And the summer of nostalgia continues with the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past this week. A slight reboot of the franchise it will bring the Bryan Singer movies and X-Men: First Class together and becoming one giant franchise. Hopefully completely ignoring X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a part of the plan as well. Still it’s been over a decade since the first X-Men movie came out and became one of the first comic movie hits. I’ve decided to look back at the series because, well, it’s kind of what I do. So let’s go back and see if Marvel’s Mighty Mutants are just as mighty as they were in 2000.
There’s nothing wrong with the plot here. No seriously Magneto wants to get revenge on humanity by turning everyone into mutants. That’s totally fine. But in a post-Dark Knight/Watchmen world it seems almost quaint. I know it’s a bit harsh to judge on that but that’s all I thought during my rewatch of the movie. Still for a first movie it’s the perfect story to introduce the characters, particularly Wolverine.
It’s been mentioned a million times but Hugh Jackman really is a godsend as Wolverine. From the second he is on the screen he embodies the character and gets better as the movie goes on. He perfectly encapulates the lovable rogue (PUN!) we all want him to be. The same can be said about Patrick Stewart as Professor X. I know the casting is a bit Wizard magazineish but he really is perfect. Everyone else is just kind of there. It’s not that they’re bad they’re just underwritten. Which I guess works for Cyclops since he’s always been bland but that’s no excuse for everyone else. Shame because despite being underused Rogue’s story could have been more interesting than it was.
Like Stewart and Jackman Ian McKellen is great as Magneto. He’s able to project class and menace all at the same time. This is good because I can’t say the same for his henchmen. Scratch that Mystique is done pretty well and I can see why she was the only one to be brought back for the future movies. Sabretooth just comes off as silly. Between the makeup and the fact that he literally growls it was just too over the top. Dressing like the Bear Guy from True Grit doesn’t help. The biggest disappointment though is Toad. He’s played by Ray Park who is a stunt man and a legit martial artist. Instead we get hopping and the tongue used as a weapon. It really feels like a missed opportunity. Luckily Magneto is the main focus and he certainly delivers.
I’m very 50/50 on the action in this movie. There are some really fun fights, particularly near the end. The problem is that they felt more like a way to showcase the powers as opposed to actual fight scenes. Which I get it (especially for an early superhero movie) it is just a bit disappointing since we do get some fun fights near the end. While brief Mystique vs. Wolverine has some decent choreography and while ridiculous Sabretooth vs. Wolverine uses that to its advantage.
In all honesty the movie doesn’t hold up as well as I had hoped. There are a lot of goofy things I didn’t get to mention like the cartoony sound effects or Storm’s accent that suddenly vanishes. Still there is a lot of good with certain characters and the overall look of the movie. There are some high ambitions they just weren’t quite met.
X2: X-Men United (2003)
A couple years after the Liberty Island incident focus on mutants is higher than ever and leading the charge is William Stryker (Brian Cox). With plants to kill all mutants the Brotherhood of Mutants and the X-men need to team up to stop him before its too late.
Things are much better this time around in the hero category. While Wolverine and Professor X are the main focus we get to spend more time with the rest of the X-Men. Each of their personalities is expanded upon and we care about them. I particularly enjoyed the Iceman/Rogue/Pyro trio. They have good chemistry together and Iceman’s parents’ learning he is a mutant is one of the best scenes of the movie. Nightcrawler was also a good addition as a sympathetic hero manipulated by Stryker. This was definitely a step up from pretty much everyone since the last movie.
Well except Cyclops but really, it’s Cyclops.
Unless X-Men 3 or First Class surprises me I’m pretty sure William Stryker is the best villain of the series. Portrayed by Brian Cox Stryker is a human that hates mutants. This sounds kind of typical until you realize he has a personal army and is going to use Professor X to kill all the mutants in the world with Cerebro. How will he get Xavier to do this? With his mutant son he had lobotomized after Xavier couldn’t help him. Having a real bad guy that the X-Men AND Magneto can go up against definitely helps him become the best baddie of the series.
While the powers were still a focus it seems like there was a more conscious effort to use powers that looked better on camera. For example Nightcrawler infiltrating the White House makes for a much cooler visual than Cyclops blasting stuff over and over. We also got the powers used in different ways like Jean using her telekinetic powers to hold back floods of water not just move stuff. While not necessarily The Raid or Avengers when it came to action scenes what we got here definitely holds its own when it comes to modern superhero movies.
Side Note, the hallway fight scene rules just as much today as it did in 2003.
Unlike the first movie X2: X-Men United holds up just as much as it did upon release. With the typical introductory stuff out of the way we get a better and more complete film this time around. While an hour was added to develop the new and returning heroes the pacing is just as good as the first time around. I know it’s early in the rewatch but this might be the best of the bunch.