Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I've never been a huge comic book person - the only comic I've ever read is the Watchmen - but I'm generally a fan of comic book movies. While there might be something inherently ridiculous as people in tight clothing with super powers battling it out, they can be quite well written - as Solid Snake has proven quite ably with X-Men today - and can be a subtle take on a real world issue or moral conundrum.

Watching X-Men, it's no wonder that the generally reliable Bryan Singer has made a good film of it. For one, the character of Magneto (Ian McKellen) is a holocaust survivor, and Singer seems to be strangely fascinated by the holocaust. Witness Valkyrie, and Apt Pupil, which are both intimately involved with the third reich. Also, Bryan Singer is openly gay, and the X-Men share a lot with being gay.

It's subtle, but also somewhat obvious in the content. There's a senator (Bruce Davison) who wants to force all mutants - people who have superpowers, basically - to register themselves. He argues that you wouldn't want a mutant in your schools, and replace the word "mutant" with "gay" or "black" or "Muslim" or whatever else someone has been persecuted for being in the past history, and you've got a subtle critique on general persecution. After all, they're simply born different. It's not explicit, but you can tell that Singer is drawing from his own experiences, and those of his friends. As a critique on racism and persecution, it's well done, never drilling the message into your head but always having it there.

Of course, there's a violent uprising lead by Magneto, and a more peaceful sect lead by Professor X (Patrick Stewart). They fight about the proper way to handle their persecution, with Magneto advocating violently converting people to being mutants and sharing his way of thinking. Also, a plethora of X-Men are introduced, though the main characters are clearly Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin), the former being a super healing mystery, and the latter draining whatever she touches. Their relationship is a backbone on which a wide variety of different ideas are built.

Possibly the big problem with this is that a lot of ideas have to be built on that backbone. The X-Men is an expansive series, with a ton of unique characters and a wide variety of different concepts to deal with. Worse, many of these characters and concepts are vital to having a clue to what's going on. So, as a result, there's often a lot of exposition in Patrick Stewart's soothing voice. It doesn't kill the movie, not by a long stretch, but it does bog it down.

The only other problem is that the forces of evil will always triumph, because good is stupid. The X-Men are comically awful in the climactic fight, having to overcome their own overwhelmingly poor fighting style more than the villains. Another detriment is the overall superhero movie pattern: Good, Great, Worse, Ugh, but that doesn't kick in until Bret "The Rat" Ratner takes over in X-Men 3, and doesn't hurt this movie.

Of course, I'm nitpicking because that's what I do. Those are minor faults in a film that is otherwise downright excellent. It's quickly paced, superbly well shot, and the action scenes are excellent no matter how stupid the heroes are. The characters established quickly develop their personalities and relationships, and even the more minor characters clearly have potential for future installments. Er...installment. One day I might get there.

So did I like X-Men? Naturally, and I dare say it's one of the best comic movies I've seen. More importantly, it's a perfect fit for Bryan Singer, and a lot of him can be seen in every frame. It manages to be very personal for a big budget action film adaptation, and that's a difficult feat to manage. It sure is a shame Singer didn't keep doing films in the series past the second one, it's one he was born to direct.

I just realized I'll have nothing to say when I hit the next one. Oh, I've written myself into a corner (though maybe it'll be a long way off, and everyone will forget and I can just do the same thing all over again).

1 comment:

  1. Yeah I haven't seen the third movie all the way through, but I at least know that they kill off very, very important characters and reference viral videos from the internet, of all things, but I did enjoy the first film enough, it was action-packed and dramatic with the occasional wink to the audience (like Cyclops' yellow spandex remark).