By: Oberst von Berauscht (Four Beers)
X-Men was the first in a new generation of superhero movies concentrating less on campy shtick and cartoonish storylines. These films began to put more focus on character development, and (strange as it may seem to an outside observer) costumed heroes with the ability to accomplish impossible feats were starting to be treated seriously (and taken seriously by audiences).
While Tim Burton’s Batman was the first mainstream “super” movie to make this innovation a reality, his follow-up Batman Returns generated negative backlash from parental groups for its overtly dark themes. The result of this was a decade of increasingly cartoonish sequels and uninspired cash-in superhero movies from competing studios.
Fucking bat credit card?
As I’ve been assigned the task of reviewing the upcoming X-Men: First Class, (and because I’ve not actually seen any of the X-Men movies) I’ve decided to watch the entire trilogy in a single night, and provide an abbreviated review of each entry, with a bonus of X-Men Origins: Wolverine just to cover all bases. Oh, and as always, with copious amounts of yeast fermented beverage.
X-Men (2000) – Four Beers
Humanity is beginning to evolve, with more and more young people being born with physical mutations that allow them great powers. The film focuses on Rogue, a mutant teenager unsure of how to control her own abilities, and potentially dangerous to anyone who touches her. Ostracized by normal humans, she flees home only to encounter Wolverine, a mutant searching for his past. They form a bond quickly, and just as quickly find themselves under attack by cronies of Magneto, an evil mutant (with the power of magnetism) bent on humanity’s destruction.
They are saved by Cyclops and Storm, members of the X-Men, a group of Mutants led by super-intelligent Charles Xavier. Xavier has organized a school for mutants designed to teach them how to function in society, stressing collaboration and peaceful relations with non-mutants. The X-Men set out to discover Magneto’s motives, and to stop him from whatever it is he may be planning.
Serving as an allegory for the way humanity mistreats people and things we don’t understand, X-Men borrows from Red Scare-era political fear mongering and contemporary civil rights struggles. Director Bryan Singer intuitively understands the way mutants would be treated in the real world, and the way he spins the story is believable and emotionally felt.
If only the film’s antagonistic non-mutants were fleshed out more, it would have left a stronger impression. Ultimately, they seem to be caricatures of conservative racists. Had more screen time been given to demonstrate the causes of this fear and hate, the metaphor would have been more strongly delivered.
There is nothing stereotypical about Cracker McMerica…
The movie seems uneven, mostly because it takes its time to develop Rogue and Wolverine’s characters, both of which are complex and interesting, and then springs into an action heavy plotline. Unfortunately, many of the other major characters are left underused. Cyclops and Storm seem to be in this movie simply to make ‘slosions. It is understandable that Fox didn’t want to make a big-budget character study, but often you see Wolverine stab someone in a way that would kill any normal man, or others thrown into walls so hard it would shatter bone. Without knowing who they are, and without even knowing what they’re capable of, the fights become boring. This lessens even the excuse that the film’s action serves a commercial purpose.
“You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning?… The same thing that happens to everything else!”
This is the kind of writing that gives you cancer
Though some serious flaws bog it down at times, it leaves you interested enough to want more.
X2: X-Men United (2003)- Two Beers
The war between mutant and non-mutant continues, this time Stryker, a military scientist with a hatred for mutants, has devised a scheme to win White House support. He captures Cyclops and Xavier, and is using the latter’s mind powers for his own benefit. The X-Men are forced to team up with nemesis, villain, and all-around bad guy Magneto to save mutant-kind. Has Magneto turned a corner? Or is he just biding his time before he welcomes the X-Men to die?
X-Men and X2 are both films which are epic in scope, but in this rare sequel that betters the original, filmmaker Bryan Singer manages to juggle multiple storylines and an increasingly cluttered cast of characters deftly. The characters of Xavier, Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and others return, and each one is given something interesting to do. There are many small moments that build on their motivations and create depth, doing what the first film failed to do; foster an emotional response. Singer manages to do all this while telling a compelling story with plenty of action and moments of humor.
One of the most important mutants on the X-Men team, Cyclops still is given very little to do. And Pyro is given absolutely no reason for turning evil, other than as a means to further the plot. This isn’t as big a problem as in the first film, as every other character is developed quite well, but the blemish is a noticeable one in an otherwise stellar film.
Not much more to tell here, damn near flawless movie.
Side Note: In this film, several lines of dialog tip you off to the likelihood that the metaphor of discrimination is specifically about gay rights, such as the moment where Iceman’s Mother asks him if he has ever “tried to stop being a mutant”. The next film takes that a step further.
The rest of this Article is continued at X-Men Trilogy: Part II