No surprise to anyone who knows me, but I am a huge X-Men nerd. The first comic I really remember picking up was Uncanny X-Men #300, chosen after careful consideration at how the story–just kidding, it was a holographic cover and my dumb kid brain latched onto it. I was instantly hooked, absorbing just about every piece of X-Men media I could. There was the animated series, action figures, trading cards, card games, board games, and of course, enough comics that if they were to fall on me, I’d be crushed to death. As time went on I became a bit more discerning and stopped picking up every single Marvel comic that had an “X” in the title, but my love of the characters continued. So imagine my joy when my favorite heroes were going to appear on the silver screen! And the result was… fine. It’s fine by today’s standards. It’s fine.
The story follows Rogue (Ms. Anna Paquin), our audience surrogate, as she discovers she’s a mutant. Mutants are hated and feared by normal humans, so she runs away from home after hurting a boy she likes. She meets Wolverine (Mr. Hugh Jackman), everyone’s favorite X-Man. Excuse me while I gag. Anyway, the two are attacked by the villainous Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), only to be rescued by Cyclops (James Marsden). Back at Professor Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) mansion, Wolverine meets Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and instantly falls for her, much to Cyclops’ frustration. Xavier theorizes that Sabretooth’s boss and Xavier’s old friend, Magneto (Ian McKellen) wants Wolverine, but he doesn’t know why. After some scheming from Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), Rogue runs away and we find out that Magneto really wants her! He has a device that will turn humans into mutants and he intends Rogue to power it. Sure, the device eventually kills the humans it mutates, but Magneto doesn’t care. A raid on the Statue of Liberty by Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men save Rogue–now with her iconic white streak of hair–and defeat Mystique, Sabretooth, Toad (Ray Park, who I have been informed most likely isn’t a revenge porn poster), and even Magneto. The movie ends with Xavier and Magneto playing chess, still frenemies.
Oh, and Storm (Halle Berry) was also there. She even sometimes helped!
Movies are separate beasts from comics by their very nature (and snozzberries taste like snozzberries), so it’s not that big of a surprise that the plot doesn’t have a 1:1 correlation with a comic book story. But that’s not going to stop me from talking about the comics! The film opens with a young Magneto suffering in a concentration camp, but that was not always his backstory. The first time his surviving the Holocaust was ever brought up was in Uncanny X-Men #150, 18 years after Magneto’s first appearance. Originally Stan Lee had an idea to have Magneto and Professor X be brothers, but that obviously didn’t manifest, and Magneto’s character was more fleshed out by writer Chris Claremont (who wrote X-Men for 17 years straight). Also worth noting, Wolverine healing Rogue by letting her take his powers (even though it was never fully consensual in the movie) is most likely a reference to Uncanny X-Men #173, where Wolverine and Rogue, newly recruited to the X-Men, run into trouble in Japan. Rogue sacrifices herself to save Wolverine, thinking the team will never accept her, but Wolverine brings her back though what appears to be a kiss. Yeah, Rogue’s not as young in the comics, so it’s not as creepy? Just ignore that Wolverine is, like, over 100 years old.
At the time this was the greatest movie I had ever seen, but with several years behind me, turns out it’s just fine. 3 and a half–maybe 4–out of 5 stars. It was groundbreaking, the first superhero movie since the failure that was Batman & Robin (if we ignore Blade because most people don’t know he’s actually a Marvel character), and it opened the door to a bunch of sequels, the Spider-Man trilogy, and eventually the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. Maybe I’m spoiled by so many movies nowadays, but this movie feels almost quaint by comparison. The fight sequences aren’t very good, with Wolverine and Mystique’s fight being the exception. You have this elite team of superheroes, and they just… never had any combat training? Sure, whatever. Also Sabretooth fails at just about every task he’s assigned, so I don’t miss him when he doesn’t appear in any other movie. Nope, Victor Creed is never seen again! Never again!
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