Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men (2000)

X-Men is the first theatrical X-Men movie, released in 2000 by 20th Century FOX.
The first X-Men film
This film sets the tone right away with a few short introductory sequences: One in a 1944 concentration camp with Magneto as a child and one with Rogue sending a boy into a coma for 3 weeks just by kissing him. This isn't a lighthearted superhero film where the good guys and bad guys slug it out without consequences. Bryan Singer uses the X-Men to examine society's flaws. Themes such as tolerance and bigotry are openly debated by the character in the film, giving the picture philosophical roots. So when the X-Men fight the Brotherhood of Mutants it's not just good guy vs bad guy but, much like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, a struggle between two competing philosophies.

The film does a great job of easing the viewer into the concept of mutants and a mutant team. Slowly we're introduced, one at at time, to Magneto, Rogue, Jean Grey, Professor X, and Wolverine. The X-Men team is extremely limited. Really, it only has three members - Storm, Cyclops, and Jean Grey. Wolverine goes on one mission with the team and Rogue is really a student. But the film gives you a very real sense of the X-Mansion as a school. We see dozens of students with lots of cameos for fanboys such as Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, and Iceman.

Likewise, the "villainous" team consists of only four members. Two of them are fantastically portrayed - Magneto and Mystique. Magneto is a complex villain. Sure, he breaks the law and endangers others but he's hard to think of as a "bad guy." His goals are noble - he wants to protect his kind from the threatening human population. Even the means by which he wants to reach those goals aren't "bad," per se. He easily could have killed police officers he instead just scares them. Mystique's powers are used to the max in the film.  Rebecca Romijn Stamos in head to toe blue paint nimbly kicking and twisting her way through combat is quite stunning. But the real cherry on top is that she messes with the minds of her foes, licking her lips when fighting Wolverine and sending Rogue into an adolescent tizzy. Toad and Sabretooth, on the other hand, were treated as disposable muscle. It's too bad, to, because certainly those characters have much greater potential.

The film, although clearly in its own continuity, relies heavily on the comics. The dynamic between Wolverine, Cyclops, and Jean Grey is straight from the comics and leads to some memorable moments in the film. The tension between Jean Grey and Wolverine is so real you can cut it with a knife. It was nice to see the Rogue character's journey including giving her the white streak in her hair.

Is X-Men perfect? No. But it aspires to be more than a good guy vs bad guy superhero movie. It's philosophical roots turn the film into a mirror in which humanity can examine itself. Oh yeah, and there are some awesome fight sequences.

1LR REVIEW - 17 out of 20! It's a Solid Hit!

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