A new century is upon us and with it came the rise of something we never thought we would see; Marvel Comics exploding onto the big screen. Yes, technically the Marvel Movie phenomenon really started with Blade back in 1998 (or you could even say with Men In Black in ’97) but it was today’s movie that really made everyone take notice. Now I have been a fan of the X-Men ever since I first saw them guest star in some episodes of Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends as a kid. They would soon become a staple of my comic buying days and when I first heard that a live action movie was being made, I hoped that it would not be a complete debacle. Well, I know it has been a while since it first came out but let’s see just how good today’s movie is as I watch X-Men.
The plot: In 1944 Poland, young Erik Lehnsherr is separated from his parents when the enter a concentration camp. As he tries to get to his parents, the guards try to stop him and Erik’s mutant powers begin to manifest, allowing him to bend the metal gate until a guard knocks him unconscious. In present day Meridian, MS, a young girl named Marie is at her boyfriend’s house, discussing her plans to run away and travel the country. When the two kiss, Marie suddenly starts to absorb his life force and her boyfriend starts seizing. She screams out, alerting his parents, and as they rush to tend to him and calm Marie, she yells at them not to touch her. Some time later, in Washington D.C., Jean Grey is speaking in front of the senate and trying to discourage them from passing Senator Kelly’s Mutant Registration Bill but Kelly, posing extreme hypotheticals and using fear tactics, gets the audience on his side. Charles Xavier is in attendance and as he sadly watches the audience applaud Kelly’s speech, he notices Erik is also in attendance. When Erik leaves the assembly, Xavier heads out to talk with him and Erik tells him that he heard all of this before and asks Xavier not to get in his way, saying that mutants are the future. Meanwhile, Marie has hitchhiked up to a small town in Alberta, Canada and as she enters the bar, she watches a man called the Wolverine gets beat down in a cage fight before coming back and winning the fight. As the bar closes down for the night, Rogue is drinking some water at the bar when Wolverine sits down and orders a beer. When the loser of the fight goes up to Wolverine and complains about him cheating, then tries to stab him in the back, Rogue shouts out a warning to Wolverine, who dodges the attack, then pins the man against a post with his claws. When the bartender points a shotgun at Wolverine, he uses the claws on his other hand to cut the gun in half and after staring down the two men, leaves the bar. After driving down the road a little ways, Wolverine discovers Rogue hiding in his trailer and he leaves her on the side of the road at first but has a change of heart and lets her into his camper. As the two talk for a bit, where Wolverine introduces himself as Logan, a tree suddenly falls in front of them, causing the truck to crash and Logan to go flying out of the truck. Rogue finds herself stuck as the camper catches on fire and Logan recovers and moves to help her when he is attacked by Sabertooth, who knocks him unconscious. As Sabertooth approaches the camper, he is suddenly attacked by Storm and Cyclops, who quickly rescue Rogue and drag Wolverine to safety before the camper explodes. When Wolverine regains consciousness, he finds himself being attended to by Jean and quickly grabs her but then releases her as he leaves the room. Finding himself in a strange corridor, he finds a hoodie he can wear and tries to find his way out of there when he hears a voice in his head. He eventually ends up in a room with Xavier, who is teaching a couple of children physics, and after the students leave, he introduces himself. Xavier explains to Logan that this is a school for mutants to train them in how to use their powers so they can reenter society without being a threat. He then tells him about Magneto and asks Logan to give him 48 hours to figure out what Magneto wants with him and then he is free to go wherever he wants. Meanwhile, Sabertooth returns to Magneto’s lair and informs him about the X-Men stopping him and Magento says that they have to prepare for the UN summit on Ellis Island. When Senator Kelly boards a helicopter and flies off, his aide Henry Gyrich reveals himself to actually be the shape-shifting mutant Mystique, who knocks him out then joins the pilot, Toad. When Kelly regains consciousness, he finds himself in Magneto’s lair and Magneto talks with him briefly before stepping into a machine and activating it, bathing Kelly in a radiation which Magneto feels will induce mutation