criticisms the X-Men are really about to an audience that would’ve been mostly unfamiliar with the notion of mutants at the time. He took the major popular characters of this vast universe of them and confirmed why these mutants were the most popular. He built the core of the “X-Men” franchise into a solid foundation from which everything else would spring.

He also established the X-Men, and comic book based films as a whole, as true blockbuster fare. There are moments, like the confrontation between Sabertooth and Wolverine in Canada, that feel like classic summer blockbuster moments. And the casting of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen to anchor the series is pure perfection. It isn’t the best comic book movie, but it made the rest of the comic book decade (and then some) possible.

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