Due to a certain character’s appearance in a certain Disney+ show, I got the urge to rewatch (and then review) all of the X-Men films. A lot of the more recent ones with the younger versions of the characters I’ve only ever seen once in the cinema and I can’t even remember the last time I watched the original trilogy in their entirety.
In the near future some people have evolved into mutants, people with special abilities, and live with the threat of discrimination from the rest of humanity. The supremacist group the Brotherhood led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) believe that humans and mutants cannot live in peace and while the X-Men led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) believe that can be achieved. Mutants Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) get caught up in the fight between the two groups.
Even though I know that X-Men as a comic series was an allegory for the oppression of minorities and Erik Lensherr (aka Magneto) has always been Jewish and motivated by his experiences in the Holocaust, I’d forgotten that X-Men began with a young Erik having to watch his parents be led to the gas chamber as his powers manifested. It’s quite a bold and hard-hitting sequence to have to start a summer superhero flick.
The scenes where Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are talking are a real highlight. From their first scene together and their performances you can tell these characters have a long history and were even close once. Though really they’re never just talking. Erik and Charles are both smart men and so it’s like they’re verbally sparring as they both have respect for one another while having opposing set of ideals.
Logan (aka Wolverine) and Rogue’s relationship is really the heart of this film. It’s an easy dynamic to like as Rogue can’t be physically close to anyone without hurting them and Logan has built up a lot of emotional barriers. Hugh Jackman really does a good job of portraying Logan’s gruff attitude and often brutal, impulsive side, while also showing a softer, caring side around Rogue – and to a lesser extent Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). She and Storm (Halle Berry) and Cyclops (James Marsden) round out the main trio of heroes. They all do well in their roles even if some of the dialogue is a bit clunky.
Some of the special effects in X-Men has become dated but the casting of these characters was pretty spot on and it’s easy to see why some of them became staples in the X-Men franchise. Though equally it’s unfortunate how some seem to have got the short end of the stick over subsequent films.
While Blade was the superhero film that made superheroes a viable financial option for film studios, X-Men really is the blueprint for a lot of the subsequent superhero films. It has a pretty simple but compelling plot, does a good job at introducing this huge cast of characters and it balances the action and emotional beats well too. 4/5.