in him, but weakening Magneto at the same time. Back in New York, Jean runs tests on Logan and discovers his skeleton and claws are infused with adamantium and the only reason he survived is due to his mutant healing factor. As Jean shows him to a room he can stay in for the night, Logan starts flirting with her but she tells him she is with Cyclops. That night, Logan has a nightmare about his forgotten past, brought on when Jean attempted to read his mind and saw the process where he got his adamantium. Hearing his cries, Rogue goes to check on him but when she moves to wake him, Logan lashes out and accidentally impales Rogue with his claws. Logan calls out for help but before anyone can get there, Rogue teaches him and steals his powers, allowing herself to heal, then apologizes to Storm, Jean, and Cyclops before leaving the room, with the other students quickly stepping out of her way. Back at Magneto’s lair, Kelly has been imprisoned so that Magneto can see if his machine works but Kelly has gained the ability to make his body elastic and is able to escape. Back at the mansion, Rogue is approached by one of the students, Bobby Drake, who tells her that Xavier is upset with her and she should probably go ahead and leave the school but when Rogue leaves, Bobby is revealed to be Mystique in disguise. Logan comes too and asks about Rogue, whom Xavier says is fine, but when he goes looking for her, he discovers that she is gone. Xavier uses Cerebro to locate her at a train station and Logan wants to go get her but Xavier says it is too dangerous. He sends Cyclops and Storm out there but Logan steals Cyclops’s motorcycle and rides off ahead of them. Back at the mansion, Mystique makes her way to Cerebro and sabotages it, then leaves the mansion. At the train station, Logan finds Rogue on one of the trains and after talking with her for a bit, tells her that he thinks Xavier really wants to help her and it would be best if she goes back there. Meanwhile, Storm is asking the ticket agent if she has seen Rogue when she is attacked by Sabertooth. Cyclops goes to help her but Toad manages to grab his visor, causing Cyclops beams to go out of control until he is able to close his eyes. Meanwhile, Magneto stops the train that Rogue and Logan are on and as Logan faces off against him, Magneto easily is able to overpower him. When Logan asks what Magneto wants with him, Magneto tells him that he never wanted him and Logan realizes they were after Rogue, just before Magneto knocks him out, then captures Rogue. Sabertooth and Toad join Magneto and they start to leave with Rogue when the police show up and try to stop them. Magneto disarms the police and points there guns back at him when Sabertooth suddenly grabs him by the throat and Toad starts to leave with Rogue. Realizing that Xavier is there, Magneto speaks out to him, then threatens to kill the police and the only way to stop him is to kill him and Xavier reluctantly releases his hold on Sabertooth and Toad, allowing Magneto to leave. Back at the mansion, Logan is upset about Rogue being kidnapped and wants to go find her but as he opens the door to leave, he finds Senator Kelly there. Kelly is brought to the infirmary and as they try to help him, Xavier reads his mind to discover what happened. As Xavier explains what happened to Logan, Cyclops, and Jean, they realize that Magneto plans to transfer his powers to Rogue to power the machine, sacrificing her life instead of his own. In the infirmary, Kelly asks if someone is there and when Storm says she is, he talks briefly with her before his body dissolves. When Storm tells the others that Kelly is dead, Xavier goes to use Cerebro to find Magneto and Rogue but is incapacitated by Mystique’s sabotage. As Cyclops sits with Xavier in the infirmary, Jean repairs Cerebro and then uses it to locate where Rogue is and they figure out that Magneto plans to use the device to mutate the members of the summit. Cyclops, Jean, Storm, and Logan head out to Liberty Island to try and stop Magneto and when they enter the base of the statue, Logan says someone is there. He goes looking for the other person, motioning Cyclops and the others to stay there. When he returns, he moves to stab Cyclops but another Logan stops him, as the Logan that was about to attack Cyclops is revealed to be Mystique, then quickly locks them in another part of the building to prevent Cyclops from accidentally blasting the wrong one. Before the can react, Toad appears and attacks Cyclops, Jean, and Storm, locking Cyclops into a display, knocking Storm down an elevator shaft, and spitting some gunk onto Jean’s face, suffocating her. Cyclops is able to free himself and then save Jean while Storm emerges from the elevator shaft and