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Based on the long-running Marvel comic book series, X-MEN takes place in the near future, as certain humans are evolving into mutants with special powers. In the Canadian wilderness, a young runaway mutant named Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a bad-tempered, quick-healing mutant with retractable metal claws, are suddenly attacked by the powerful Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his lackeys. Fortunately, Cyclops (James Marsden) and Storm (Halle Berry), students of the compassionate Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), interfere and bring them back to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Here Wolverine and Rogue learn more about the conflict between Xavier and the militant Magneto, who wants to power a device that will genetically alter humans, with possibly deadly results. Only Xavier's students can stop Magneto's plans.
This film stays true to it’s dire roots, but I wouldn’t describe it as a “translated” comic to film. Or an “adaptation” for that matter. I would describe this film as being more of a re-imagining or re-interpretation of the x-men mythos. And it still works, it’s just very modernized. The original concept behind X-men was speaking socially on segregation of race. This film parallels being a mutant with being a homosexual. It’s no secret that Bryan Singer himself, as some of the cast such as Sir Ian McKellen are of the same nature and it’s no surprise that they would implement a personal stake in the story being told.
Magneto, Sir Ian McKellen, is planning on using Rogue’s absorption power to harness his own powers into a machine that will spill out radiation on to a government conference to transform leaders into the very thing they are plotting laws to outlaw, mutants. The great dynamic of the X-men is not the divide between the two separate sides, but the divide between the same side. Professor Xavier believes there are diplomatic ways to assure people their fears are unwarranted. Meanwhile, Magneto, having been a victim of the Holocaust can only see humanity for the retched ignorant people that he has experienced in his life. This works for me. The only alteration is, as I pointed out before, the metaphorical analogy of being mutant to being a homosexual as opposed to being a different skin color. Any one of a different race or sexual orientation will tell you that while it may seem similar, the fights are different. It all depends on who you talk to really. My only gripe with this take on the world in the film is that we never really get a taste of those difference which could serve the original stories from the mythos in a great thematic way. But aside from this social commentary the film provides, there is a strong plot about a 3rd party within a group of people – the one in search of himself. Wolverine doesn’t know which side he aligns himself with and that is the best opportunity in the entire script. He’s unsure of his past and his future, but aligns himself with Professor Xavier in an effort to find out who he is. This is severely underplayed throughout the whole film. If it had been brought to the forefront of the story, there could have been some great dramatic tension leading to Wolverine’s decision on which faction he should join. The rest of the characters are well fleshed out as well and the story juggles a hero story, a social commentary, and an ensemble cast of characters. The narrative is structured relatively slow but gains some momentum towards the end.
Acting: With such a large cast, only a few actors make the most of their roles to stand out.
Patrick Stewart – Professor Xavier: It just don’t get any better than this for casting. Stewart is stern and memorable. A job well done. You fear his potential and his anger, yet you can easily be inspired by him and believe in his cause.
Ian McKellen – Magneto: Cold. Unforgiving. Conniving. Intelligent. Driven. The best attributes you can have by a villain, and I believe in addition to being from the gay community, he’s also a Jewish man. Giving weight to his character’s back story of living through the hatred of the Holocaust.
Hugh Jackman – Wolverine: By far the most interesting acting of the whole movie. A man who’s torn in decision. He knows little about his past and is in search of it through the film. The best part of the acting in Jackman’s case is that he has to be silent and cynical through much of the film. You don’t find out much about him because he’s too busy asking questions. The fantastic thing is, he maintains our interest with this lack of character with mystery and intrigue. Famke Janson / James Marsden – Jean Grey / Cyclops: Really comes in a pair in this case as they’re mostly on screen together. Jean Grey gets a lot of development and screen time as a possible love interest for Wolverine, but sadly my favorite X-man (next to Gambit of course) Cyclops is reduced to Xavier’s personal assistant. He’s a good “superman” type, or he’s supposed to be at least, and yet he doesn’t get much play so that the audience is rooting for the relationship of Jean Grey and Wolverine. An unfair play in my opinion, but hey, I’m bias.Anna Paquin/Tyler Mane/Ray Park/Halie Berry – Rogue/Sabertooth/Toad/Storm: are all reduced significantly here. There’s not too much to play with and Rogue and Sabertooth get the most play out of the smaller group. Sabertooth and Storm are reduced to being the “big guns” of the group and not developed much personally. They’re iconic characters sure, but their portrayal on screen is sadly, easily forgettable.
Bryan Singer put his stamp on this mythos. Which is the most you can really ask of a true artist. He took the subject matter and made a worthy attempt to stay loyal to the mythos as he could but still made it a personal passion of his own to tell a story in a world that he knows and understands. It makes the film vibe well together in it’s own and stand out as one of the more realistic of the Marvel films and yet, maintains it’s own style.
Newton Thomas Sigel – Does a fantastic job in capturing a “cold” world. Lots of steely blues and whites that leave the viewers feeling isolated and alone, much like the characters own emotions. As you enter more into the world, the hues become warmer and more welcoming. And, in addition, more comic-booky. But don’t misinterpret – they never get so over-stylized that they remove you from the world that’s been created.
The production design is gritty or new, but overall very realistic. Something I don’t often talk about in my reviews, though I will now that I think of it, is the costuming. Louise Mingenbach does a great job in coordination with the hair and make up departments to create a realistic style for the character’s uniforms and costumes that while varying from it’s comic book origins, is not a point of focus for the character’s journey through the story.
A little too slow for my tastes as I like to cut to the chase and get things going. The film takes a slow approach to introduce you to the world and it’s characters. My only complaint is that when you have several characters that need to be introduced the story’s responsibility is to give them a grand memorable introduction and the editing to reflect that. I’m not sure the two departments where in good league with one another for this approach.
It’s alright. It’s not instantly memorable, but after multiple viewings you can get a strong distinction of it. All in all, it’s not a score I would run out and buy the day after, but rather one I’d carry around Walmart if I found it in the dollar bin.
STRONG. Yeah, It’s safe to say they did an absolutely fantastic job with the visual and special effects in this film. Combining the proper balance between real effects and CGI, never once are the effects laughable or take you out of the film and it’s story. Excellent job with the make up and prosthetics as well.
X-men is a strong film with great social commentary and a decent plot to keep you and your family entertained. It’s edgy so it may be best to wait till the kids are older to pop them in front of it, but as far as more mature comic book movies, this is one that I would find as kid friendly an important in bringing concerns of isolation of groups of people to the front of someone’s thoughts. It’s well done and entertaining with a little bit of message whipped in there as well. Which is the most you can really ask of any artist.
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