"What would you prefer, yellow spandex?" X-Men @ 20!
"Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward."
Can you believe it has been 20 years ago since the debut of Marvel X-men's very own live action film? Personally, I thought I would never live to see it come to fruition, but after the success of 1998's Blade, other major motion picture studios knew there were a market for Marvel based films and with this "Renaissance ", came 2000's X-Men.
After stewing in development hell for so long, this was the first and obvious choice from Marvel's mainstream titles, especially since X-Men was the most popular Comicbook followed by the venerable animated series and Capcom fighting game. Shocked says no one!
Directed by the now notorious Bryan Singer and written by David Hayter (Yes, that Hayter from the Metal Gear Solid games!) X-Men entails the exploits of the titular super powered team of Mutants, who face opposition from Magneto and his radical Brotherhood of Mutants, while being persecuted by Homo Sapiens aka Humans.
Underneath its Superhero concept,the X-Men's allegorical approach of bigotry and intolerance, serves as the centerpiece of the comics and of course, this film.
The metaphors hit the mark right after Patrick Stewart's intro narrative, starting with the opening, that gives credence to Erik Lensher/Magneto's "divine purpose ", where as a boy, he and his mother was escorted to the Nazi Concentration camps. There, he realized that he was different from the others and could’ve liberated the Jewish captives.
The story moves at a comfortable pace especially when introduction the main protagonists of the X-Men. What is surprising however, is how most of the film centers around Anna Marie who after discovering her newfound powers abandons her life in Mississippi and forms a reluctant friendship with a certain clawed Canadian.
Of course, a Superhero film would not be complete without a MacGuffin subplot. It seems that a much older Erik Lensher (Played brilliantly by Sir Ian McKellen. ) has set up some contraption capable of mutating Homo Sapiens via altering their DNA structure. And it is somewhat fitting that Senator Kelly was used as the test subject since it was him who adjudicated subjugation of the Mutant population.
X-Men's narrative continues the path of edgier Comicbook adaptations like Blade and before that, Burton's Batman films, whether it’s the violent content or sociopolitical themes.
Despite giving praise for X-Men being the first ensemble Superhero film and casting Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, there are a few gripes I had with X-Men. One being the stunt casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine after Glenn Danzig said he was "too busy" and how most of the supporting cast were sidelined in favor of more Wolverine! Prior to watching X-Men, I was anticipating to see how Scott Summers/Cyclops (James Mardsen) demonstrate his leadership capabilities, instead, he was more or less a team member. However, I found the clever banter between Scott and Logan hilarious, e.g.
Cyclops: "How can we be sure it's you"?
Wolverine: "You're a dick".
But overall, the dialogue is one of the more memorable features, making X-Men exceed upon its expectations.There are so many lines I can quote but I don't need to spoonfeed why it's one of the best, I have heard from a Superhero film. The action scenes are well timed and compliments the film's narrative that is not sanitized as some people die. While not as brutal as being electrocuted, burned by a Batmobile or having a bomb shoved down your junk, its violent enough to satisfy action enthusiasts.
As for the ensemble cast or rather Casting, FOX and Marvel was smart to get a hold of a few legendary actors starting with Patrick Stewart who many of us dreamcasted him for the role of Charles Xavier. Its Stewart who delivers the gravitas as Xavier while it was Sir Ian McKellen who, brought the ire and vindication as Magneto.I can recall McKellen saying that the reason why he decided to star as Magneto, was because of the film's political allegories, as in the mistreatment of Blacks. Afterwards, he also drew comparisons to Gays also mistreated as outsiders.
"Because there is no land of tolerance. There is no peace. Not here, or anywhere else. Whole families destroyed, simply because they were born different from those in power. Well, after tonight, the world's powerful will be just like us. They will return home as brothers, as mutants. Our cause will be theirs".
Ian had one of the few best shining moments in X-Men. For not only can he channel the role of the charismatic revolutionist albeit extremist, but his lines were the most memorable if not quotable.
"We are the future Charles, not them! They no longer matter"!
And of course, cribbing Malcolm X's "by any means necessary".
On the flipside, I didn't care much for Anna Paquin as the non-canonical version of Rogue and at first I was skeptical of Hugh Jackman's casting for obvious reasons I mean the dude is 6'2ft tall whereas his comic counterpart , stands appropriately 5'3. Danzig would have been great as Wolverine but then again, playing a Superhero might tarnish his Death Metal image.
