X-Men has been the sole Marvel franchise to exist during the campier and less serious times of the superhero genre and the more serious, ubiquitous times of the genre. In a way, it’s difficult to believe the film is fourteen years old, but the franchise it spawned is still going strong to this date.
For a fourteen-year-old film revolving around mutants, genetic modifications, and including seven superheros it needs to acquaint audiences with, X-Men is still much better than anyone probably would’ve initially imagined. In a shockingly short one-hundred and four minutes, the film manages to give all seven of its heroes some time to shine, while offering us some seriously contemplative political drama on the ethical ideas of allowing mutants and genetically-modified humans to coexist with traditional humans. The result is a pretty intriguing endeavor.
Set in the not-so distant future, we see that the idea of mutants – or those who possess special powers as a result of DNA modifications/mutations – being able to declare themselves through the means of public registration has surpassed issues of gay marriage, abortion, and immigration in the United States Congress. Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison) is the leader of this movement, using Congressional hearings as his opportunity to stand on his soapbox and sermonize about how mutant registration needs to exist for the safety and well-being of America.
Meanwhile, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is busy constructing his merry-band of X-Men, or, mutants, in order for them to bring about their own line of vigilante justice. We have Cyclops (James Marsden), with his laser-eyes, Dr. Jean Greay (Famke Janssen), whose telekinetic powers prove limitless in size and scope, and Storm (Halle Berry), who lives up to her name with powers that can manipulate meteorology and weather.
Professor X runs a school called the “School for Gifted Children,” where those with unforeseen powers can go and still have their own free will and dignity intact. Two new students with incredible potential arrive at X’s school one day; Rogue (Anna Paquin), a shy recluse who discovers that she cannot touch another being without the life of them being literally sucked out of them and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a muscular individual with retractable claws that sprout from his knuckles. Both contemplate whether or not they should join X’s band of X-Men and make an attempt at defeating Magento (Ian McKellen) and his band of loyal comrades.
For a film that works to assemble a barrage of different heroes and utilize them in creative ways, it’s sort of admirable how X-Men doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. While not each hero bears a great deal of personality, each is humanized to the point where you feel you could at least recognize and find yourself acquainted with them on a basic level. Then there’s the fact that despite bearing a lot of heroes in the film adaptation, X-Men had enough heroes for multiple different franchises when it was confined to the captivating, colorful pages of a comic book.
For what it has, and for what writer David Hayter and director Bryan Singer choose to do with it, X-Men manages to be a surprisingly solid, especially given its cluttered array of characters. The film avoids the pitfalls of a dry origin story by not only giving each character time to showcase their powers and utilize them accordingly, but usher in biting political debate about the ethics and value of having a world with known mutants. Toss in some uniformly strong acting, especially by the likes of Jackman, Paquin, McKellen, and Stewart, and you have a strongly-constructed package deal.
X-Men really marks the drastic change in tone superhero films of the 2000’s ushered in. The genre that was once looked at as a piece of escapist camp ultimately became one to show people that things aren’t forever and that genres can undergo a drastic change overtime. What became of the superhero genre is something to praise and commend, albeit critique in aspects, and this particular pictures serves as a winning time capsule to that enormous revitalization.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and Ray Park. Directed by: Bryan Singer.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!