The opening narration of X-Men ends with “But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward” spoken with grace by Sir Patrick Stewart. The same can be said about the evolution of movie making. X-Men is the movie that made the superhero movie take a giant leap forward. Before X-Men the only real successful superhero movies were Batman and Superman, though both franchises were dead in the water in the late 90’s. The only other successful comic book property on the big screen was the little known Marvel character Blade whom the general public didn’t even see as a superhero movie, bur rather as vampire movie. X-Men, and the then in production Spider-man, put the CG-revolution to good use and finally gave the audience the special effects these movies so desperately need to be convincing. X-Men was the start of a wave of comic book movies that has yet come to a still.
X-Men centers on Rogue and Wolverine, the latter being one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. They meet early in the movie; she’s a runaway due to her mutant powers which suck the life force out of people, he is a drifter making money in cage fights and traveling cross country in a camper. They’re attacked by another mutant, Sabretooth, who’s taken out by a surprise appearance by two X-Men: Cyclops and Storm. They take them back to Charles Xavier’s school for the gifted which functions as a safe haven for kids with abilities, but also houses some powerful mutants like Jean Grey.
Not all mutants are peaceful. A group of mutants led by holocaust survivor Erik Lensherr/Magneto sees the goverment’s plans to register mutants as the first step of another holocaust. They see themselves as the next step in evolution meaning that the homo sapiens is going to go extinct, and they will do whatever they can to speed up that process. As Magneto states: “We are the future, Charles, not them”;
While nowadays this movie is still an above average movie when compared to other comic book movies, it’s has been triumphed by movies like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy or even several other X-Men movies. Part of that is because this movie has to perform the necessary introductions which almost always stand in the way of plot development, but when this movie was released back in 2000 it set a new standard for comic book movies. It showed us that they can have adult themes and don’t necessarily mean that the subjects have to be running around in spandex. X-Men contains real world themes: not only does it touch upon some of the darkest moments of our collective history, but the mutants might just as well be synonymous for homosexuals.
If there’s one thing director Bryan Singer nailed, it’s the casting. X-Men is full of actors who have inhabited their role to such a degree they still perform them 15 years later. While Professor X and Magneto have younger versions of themselves onscreen played by different actors they have put such a stamp on the series they appeared alongside their younger versions in last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Passed. The most impressive casting was that of the then unknown Hugh Jackman who since has played Wolverine in all of the X-Men movies as well as two of his own. He has becomes the face of this franchise.
X-Men is a high paced solid first installment of a franchise which would see even better movies. Some of the effects look a bit mediocre now and Jennifer Lawrence is a much better Mystique than Rebecca Romijn, but this is a movie that proves comic book movies can have layered adult themes and still be entertaining to a large crowd.