X-Men Marks the Spot
When I was growing up there was only really one big screen super hero, which was "Superman". Yes there were other comic book heroes but rarely did their presence make it onto the big screen and certainly never into a series of sequels. Now days it feels like not a month goes by when yet another comic book hero gets the big screen, big budget treatment or returns for yet another sequel and to be honest there are very few super hero movies which really entertain me. They either feature a super hero with a dark tortured psyche, or are all about the effects and CGI rather than the story. But "X-Men" is different as although we have heroes who have tortured psyches they are certainly not dark, at the same time it has stunning special effects but also a great storyline to match. And on top of all this it has a range of characters which stops it from feeling like a one man show, although in this first movie the focus is predominantly on the characters of Rogue and Wolverine. All of which means that "X-Men" is rather a good movie and stands out from many other recent super hero movies as being quality all round entertainment.
Born with a mutant gene, a group of unique humans who possess super powers live in a world where normal humans persecute them for their differences. Under the guidance of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart - Conspiracy Theory) these mutants work towards a world where they are accepted for who they are rather than feared for their strange powers. But it's not just the normal humans which these mutants need to fear as a band of radical mutants led by Magneto (Ian McKellen - Six Degrees of Separation) plan to take over the world.
"X-Men" the movie is basically an introduction to the world of the mutants, it spends the majority of the movie developing the characters and obviously was developed with a sequel in mind which would focus less on character development and giving us a stronger plot. That is not to say this first "X-Men" movie hasn't got a plot as the character development works in tandem with the story of Magneto and his plan for mutants to rule the world. It's just its predominant focus is on giving us characters which command are attention as we learn all about them. Does it work, well for me definitely even though the climax to the movie was not that great it left me wanting not only to know more about the "X-Men" but also what they get up to next.
What is particularly great about "X-Men" is that despite being a Marvel comic book adaptation you don't need to have read any of the comic books to fully understand what is going on. The upshot of this for me is that I can fully enjoy "X-Men" for what it is a super hero movie. Whether or not it plays true to its comic book origins is of little consequence for me but I am sure for those who have read the "X-Men" comics there may be some criticism of one thing or another. Plus the film runs so smoothly balancing the character development, with the plot as well as numerous action sequences that it is very hard not to fully understand what is going on. Even the opening sequence which takes us back to Poland in 1944 when Jews were being forced into death camps soon becomes apparent to its significance in the development of one of the characters.
These days it is certainly impossible to have a super hero movie without stunning special effects and "X-Men" is certainly no different. From the blades forming from the knuckles of Wolverine, to Mystique's transformation into various bodies, "X-Men" is definitely a visually exciting movie. But where it differs from many other modern movies is the emphasis never feels like its just about big and better CGI but using the effects to enhance the story telling rather than replace it. None of the effects are particularly ground breaking but they all work well especially combined with some terrific action sequences.
Whilst "X-Men" certainly has its share of characters as well as a cast littered with A-List names such as Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry and Famke Janssen the undeniable star of the movie is Hugh Jackman as Logan, otherwise known as Wolverine. The reason for this is his character alongside that of Marie D'Ancanto 'Rogue', played by the lovely Anna Paquin, are at the root of the storyline. They are the characters we get solidly introduced to first and much of the plot revolves around their abilities. This is by no means a bad thing, Jackman is a fine actor and looks physically impressive as Wolverine, whilst Paguin is wonderful in the role of Rogue a teenage girl just coming to terms with her mutant powers.
But more importantly with a range of characters all of which have their own mutant powers and history it would cause severe confusion if the movie didn't narrow its vision slightly. Director Bryan Singer has done a remarkable job of focussing the movie on these two without making the other characters feel like under developed bit parts. You learn enough about each of the characters so that you understand their significance but still gives you the focus of Wolverine and Rogue to carry the story.
What this all boils down to is that "X-Men" delivers exactly what I hoped and expected from a super hero movie. Firstly you have character development, secondly it has a plot which is not overly complex but still interesting, thirdly there is plenty of action and stunning effects to wow you with whilst enhancing the story telling rather than replacing it and finally has enough moments of light heartedness so that it doesn't feel dark but at the same time not overly cheesy either. "X-Men" delivers all of these in the bucket load, building up a movie which is obviously produced in such a manner that it leaves the door open for sequels but most importantly it delivers a blend of modern cinema with good old fashioned entertainment.