5 Reasons why the first X-Men movie stands the test of time
Posted June 24, 2014
The fact of the matter is that X-Men (2000) is the movie that was good enough and taken seriously enough that it was able to usher in the modern of age of superhero movies. Here are the top 5 reasons why X-Men stands the test of time.
Yes, there were some cheesy elements to the 2000’s X-Men movie (we saw 5 big ones), but the fact of the matter is that this is the movie that was good enough and taken seriously enough that it was able to usher in the modern of age of superhero movies – and for that we should respect it.
Actually, upon a re-watching this flick it has aged quite well. Here are the top 5 reasons why X-Men stands the test of time.
#1: The Professor X / Magneto Dynamic
Right off the bat this movie makes the statement that it isn’t just going to be a bunch of heroes flying around the screen battling it out with the help of CGI. No, the first key scene of this movie features a mysterious and captivating conversation between two old enemies… or are they friends? The scenes that are shared between Professor X and Magneto steal this movie – that’s what can happen when you pair two strong characters with two great actors and some decent writing to boot.
The banter between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan is entertaining almost 15 years later, and X-Men 2000 is book-ended by two fantastic character scenes which they knock out of the park. Anchoring this movie with two actors of this calibre was genious.
#2: The Introduction of the Mutant world
Aside from a cheesy voice-over intro by Patrick Stewart (which for some reason continue in even the most recent sequels) X-Men really begins when we are introduced to the world of mutants and the X-Men through the eyes of Wolverine and Rogue. Wolverine is thrust into a world of politics and mounting tension between friendly mutants, aggressive mutants, and humanity. The audience, along with Wolverine, begin to understand why such a thing as the X-Men exist.
Meanwhile, we learn about the bullying and embarrassment faced by mutants and how they are welcome and nurtured at Professor X’s school for the gifted through Rogue’s story (ironically the most ‘human’ element of the story). This method of storytelling allows the audience to learn about this universe with the characters, as opposed to having to jump right in. This was an intelligent approach, especially at a time when superhero movies were not common.
#3: Restrained Use of CGI
Whether it was for budgetary or stylistic reasons, Bryan Singer used a limited amount of computer generated imagery in X-Men. This is a critical factor in helping the movie age gracefully. CGI that might wow an audience in the year 2000 might look horrible in 2014; if you can use a real helicopter, use a real helicopter. Why would you use a CGI C-3PO when you have the man and the costume on set?
With a pack of power-heavy mutants the temptation is there to let loose with computer graphics; but as X-Men 3: The Last Stand showed us, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Singer seemed to make the effort to keep things real here, and this helps to not date the film. The focus genuinely appears to be on the characters first.
Mystique steals the show at multiple junctures in the movie due to (1) an amazing fighting sequence; (2) the clever use of her shape-shifting abilities; or (3) because she looks so damn hot. Here’s an astonishing fact: somehow, the blue-scaled character that doesn’t wear any clothes does not come off as cheesy. This is an amazing feat.
Because she looks to radically different from a human, she is simultaneously the greatest source of empathy for the mutant cause (“You know, people like you are the reason I was afraid to go to school as a child“) and strength for the mutant cause as she chooses to wear her true face in public. Rebecca Romijn’s performance wasn’t one for the ages, but she did enough to help make her character the most exciting and interesting to watch – well, aside from Wolverine.
#5: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
Comic book enthusiasts will lament the fact Wolverine wasn’t / isn’t portrayed as quite the animal he is in the source material. But the fact of the matter is that Hugh Jackman’s portrayal was the perfect one for the year 2000. At a time when superheroes weren’t taken too seriously by the general public, a more literal incarnation of Wolvie may have pushed this movie into the deep end, and audiences at the time may not have bought into it. Hugh Jackman infuses the right amount of mystery, instinct, and bad-assery into the character on-screen that was required.
As you watch the movie, you catch yourself saying “Wolverine and Rogue have a great dynamic“. But then you see the same with Wolverine and Jean Grey; the same again with Wolverine and Professor X; and again between Wolverine and Cyclops. The reality is just that Hugh Jackman nailed it. Which is why he is playing this character still to this day. And to think… Jackman was a last minute replacement for this movie.
X-Men‘s success set the stage for not just 6-and-counting sequels in the series, but also for the modern superhero film. The movie starts very strong. Suffering from some early-superhero-movie clichés like an elaborate hidden lair for the villain, one-dimensional characters (Storm, Toad, Sabretooth), and stilted dialogue (“Believing that humanity would never accept us, he grew angry and vengeful. He became Magneto“) the movie stumbles to a more mediocre finish.
Yet X-Men has aged relatively well. Aside from a few cringe-worthy moments, Singer’s restrained use of CGI and the quality of the scenes between Professor X and Magento, Wolverine and Cyclops, Wolverine and Rogue, and Wolverine and just about anybody ensure the movie to this day an enjoyable flick that has a high repeat value. No wonder they ran with Hugh Jackman and the Wolverine character for so long.
Lack of Cheese
X-Men had a few moments that make you squirm in your seat, but they don’t take you completely out of the movie.
This movie, for the most part, made sense. The bad guy’s actions were a bit extreme but were given reasonable motivation. But why did Cyclops have a super motorcycle?
Actual Emotional Engagement
An entertaining movie, but X-Men doesn’t exactly have you on the edge of your seat, trying to choke back tears because you’re a man, or rolling the ground laughing.
X-Men gets some points for doing enough things right to pave the way for at least a couple of decades of superhero movies. Yet, at the same time, other than some interplay between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, there are no scenes in this movie which leave you floored.
The restrained use of CGI and strong moments between characters help keep the movie watchable; repeat viewings are frustrated by one-dimensional secondary characters.