The costumes are not what many were hoping for. I mean they are all decked out in leather and Wolverine doesn't wear his iconic headdress nor is he sleeveless. But Cyclops at least has his visor, so there’s that.Despite my critiques of X-Men, there were a few impressive moments as far as character portrayals are concerned. Like when Rogue asks Logan when his claws pops out, does it hurt? Followed by a somber response; "Everytime ". This was self-explanatory yet a way of immersing you into the characters' perspective or anyone that comes from a marginalized group or ethnicity for that matter.
Ray Park, fresh from his breakout role as Darth Maul lends his martial arts cred as Toad a playful but menacing flunky of Magneto's Brotherhood. Bruce Davidson must have studied the actions of past Republican public officials for the part of Senator Kelly who wanted to round up all the Mutants until he had this "epiphany ". That right about sounds familiar.
In my opinion, James Mardsen had the looks and demeanor as Summers, but I can't help but to mention the missed opportunity since, he was overshadowed by you-know-who.Cyclops is to X-Men, what Captain America is to the Avengers, so yeah, I take umbrage to what little screen time he was given. Unfortunately Angela Bassett was too expensive for the part as Ororo Monroe which I felt was yet another missed opportunity! But hey, at least we have Rebecca Romijn is by far, the best film adaptation of Mystique especially in comparison to Jennifer Lawrence's so-so performance during the latter X-Men movies.
Becky was not only sexy in her blue guise but underneath the latex prosthetic, here lies another villain one can find empathy for. The scene where she bitchslaps ("kickslaps ") the bigoted Senator Kelly, had me cheering her on in the theater especially that line about, "People like you are the reason why I was afraid to go to school as a child". Of course, this scene was a precursor to her character really holding it down during the sequel, which is still regarded as the best X-Men movie. And by fan servicing, this would not be an X-Men movie without Wolverine having the last round. Mystique is not limited to this "master of disguise" as she proved to hold her own, even against an Adamantium clawed berserker.
With its on rails, yet effective storyline, X-Men became an instant box office success albeit a predictable result since the comic franchise was/is hugely popular. Thus paving the way for even more Marvel film properties like Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil, Ghost Rider and sometime later, the official Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also was the first film to implement those Stan Lee cameos, where he appears as a hot dog vendor?? It precedes both Justice League and even the Avengers for being the first official Superhero ensemble movie, from out the gates which had paved the groundwork for bigger and sometimes, better things.
Now you know:
In the pilot X-Men animated feature, Wolverine's accent sounds more Australian than "Canadian ", ergo the irony of the Man from down under, playing the part of X-Men's brutal brawler.
Paint it Black
As far as the comics go, the X-Men wore a distinctive blue-gold uniform, but the filmmakers revised the uniform to black leather suits. Tom DeSanto explained that test designs of the X-Men in their blue-gold outfits were unsuccessful, and Bryan Singer noted that durable black leather made more sense for the X-Men to wear as protective clothing. Despite support from Stan Lee and Chris Claremont, many fans were upset about the change in costumes, so Bryan Singer added dialogue referring to the issue. When Wolverine complains about the uniforms, Cyclops replies "What would you prefer, yellow spandex?"
The blue-gold uniforms appeared in X-Men: First Class (2011), and It was Batman, Blade and The Crow that set the prescient for more black clad Superhero attire in film.
Iconic Rockstar and Misfits founder Glenn Danzig was offered an audition for the part of Wolverine but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts. Glenn was the ideal height and stature for X-Men's feral antihero.
In the comics, Rogue has Paragon abilities (Flight, Super strength, Invulnerability, Speed, and seven senses) from Ms. Marvel. However, Ms. Marvel's cinematic rights do not belong to Twentieth Century Fox, and therefore Rogue could not have any abilities or storyline related to her.
Bob Hoskins as Wolverine? 🤔
When early production for the movie began in the early 1990s, James Cameron was considering being producer, while his then wife and fellow filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow would direct. They were even considering Bob Hoskins as Wolverine, Michael Biehn as Cyclops, Sir Christopher Lee as Magneto, and Angela Bassett as Storm. But the deal fell apart after Stan Lee piqued Cameron's interest to make a Spider-Man movie with Biehn as Peter Parker, which never happened either.
And in other bizarre casting news
Charlize Theron was offered the role of Jean Grey but turned it down.
Shaquille O'Neal campaigned for a role in the film, he was seeking the role of Forge???
Anyways, X-Men is now available on Disney Plus streaming platform in 4K resolution!