uses her hurricane winds to knock Toad away. He manages to save himself by using his tongue to grab onto the railing but Storm summons a lightning bolt to electrocute him, sending him flying out into the water. Meanwhile, Logan and Mystique continue fighting and when he starts to get the upper hand, she manages to get away. As Logan goes looking for her, Storm joins him and says that they should regroup with the team but Wolverine stabs her, revealing that Storm was actually Mystique. After they all regroup, they head up to the torch when Wolverine suddenly warns them to run, as he is unable to move. The X-Men are suddenly trapped by Magneto’s power and after making sure they can’t move, he heads up to the torch to use Rogue to activate the machine, leaving Sabertooth to guard the X-Men. Logan stabs himself in order to get free and begins fighting with Sabertooth on the top of the Statue of Liberty. Sabertooth gets the upper hand and throws him off the statue, then goes inside to kill the rest of the X-Men but Logan returns and, with Jean’s help, gets Cyclops to blast Sabertooth out of the statue and send him crashing onto a harbor patrol boat below. Seeing that Magneto has activated the device, Logan has Storm and Jean send him up to the machine, where he works to free Rogue. Magneto tries to stop him but Cyclops is able to blast Magneto, allowing Logan to destroy the machine before the radiation reaches Ellis island. After freeing Rogue and finding her unresponsive, he places her bare skin against his, using her power to siphon off his healing factor to save her life. Magneto is captured by the authorities but Mystique, who survived being stabbed, changes to a security guard and is taken to a hospital for treatment. Some time later, both Xavier and Logan recover from their injuries and Logan asks how Rogue is doing and Jean tells him she is fine. Xavier tells Logan about an abandoned military base at Alkali Lake in Canada and says that it might be the best chance for finding out more about his past and Logan thanks him. Later, Xavier, Storm, Cyclops, and Jean are watching TV when they notice that Senator Kelly is on TV, reversing his position on the Mutant Registration Act, and they realize that Kelly is actually Mystique. As Logan goes to leave, Marie stops him at the door and says she doesn’t want him to leave and Logan hands her his dog tags, telling her that he will be back to get them from her. As Logan rides off, having stolen Cyclop’s motorcycle again, Xavier pays a visit to Magneto in his special plastic cell and Magneto says that he will escape one day to continue the fight and Xavier says he will be waiting for his old friend when he does.
X-Men met with mostly praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Faithful to the comics and filled with action, X-Men brings a crowded slate of classic Marvel characters to the screen with a talented ensemble cast and surprisingly sharp narrative focus.” Shortly after accepting the role of Magneto, Ian McKellen was offered the role of Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. He originally was forced to turn down the role but after talking with director Bryan Singer about his desire to be in The Lord Of The Rings, Singer agreed to alter the shooting schedule so that McKellen filmed all of his scenes by the end of 1999 so he could head to New Zealand to start working on The Lord Of The Rings. The movie was a box office success, earning $296.3 million off of a $75 million budget and would go on to spawn 2 sequels, 3 prequels, and 5 spin-offs, with 2 more films in the series set to be released.
Luckily for everyone that this movie turned out pretty good cause otherwise, who knows what superhero movies would have looked like in the future. The acting was good, with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen doing great jobs as Xavier and Magneto respectively. I also thought that Hugh Jackman, James Marsden, and Famke Janssen did good jobs with Logan, Cyclops, and Jean respectively and did a great job bringing the tension among the three in the comics onto the big screen. The story was interesting, mainly because the idea of forcing mutations like that felt a little out of character from the way Magneto usually is in the comics. This actually felt more like something that Mr. Sinister or Apocalypse would do, not Magneto. The special effects were pretty good and definitely some of the best around at the time. I do think that they went overboard with some of the slow motion action scenes during Wolverine’s fights but other wise, it was highly enjoyable. Super hero movies have come a long way since this movie but this is still a great movie to watch on it’s own merits and definitely worth watching.
Rating: 4 out of 5