"A mutation into something else would have been better"
X Men is the latest comic adaptation to fly up, morph, zap and hit our screens. It has the daunting task of pleasing hard core fans of the comic strip and cynics who are not convinced of film portrayal of comics. Despite the admirable attempt, X Men is only a so-so effort that will probably leave everybody wanting a little more.Comic books and their fans have had to deal with the accusation that they take themselves far too seriously. That's OK if they're left in their own little world, but when there is a film adaptation they come out of the woodwork and into the harsh light of day. They usually come out to criticise the film for not taking the material seriously enough and they in turn get criticised back for the same reason.
Batman was the worst. The 60s TV series sent comic book fans into frenzy - they hated it. The recent movie franchise helped to undo some of that damage, but the fans will never forgive the makers of the TV series.
Set in the not too distant future, X Men deals with people who have had accelerated genetic evolution which leads to the development of special powers. Called mutants, they are the latest group to be discriminated against. Wolverine (Jackman) is a gladiatorial bar fighter. After getting into hassle with some patrons he leaves the bar and is followed by Rogue who has run away from home after discovering the extent of her genetically evolved powers. They are attacked by some Mutants who serve Magneto (McKellan) - a disgruntled mutant. Xavier's (Stewart) crew saves Wolverine and Rogue and they learn how they deal with their powers and the extent of Magneto's plans.
The Batman TV series has had some enduring influence on other comic book adaptations: The expectancy of camp humour and self-mockery. These are ingredients that are great for ruining a film. X Men does fall into this trap, but only in a small way with Wolverine making fun of the uniforms and names.
It is possible to make a serious film based on comic books. There are many an example streaming out of Japan with their Manga films. It's OK to take the solemn approach as long as you do it well. X Men comes pretty close to making that serious film with messages that are perfectly reasonable to take seriously - nearly but not quite.
The film had a worrying number of writers - about 8, including Ed Solomon (responsible for Men In Black), Joss Whedon (creator of all things Buffy) and unbelievably, Usual Suspects writer Chris McQuarrie - and that's probably the cause of the story feeling a little lumpy. It just doesn't quite get off the ground. That's not too good when you're a superhero. The characters (apart from Stewart's Xavier and McKellan's Magneto) aren't quite convincing.
Singer's direction in the film is very stylish and cool as you would hope for a comic book film - it doesn't go to the overblown extent that Tim Burton did with the Batman films. There's a nice opening sequence, and Singer takes his time with these characters instead of going gun-ho into action. He's got his hands holding back the reigns and the film is better for it.
Anna Paquin is quite good at being very angsty with Stewart and McKellan have a commanding presence as always. Jackman is OK. He was so dark and mean in Erskinville Kings. In X Men he does his best Russell Crowe impersonation including stealing the hairstyle and side burns from Russ's film Heaven's Burning. Indeed Crowe could have made a good fist of this film if he wasn't busy being a Roman general and filling gossip columns.
The Others are just fodder and you don't care.
Never was much of a reader of The Uncanny X-Men - I was more a Death kind of guy - She was cool. That gives me the newby perspective. They spend a bit of time telling everybody who's what and what not. That must be a little annoying for those who are already familiar with the characters. Some X Men fans I spoke to hated this film. This please the new viewers/please the old fans is an almost impossible task.
The mutants are just an allegory for all outsiders and groups that are discriminated against. It's no coincidence that when we first see Magneto he is a Jewish boy right smack bang in the middle of the Jewish holocaust. The link between the mutants and others that suffer discrimination is very clear. That's a just issue to be serious about and they handle it reasonably well. The seriousness of comics OK if it's done well - there is no need for camp humour.
X Men is an above average action film since more attention is put to characters than the usual battle flick. The comic books are a rich well to draw on for characters and they do a solid job with the main four leads.
Perhaps Senator Robert Kelly's role was under done. They could have had enemies on two fronts but this interesting opportunity is wasted. And just how did Magneto learn of Rogue's powers?X Men is a fair effort that is slightly better than the usual action grain. The noble message underneath it all is done carefully to produce an evenhanded, but not outstanding presentation.